What Verstappen’s final dominance of his season hides – The Race

The apparent paradox of Max Verstappen’s 2022 Formula 1 championship success is his unique winning percentage which was particularly deceptive in the early months of the season.

Verstappen would go on to score seven pole positions along with a record-breaking 15 wins, which is unusual given that the fastest car tends to win the most races, and the number of poles tends to indicate that it is the fastest car.

Such a pole-to-win ratio for a champion is rare. Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 season (five poles but 11 wins) is the only recent comparable example. Even after that, Verstappen’s season seems offbeat.

He didn’t have a better car than Charles Leclerc’s until after the summer break, and he used it to win seven of his last nine races (with four poles in that time).

With Red Bull eventually becoming the best team in Formula 1 on Saturday as well as Sunday, and Verstappen and his team winning both titles, it was all too easy to forget that Verstappen had already won the title long before Red Bull established a permanent performance advantage over Ferrari.

Verstappen suffered an exaggerated version of the usual unruly champion’s fate. It’s not unusual to see attempts to reduce a driver’s title win on the grounds of having the better car, but what’s particularly frustrating about Verstappen’s concern is that this has simply not been the case for about half of the season.

“We won quite a few races when we weren’t actually the fastest, but we were better at strategy or more consistent,” says Verstappen.

“At some point, when we got the fastest car, it made life a little bit easier. We didn’t need to take all the risks all the time.”

The moment when both Verstappen and Leclerc admitted they knew Verstappen was likely to be champion was the French Grand Prix – 12 races into the season, a point at which Red Bull were no definitively better than Ferrari. This is underlined by the fact that Verstappen had a 63-point lead and seven wins, but only three poles.

Of course, Verstappen didn’t win all of these races from a lower position on his own. Ferrari fumbled Spain and Azerbaijan through poor strategy or reliability, and Leclerc paved a path for him in France. And there were times in the first half of 2022 when the RB18 was better, on balance, than the Ferrari F1-75.

But in the early part of the year, when his win tally and points advantage were more at odds with the reality of his car, Verstappen also relied on what he calls the “beautiful” side of the new generation of cars, which could follow more closely, and raced extremely well.

Formula 1 World Championship Car Racing Day Saudi Arabia Grand Prix Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

It was key to his first win of the year, in Saudi Arabia in particular, but it also helped him snatch his sprint win at Imola, helping seal Sunday’s grand prix at the weekend Verstappen says was crucial to reviving Red. Show surname. After an unreliable start to the year.

“We didn’t have the fastest car on one lap for most of the season,” says Verstappen.

“With these new cars it was very interesting, because before you were so focused on qualifying, because you know it was very difficult to pass a car.

Now, even if your qualifiers aren’t amazing, if you have a good race car you can still fight and you can still pass people.

“That’s the sweet side of new cars. If we had this problem last year where you have a problem with qualifying, where you’re not competitive, we wouldn’t have won as many races as we did this year.

“This year, the pole was great, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to win the race.”

Verstappen will go on to win other races that also benefit from this.

The jury may never be able to render a conclusive verdict on whether Ferrari threw it away in Hungary or will always outpace it, but it’s plausible to wrap up Verstappen’s victory from 10th on the grid, on a track he’s notoriously overtaken slightly. The past, he would have been much stricter with the old rules.

No rules could have denied Verstappen a 14th-place finish on the grid in Belgium, such as his lead and his car at Spa, but those characteristics certainly helped in Italy and the US too.

“He deserves huge credit and recognition for what he did this year, because some of his driving was out of this world,” says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Formula 1 World Championship Belgium Grand Prix Day Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

“He’s been great this year. Of course, it always ends up being a team contribution, but I think he extracted every ounce out of the performance.

We didn’t always have the biggest smile on Saturday, I think we had a very good race car this year. And he used it to full effect.

“When you think about the number of times with this change in regulations that breaking the DRS is very difficult, there are many occasions where it has had to be absolutely perfect.

“It was amazing.”

Verstappen has achieved it, and it will forever with his second world championship, winning record, and massive margin of victory.

These stats mask the quality of Verstappen’s early work and Red Bull in particular and could hurt Verstappen’s season. Those numbers are reserved for a sure car advantage, so maybe in time, that’s what Verstappen folks will reflect on as it happened in 2022.

He did more than Mercedes. But he didn’t beat his main competition in the championship – certainly not until he did the hard part, sealing the title anyway.

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