How Max Verstappen Dominated the 2022 Belgian GP & What it Means For His Title Hopes
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
Often times in Formula 1, words such as 'masterclass', 'dominant' and 'greatness' are overused when describing a driver and/or his performance. But Max Verstappen's 2022 Belgian Grand Prix weekend was all of the above and more as he breezed to his ninth win of this season and 28th overall in his career. In what seemed like a damage limitation weekend turned into one of Verstappen's greatest drives and a serious statement of intent from Red Bull returning from the summer break. But was the Belgian GP the most dominant win of the Dutchman's career and where does it rank amongst some of F1's greatest comeback drives? Well we're here today to breakdown Verstappen's path to victory and what it means for his 2022 championship hopes.
On Another Planet
Courtesy - Red Bull Content Pool
From the onset of first practice at Spa-Francorchamps, Verstappen looked totally at one with the RB18 and Spa. But his weekend outlook seemed gloomy after taking a whole host of new engine components which meant penalties were imminent. The good news for the Dutchman was that seven other drivers would be facing penalties as well, including his main title rival Charles Leclerc. When it came time for qualifying, Verstappen showcased his true pace despite his penalties by blitzing the competition and finishing Q3 fastest by six tenths of a second ahead of second place Carlos Sainz. After the penalties were sorted and the two Alpha Tauri's conveniently started from the pitlane, Verstappen would start the race from 14th with the reigning World Champion eyeing a podium to salvage his weekend. But even before lights out, there was a sense of inevitability that this was Verstappen's race to win and short of any bad luck, nothing would stop him. And this was just the case as by the time the dust settled from lap one, Verstappen was up in 8th place and a perfectly timed safety car that would bunch up the field. To add to Max's good fortunes, his title rival Leclerc was forced to pit after a visor tear off got stuck in his right front brake duct. Oddly enough, it was revealed post-race that it was in fact Verstappen's tear off that got stuck in Leclerc's car. Following the safety car restart, the RB18 in the hands of Verstappen was flying as he overtook car after car with a nearly 30km/h advantage with DRS in a straight-line. By lap 8, Verstappen was already in the podium places and after that the rest is history. Red Bull executed a solid strategy once again and with Verstappen's race management, he lead home another Red Bull 1-2 to extend his championship lead to 93 points. Post-race, drivers described Verstappen's performance as out of this world and on another planet as his 2022 Belgian GP victory was only the second time in F1 history that a driver won consecutive races when starting from 10th or lower. Something that hasn't happened in over 60 years.
Championship Point Verstappen?
Courtesy - Red Bull Content Pool
Drivers such as Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez had high hopes on Sunday for a second victory in 2022 seeing as their teammates were starting from further down the field. But both were left extremely puzzled at the end of the Grand Prix when a driver starting from 14th won the race and finished 17 seconds ahead of his teammate and 26 seconds ahead of Sainz. Another driver who was puzzled was Ferrari's Charles Leclerc who was a victim once again of his own mistakes and that of his team. Ferrari made the decision to pit Charles late for the fastest lap which ended up costing them P5 after Leclerc exceeded the pit lane speed limit by 1km/h. This was due to the sensor they normally use not working because of an overheating issue. But besides that, Leclerc was more concerned with the pace of Red Bull rather than his own mistakes as Ferrari were clearly off the pace all weekend long. Leclerc heads to Zandvoort now 98 points adrift from Verstappen and third in the driver's championship. The superb performance of the RB18 at Spa has a lot to do with the circuit characteristics. It demands a highly efficient car with good straight-line speed and good downforce through the middle sector and Red Bull does this better than anybody. Although Zandvoort should suit the F1-75 a little more than Spa, it is increasingly likely that Ferrari's slim hopes of fighting for the championship post summer break are over.
Verstappen's victory at the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix showed that he has another level of driving ability that makes him untouchable with the current Red Bull package. Unaffected by the new technical directive and working well as a team, Red Bull and Verstappen are looking to go for the kill in this current triple-header and maybe even wrap up the championship by October. And their is not much their rivals can do about it if Verstappen's current run of form continues. If Max continues his current pace, he will surpass Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel's single season win record of 13. He's currently sitting at 9 so with 8 races remaining, it looks as if he's far from done winning in 2022.