• Chris Kato

Is It Time to Enter Max Verstappen Into the G.O.A.T Conversation?

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The rain and confusion following the conclusion of the Japanese Grand Prix might've dampened the celebrations just a little bit, but nonetheless a World Champion was crowned in Suzuka. Max Verstappen dominated a tricky wet race in Japan to seal his second straight Formula 1 World Championship. It was a dominant victory that we've grown accustomed to seeing from Verstappen and Red Bull in 2022 and the Japanese Grand Prix confirmed the results many had expected for quite some time now. Even though his coronation wasn't straightforward, Verstappen's second world title puts him in elite company with some impressive numbers to follow. With four races remaining this season and a lengthy career ahead of the Dutchman, is it too early to start talking about Verstappen as one of F1's greats?

2 The Max By the Numbers

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Although most of the F1 world knew Verstappen would clinch his second title at some point, it's easy to forget just how far away a repeat looked for the 25 year old. Following race number three in Australia, Verstappen trailed Leclerc for first place by 46 points and a second championship wasn't even on his mind. Considering this, his triumph in Japan makes it all the more special for a driver who is truly taking over the sport. But before we can enter him in any conversation amongst the greats, we have to look at his resume first. Keeping in mind that these statistics are all under progress as Verstappen will have plenty of time to add to his tally this year and beyond.

Verstappen is now the second youngest double world champion at 25 years, 0 months, and 10 days. His 32nd career victory in Suzuka ties him for 6th all-time with Fernando Alonso and Verstappen's 12th win of 2022 puts him one shy of the all-time single season win record of 13. With 74 career podiums, Max sits 8th on the all-time podium list and his results this season could see him tie his own record of most podiums in a season that he set last year with 18. Japan also became the 23rd different Grand Prix Verstappen has won which puts him second all-time only behind Lewis Hamilton. He also helped Suzuka become the circuit with most title deciders at 12 with his win on Sunday. And with his second title, Verstappen joins an elite club of F1 drivers such as Hakkinen, Hill, Alonso and others as double world champions.

Can He Be Considered a Great Already?

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Normally a 25 year old driver wouldn't be considered anywhere near the greats of our sport but such is the special story of Max Verstappen that he's in the conversation right now. Clinching his second title in Japan was special and significant for many reasons. It was at Honda's home race and with the Japanese manufacturer missing out on a home Grand Prix in 2021, it was a perfect way to repay their hard work by winning it at Suzuka this year. But more importantly, many forget that Suzuka is the place where Verstappen's Formula 1 journey began. It was back at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix where Verstappen made his debut in an F1 session during FP1 for Toro Rosso. Even then as a 17 year old, he immediately impressed the team and the paddock with his speed and composure. His destiny to be Formula 1 World Champion was sealed from that day forward and his journey to a second championship has been quite remarkable. Despite some difficult seasons with mistakes and controversies, Verstappen grew wiser and learned from his past errors. He's made the most of having a title contending car in the last two years as he's taken the opportunity with both hands and now could be on course for a run of incredible success. But is it too early to include Verstappen in the conversation of F1 greats such as Senna, Schumacher, or Hamilton? His age might fool you because this 25 year old is just about to wrap up his 8th season of Formula 1 and his name already populates many of Formula 1's all time lists. It's not just his loyal Dutch Army who already consider him one of the best all-time, it's former drivers and colleagues who share the same sentiment.

Despite not yet owning the impressive wins and championships records of Schumacher and Hamilton, it would be hard not to include Verstappen's name in the Greatest of All-Time Discussion. The Dutchman just equaled one of F1's best ever drivers in Fernando Alonso and he looks set to surpass him and many others before his career is finished. His rapid rise to success and achievements at such a young age put him in a special category that we might never see again. Of course their is no Greatest of All Time trophy or award, it is a subjective topic that every fan base will argue over for an eternity. What we can appreciate is that every generation of Formula 1 had a driver who defined Grand Prix racing and rewrote the history books. Their was Fangio, Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton and now we have Verstappen. It was inevitable that Verstappen would become a champion in F1, the question is now, how many more can he win before he hangs up his helmet and calls it a career.

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