Max Verstappen has history on his side and another Formula 1 victory in his sights
While Max Verstappen is about to turn 25, he is already considered a veteran having made his Formula 1 debut over seven years ago.
That’s the thing about precocity. Verstappen started very young and, little by little, he grew to become the sport’s leading star.
Until last year he had only won 10 races in his Formula 1 career. But from last season onwards he reached a level that has put him well above the rest.
In 2021 he recorded 10 victories (and 18 podiums), and ended up winning the World Championship in the last lap in Abu Dhabi, albeit in controversial circumstances.
But this season he has improved further, showing his maturity on more than one occasion.
He is not always racing for the win and can play the long game by settling for a podium finish if necessary. This approach means he is even capable of starting 10th and finishing ahead of his rivals, as witnessed in Hungary.
Verstappen is also well on course to secure his second Drivers’ Championship in as many years. He is 80 points ahead of Charles Leclerc (258 points for the Dutchman compared to 178 for the Monegasque) with nine races to go.
No one in the history of Formula 1 has ever lost such a big lead at this stage of the season. To find a an exception, you would have to dig into the annals of history.
The 1976 season witnessed James Hunt snatch the crown from Niki Lauda in a feat worthy that was worthy of Hollywood.
The Briton was 98 points behind the Austrian, but in the end Hunt won by a razor-thin margin (69 points to 68). However, it must also be noted that Lauda missed several races following a near-fatal crash, and could have won the championship had he not decided to retire from the season ending Japanese Grand Prix.
Stronger on Sundays
Be that as it may, there are several factors in Verstappen’s favour. Ferrari are very strong in qualifying (eight pole positions for the Scuderia compared to four for Red Bull), but Sundays are when the Milton Keynes-based outfit dominate.
Verstappen has won eight races and Sergio Perez took his sole win of the season in Monaco. Those nine clearly outnumber the Italian team’s four victories (three of which were won by Leclerc and one by Sainz).
In terms of podiums, Christian Horner’s men also lead the way with 16 compared to Ferrari’s 11.
On top of that, the team led by Mattia Binotto are suffering with reliability problems. Seven retirements have led to painful zeroes. At Red Bull there have been five DNF’s with Verstappen suffering two of those.
Mercedes have woken up
On the other hand, the reigning champion is pleased that Mercedes have woken up.
“It’s good that they are competitive so they can steal more points from Ferrari! So I’m very happy with their resurgence,” Verstappen said in Hungary.
Verstappen is even better than he was last year at this stage of the season. He has eight wins (one more than in 2021) and 21 more point.
Where he falls short is in terms of pole positions – only three, compared to seven last year.
Verstappen is also closing in on Fernando Alonso on the all-time win list.
The Dutchman boasts 28 Grand Prix wins. He is preceded by Nigel Mansell (7th with 31) and Alonso (32).
If he keeps up the relentless pace he set before the summer break (he has won five of the last six races), he can overtake both of them this year.