Ex-F1 champion asks Ferrari chief strategist if he was even ‘watching the race’

Max Verstappen has now won 28 races in his Formula 1 career at just 24 years of age.

1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has indicated that Red Bull might now have an unassailable lead in the championship after 13 rounds.

Ferrari have appeared to have the fundamentally quicker car than Red Bull for parts of the 2022 season, taking eight pole positions between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

They have been overturned in four of those races by the Austrian side, who have claimed nine wins, eight of them through Max Verstappen, while Sergio Perez won in Monaco.

It gives Verstappen an 80-point lead in the Drivers’ Standings, while his Red Bull team have established a 97-point gap in the teams’ battle.

Such has been the excellent standard of wheel-to-wheel racing so far this season, however, that Villeneuve would have anticipated a smaller advantage.

READ: ‘Nothing is heard’: Max Verstappen says he’s extremely frustrated with the FIA after Hungarian GP

“If you look at all the races in isolation, you would expect a much more exciting battle for the title,” wrote the Canadian in his column for Formule1.nl

“The new rules are working well, drivers can follow each other much longer and be more aggressive in the race.

“That is a good sign, we have already seen some fine battles between Ferrari and Red Bull. 

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“Ferrari is just as strong, if not stronger, but Red Bull has such a huge lead.”

If Ferrari do not sort themselves out over the summer break, the former Williams driver fears that this title race could be an avalanche.

“Nothing has been decided yet, there are still plenty of races to go, but if the trend continues, if Verstappen continues to drive at this level and Red Bull also continues to develop, it will be very difficult to stop them,” explained Villeneuve.

Verstappen won the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday from 10th on the grid after more strategical blunders from Ferrari cost Charles Leclerc the win.

However, that takes nothing away from the reigning champion’s impressive recovery which, in Villeneuve’s eyes, is further proof that the Red Bull driver is simply out of this world.

“Max is a machine, he’s simply not normal!” he stated.

“He wasn’t even tired yesterday, I don’t think he even needs to go on holiday! He is driving so incredibly strongly this year, and the team is not making any mistakes.

“And if something goes wrong, he and Red Bull always create the best conditions to put things right. 

“Yesterday he could have gone for damage limitation, he did not have to win but he did, that is how they go into the race, they don’t put any pressure on themselves and then play it extremely well.”

As for Perez’s recent slip in form, the 51-year-old suggested that the upgrades on the car are not suited him as well as they are his team-mate.

READ: Impossible to blame Charles Leclerc if he replaces Sergio Perez at Red Bull

“Incidentally, it seems like the car is getting more and more into Verstappen’s rhythm,” said Villeneuve.

“Sergio Pérez seems to have lost his mojo a little since Monaco, which is a bit strange.

“He has been struggling since the car was fitted with modifications, as if they work better with Verstappen’s driving style.

“Before that, it was the other way round, which is weird.

“That may be because Verstappen is more involved, but it is not the case that someone’s said: Now we are going to develop updates that will make Verstappen drive better and Pérez not.”

As for Ferrari, Villeneuve questioned if strategist Inaki Rueda was even “watching the race” after he called Leclerc in for Hards, instead of leaving him out on Mediums to stick with the plan.

The 24-year-old ended the race sixth as a result, while Sainz finished fourth behind Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Perez in fifth.