Max Verstappen’s lead at the top of the drivers’ championship is a commanding one with victory at the Belgian Grand Prix stretching the Dutchman’s advantage to 93 points. The defending champion is now all but certain to retain his title with Red Bull’s closest rivals struggling to keep up.
This weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix will present Verstappen with an opportunity to confirm his dominance at the top of Formula 1 with the championship leader back on home soil. The Dutch fans follow Verstappen all around the world and they will be out in force (with their orange flares) at Zandvoort.
Verstappen won last year’s Dutch Grand Prix and could be an unstoppable force just as he was at the Belgian Grand Prix; the 24-year-old started 14th on the grid and still managed to claim the chequered flag. The Dutchman has won nine of the last 14 races and his home circuit at Zandvoort should suit him and Red Bull’s car. He is 4/7 favourite to win.
P14 ➡️ P8 on Lap 1 @Max33Verstappen made some big moves on the opening lap in Spa! 📈#BelgianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/j14EqXWJrn
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 29, 2022
“Max was quite simply in a league of his own,” Horner said after the one-two finished at Spa-Francorchamps. “And not just today; all weekend. He has excelled here in the past and today he has basically smashed it out of the park. Max, since winning that championship last year, has taken another step. It’s in many ways released him, and he’s driving at an incredible level. A driver that is completely at one with the car and is in an absolute purple patch of his career.”
History could be within Verstappen’s grasp. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel hold the record for the most race victories in a single season (13) and Verstappen has eight races left to claim five more victories and set a new standard. The way the Dutchman is performing, it’s entirely feasible that this will happen.
“The car has been incredible from first practice,” Verstappen said after his latest victory at Spa-Francorchamps. “We didn’t expect it to be like this but it is nice when things positively surprise you and it has been really enjoyable to drive it around here.
There was some hope that Mercedes might mount a challenge at the Belgian Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton could have been competitive had he not collided with Fernando Alonso in the opening lap, but there have been suggestions that the Silver Arrows might start to turn their focus towards 2023 after a disappointing year.
“Looking back at the footage he was in my blind spot, I didn’t give him enough space. It is my fault,” Hamilton admitted after his collision with Alonso which sent the seven-time world champion into the air. “Just, so sorry to the team. I could not see him. I am sorry to the team and I need to recuperate and get back on the treadmill.”
So close to a podium but we’ll take being just two seconds away after yesterday. Race pace is strong – we won’t stop pushing for more. 👊 pic.twitter.com/ZMoQ0RDOII
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) August 28, 2022
George Russell has enjoyed an encouraging maiden season at Mercedes with the young Brit still delivering some good points for the Silver Arrows after Hamilton’s incident in the Belgian Grand Prix. Russell surely wants to cap a positive first year as a Mercedes driver with his first race victory, but Zandvoort was a challenging track for the 24-year-old last year. Russell is priced at 16/1 to win.
“We still have the ambition to win races this year,” Mercedes team principle Toto Wolff said after the disappointing showing in Belgium. “If I would have told you that in Budapest you would have said that is pretty possible. Today, saying that I look like a fool. But there are some race tracks that will suit our car much more than now. Hopefully we get it right on Saturday, so that is the ambition while at the same time giving it a big focus on next year.”
Ferrari have certainly been more competitive in 2022 than they were last year, but the Scuderia have shown themselves to be an immature team on and off the track. It’s been clear in some of the decisions made that Ferrari have not been involved in the thick of a championship contest for some time. They must use the experiences of 2022 to grow.
Charles Leclerc has admitted to making a number of errors over the course of the season while Ferrari’s strategic calls from the pit wall have been questionable. At this point, leapfrogging Sergio Perez into second place in the drivers’ championship might be the best Leclerc can hope for between now and the end of 2023. In the grand scheme of things, that would still represent significant progress for Ferrari.
P9 in Lap 1 then tear off in the brakes that causes front right brake overheating, have to stop to take off the tear off off the brakes, come back to P5, took a 5 seconds penalty for being too quick in pit lane because of a burnt sensor caused by the first issue. Beautiful day! pic.twitter.com/8TbcsiqzEt
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) August 28, 2022
Daniel Ricciardo could only muster a 15th-place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix, with the Australian driver fighting for his future in the sport after it was confirmed he will be leaving McLaren at the end of the season. At this moment in time, it’s not immediately clear where Ricciardo will land, but the final eight races of 2022 will be crucial in determining whether we’ll see him in F1 next season.
“It’s just very sad,” Christian Horner said about Ricciardo who used to race for Red Bull. “Obviously, I’m not close to it. I’ve spoken to Daniel a little bit. I don’t recognise him as the same driver as he was with when he was with us. He’s one of the best guys out there. He’s definitely got that capability.”
McLaren need as many points as possible from Ricciardo before the end of the season if they are to stand any chance of catching Alpine in the Constructors’ Championship. Allison and Esteban Ocon scored a good haul of points for Alpine at the Belgian Grand Prix and certainly look to have the advantage in the contest to finish as the best of the midfield.
The 2022 season risks becoming a procession towards Verstappen’s coronation as F1’s Drivers’ Championship winner, with the Dutchman in the form of his life right now. Last year produced a dramatic finale in Abu Dhabi, but that almost certainly won’t happen this year. It has been a different sort of season in F1.