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Formula 1

The race that convinced Verstappen he’d win the 2022 F1 title

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Max Verstappen thought he would win the 2022 Formula 1 title after the French Grand Prix, the race his main championship rival Charles Leclerc crashed out of.

Verstappen clinched his second straight championship on Sunday in Japan with four races remaining in the season.

It was his sixth win in seven races, a dominant run that turned a handy points buffer into an unassailably large margin – and it’s one that started in France in late July.

Leclerc led Verstappen at Paul Ricard but spun into the barriers shortly after Verstappen made his first pitstop. The DNF for the Ferrari driver meant Verstappen’s points lead ballooned from 38 points to 63.

“There were a few moments where I thought we have a good chance of winning it,” Verstappen said.

“But I think the moment where I thought, ‘now we are going to win it’ was after Paul Ricard, where the lead increased by quite a bit.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Race Day Paul Ricard, France

“We had a quite competitive car, I knew it was going to be quite close in the coming races, but I was like, ‘this is a gap which we cannot give away anymore’.”

Verstappen leads team-mate Sergio Perez by 113 points after the Japanese GP, with Leclerc now third and one point further behind.

It has been an astonishing turnaround since the third race of the season in Australia, where Leclerc had made it two wins from three races while Verstappen had one victory and two retirements in that time.

Verstappen picked those reliability issues as “the main low moments” of his season, as they left him with a 46-point deficit to Leclerc and uncertainty about when or if Red Bull could close that gap.

Since then, though, Verstappen has won 11 times and Leclerc just once, while Verstappen has also scored 341 points to Leclerc’s 181.

Picking a high point from his season, Verstappen chose the Belgian Grand Prix, where he dominated qualifying and won from 14th on the grid after a penalty for an engine change.

“I have to go for the Spa weekend,” said Verstappen.

“Because I think that was just total dominance. These kinds of weekends, they very rarely happen like that.

“Especially when I came home that night, you start to reflect a bit on the weekend. And you realise that was pretty crazy and pretty special.”

Verstappen’s title coronation has been inevitable for a long time, even if Leclerc and Perez remained in mathematical contention long after the French GP that Verstappen felt had given him a decisive edge.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Race Day Paul Ricard, France

It is a stark contrast to Verstappen’s first championship win in 2021, which came in controversial circumstances at the infamous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen said it was a “totally” different title win this time with “very different emotions”.

“The first one is always a little bit more emotional,” said Verstappen. “But the second one is probably even more beautiful.

“The season we’ve had with the wins and the great races and the teamwork, the 1-2s we have had and of course, we’re leading the constructors’, so we really want to focus on that as well, to try and secure that.

“It’s been a pretty special year and it’s something you really have to remind yourself of, because these kinds of years you don’t have very often.”

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