Red Bull Racing chief advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes that Max Verstappen will retain his World Drivers’ Championship with “two or three” more wins, which could realistically see the Dutchman win the championship at the first fly-away race following the European races.
After claiming his ninth victory of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix, Verstappen now leads Sergio Pérez in the standings, not Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc sits 97 points behind the Dutchman, whereas Pérez is 93 points behind; however, it is safe to predict that the Mexican driver won’t be allowed to win the title, even if he were to go on a winning streak.
It’s the gap to Leclerc which is important, with the Ferrari driver the only person hanging onto the title fight by less than a thread.
In all honesty, unless Verstappen has a complete breakdown, then he will retain his crown.
This could realistically happen at the Singapore Grand Prix should he win the upcoming Dutch and Italian GP’s.
If Verstappen wins at Zandvoort, Monza and at the Marina Bay Circuit, he will have at least a 118-point lead over Leclerc if the Ferrari driver finishes all three races in second.
The 24-year-old needs to leave Singapore with a 125-point advantage to retain his title, and with three consecutive P2’s seemingly unlikely for Leclerc, then Verstappen could be champion at the start of October with five races to go.
The Dutch driver was unbeatable at Spa, after claiming a dominant victory despite starting P14 following a grid penalty.
The championship leader himself also recognised his performance across the weekend in the Ardennes forest as his strongest yet in F1.
“If you look at the whole weekend, yes,” said Verstappen.
Marko thinks Verstappen is on the verge of the title, with not only first but second place in the Drivers’ Championship also now on the Austrian team’s radar.
“We’re going to try to win two or three more races to make sure we’re safe,” he told Servus TV.
“The goal for us is now also clear, because we want to finish first and second in the championship for the first time in our history.”
To give Red Bull credit, they have turned their season around remarkably, given that they had worrying reliability issues at the start of the year.
It’s easy to forget that Verstappen failed to finish in two of the opening three races of the season, whilst Pérez too retired from the season opener in Bahrain.
Ferrari had been the dominant side; however, the pendulum has certainly swung in the Austrian team’s favour.
The Scuderia have missed countless opportunities, though, to be closer to the leading side than they are, with only themselves to blame for their strategic blunders.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto thinks the Austrian side simply have a “faster car”, with the Italian side continuing to praise their rivals, rather than admit to their own errors.
“The real difference in performance between us and Red Bull was not that big in Hungary – a completely different track – but already noticeable,” said the Italian.
“What worries me most is that they used less downforce than us and were still able to set strong times in the middle sector, where you need downforce.
“The Red Bull is just a faster car,” said Binotto.
Binotto also hinted after the Belgian GP that focus might be starting to switch to 2023, with Ferrari recognising that the gap in both championships is “very big”.
“Everything we learn about our weaknesses this year will also help us with next year’s car,” he added.
“If you look at this drivers’ championship, the gap is very big. Now it all depends on Verstappen and whether he won’t finish races.”