‘Huge legion of Lewis Hamilton fans’ criticised as Max Verstappen hailed for ‘ominous’ form

Max Verstappen leads the championship having sealed his maiden title last year.

Former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok is impressed by Max Verstappen’s ability to focus and deliver strong performances despite accusations that he is not a worthy champion.

The Dutchman beat Sir Lewis Hamilton to the championship last season after a thrilling, encapsulating and controversial title battle that saw the pair go all out for the gold.

They had been involved in notable incidents in Silverstone Monza, Brazil and Jeddah, and it ended at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.

Hamilton was leading by a comfortable margin heading into the final few laps of the race, when a Safety Car was deployed for a crash involving Nicholas Latifi.

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Race director Michael Masi had initially ruled that no lapped cars would be allowed through, before strangely changing his mind and allowing only five to pass.

On fresh tyres, the 24-year-old passed the seven-time champion on the final lap to win the championship, leading to fury from Mercedes and their fans.

It led to a great deal of toxicity on social media, and even a petition demanding that the results be changes, but the FIA affirmed that the standings were “valid” and “final.”

They did, however, accept that Masi made a mistake, and they replaced him with a combination of Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

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Hamilton fans therefore concluded that the Red Bull driver was not a worthy champion, but this has not fazed him heading into 2022.

Verstappen has now added eight more wins to his mightily impressive tally this season, and he leads the Drivers’ Standings by 80 points from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

That run of form came after two reliability failures in the first three races and, asides from a crash in practice in Miami spins in Spain and Hungary – he won all of those races anyway – the reigning champion has barely put a foot wrong.

This makes him the driver of the season so far in Chandhok’s eyes.

“The Dutchman came into this season with the huge legion of Hamilton fans calling him an unworthy world champion, but he’s kept his head down, avoided the distractions and has built a campaign around supreme consistency and speed,” said the former HRT driver in an article for Sky Sports.

“Eight wins from the first 13 races has been brilliant in itself, but the manner in which Max has delivered some of those wins by calmly picking his moments to overtake and seize opportunities is a clear indication of a driver who has added title-battling experience to the already prodigious amount of God-given talent.

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“There’s seemingly no weakness now, which is ominous for the opposition, not just this year but in the future too.”

After a recent capitulation from Ferrari, Red Bull hold a 97-point advantage in the Constructors’ Standings too.