Even if Leclerc or Perez take maximum points for the remainder of the season, Verstappen can coast to a second title.
2022 saw a new ruleset introduced to F1, completely reworking the cars for a reborn ground effects era of racing. It's led to porpoising, it's led to fierce debate, but more than anything, it's led to better racing, with cars that can follow one another closer for longer and battle it out better than ever before. On multiple occasions this season, we've seen four- and five-car battles through the corners. But despite all the action, out in front, one driver has stamped his authority on the 2022 F1 season: Max Verstappen.
With seven rounds of the championship remaining, Verstappen holds a convincing 109-point lead over second-placed Charles Leclerc for Ferrari after the most recent Grand Prix at Zandvoort. It's now Verstappen's season to lose, but after crunching the numbers, CarBuzz has discovered that Max Verstappen can win the 2022 championship without landing another podium for the remainder of the season.
Both Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez sit on 201 points thus far to Verstappen's 310. But even if either of these drivers were to score maximum points at each of the remaining races - including a bonus point for the fastest lap of the race (26 points per weekend), and eight points for a win at the Brazil Sprint - they'd only finish on 391 points. Verstappen can finish fourth in every race from here on out and not even feature in the points in the Sprint, and he'd finish on 394 points for the season - securing his second title with minimal effort. Finish in fourth on a Sprint weekend, too, and he'd win by even more, totaling 399 for the season.
Further podiums for Verstappen - which are inevitable given his incredible form, dominant Red Bull car, and strategy team that seems to not put a foot wrong - would simply take the title further out of reach for Leclerc and Perez.
With 10 wins thus far, Verstappen has already equaled his tally from 2021 and has now tripled the number of victories to his name that he had at the start of that season. From the seven remaining Grands Prix, several tracks will be favorable to the Red Bull power unit - most notably Mexico and the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
But even on tracks that are perhaps suboptimal for the Red Bull clan, Max seems almost invincible. That calls into focus the next record Verstappen could break in 2022 and one that would seal the championship for him in its entirety: most Grand Prix wins in a season.
The current record is pegged at 13 wins, held jointly by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013), the latter during his fourth and final championship-winning charge at Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton has thus far been closest to that mark with 11 wins on four separate occasions in 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Another win for Max and he would draw level, but given his dominance over the 2022 season - aided by Ferrari's dismal strategy, it must be said - the record is well within reach.
In my 30 years on this planet, I've been an ardent F1 fan for 26 of them. In that time, I've seen F1 drivers dominate the sport, and rivalries blossom and fade with the passing seasons. Three drivers have stood out as being truly dominant: Schumacher, Vettel, and Hamilton. But a fourth in the form of Super Max now threatens that hierarchy.
At just 24 years of age, he has his first Drivers' Championship title to his name already. More than that, despite the cries of foul play, "false champion," or "human error champion," the young man - now a higher ranking officer of the Dutch empire than Sir Lewis Hamilton is in the British empire - deserved his first title. He led more laps, won more races, and managed to go into the last race even on points with Hamilton despite having one fewer race in which to earn those points.
He's now on the cusp of yet another major achievement and is quickly climbing the ranks of greatness. While he's a long way off from Hamilton and Schumacher's seven championships apiece, or even the five of Fangio and the four of Prost and Vettel, at such a young age, Max is displaying a mentality and hunger for victory well beyond his years.
The 2022 season may just about be a foregone conclusion; Max is in such fine form he could probably have a half-decent race in a Honda Civic Type R at this point. But I think that the records Verstappen is en route to breaking are merely an indication of what to expect in the next few years.
The only question left is whether anyone - driver and team combined - can rise to the challenge and stop Verstappen from hunting down Hamilton's seven titles. For the sake of the sport, I hope so.