Not even Max Verstappen would have dreamt of how perfect 2022 would go for him and his team, wrapping up both championships with time to spare.
The Dutchman won 15 races over the course of the season, smashing the previous record of 13 held by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher as he blew away the competition.
Charles Leclerc and Ferrari got off to a strong start, but ended up being no match for the energy drink giants, who out developed the Scuderia on the way to their first constructors’ title since 2013.
While many drivers have spoken at great length about the talent of Verstappen, former F1 driver Damon Hill believes that the 25-year-old will have a target on his back in 2023, as drivers become sick of seeing him win.
“Not everybody loves a winner, the expression is or the idea is once you’re leading, you’re in a happy place. But there’s also this other thing, which is in this business, all the other teams want to bring you down,” explained the 1996 world champion.
“So you become a target, and it can be sometimes baffling why people don’t celebrate when you’re doing really well. But there is a flip side to being successful.”
Lewis Hamilton has said that this sort of treatment does exist, claiming that he understands why Verstappen races so hard against him because he did exactly the same to Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen during his early years in F1.
Damon Hill believes that Verstappen is already beginning to get a taste of what is to come, with some drivers and team principals making subtle digs at the Dutchman about his success.
“Max has experienced that a little bit this year. They’ve been trying to take a dig and poke to see if there’s any weaknesses here and there and it’s been stressful from that point of view,” he claimed.
“You want to be respected for the work you do and the hard work that goes into winning in Formula 1. But not everyone’s going to be happy you’re winning, and that’s just a sad fact of life.”
It is not just his fellow drivers that have been giving Verstappen unfavourable treatment, with the two-time world champion being subject to a lot of boos at various circuits over the course of the season, but this most likely relates to his team’s cost cap drama rather than his own success.