Why Verstappen’s second title given him “very different emotions” to the first

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Plonking himself down on a red throne, which was draped with faux fur, sitting before a banner proclaiming “World Champion 2022”, Max Verstappen could clearly be heard asking at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix: “Have I, or have I not?” This was the question on everyone’s lips: Had he done enough to secure a second world championship with four races to spare?

It was one of the most awkward endings to a Formula 1 championship title battle in history. It left the Red Bull team bosses frantically studying the rule books to find out if their man had won.

After what felt like a lifetime of awkward glances between the occupants of the cooldown room, the FIA confirmed Verstappen was indeed the world champion. His shoulders lowered, his chest relaxed and a huge grin spread across his face. Charles Leclerc had been handed a five-place grid penalty, meaning Sergio Perez was elevated to second; moreover, the regulations unexpectedly awarded full points for the half-distance race, despite new rules having been introduced this year which were supposed to prevent that happening.

Verstappen therefore claimed his second world title, and with it secured his name in the history books again. But this season it felt different. After a bumpy start to the season, he has since dominated, been in a league of his own, showing greater maturity in and out of the car.

Emotions ran high during 2021 title fight
After the opening three races Verstappen was 46 points behind the Ferrari of Leclerc. The Red Bull driver effectively ran out of fuel at the opening race of the season in Bahrain, beat Leclerc to win in Saudi Arabia, but a fuel leak in Australia left Verstappen point-less again. Leclerc’s two wins and a second left him on 71 points. All signs pointed to a Ferrari resurgence, with Verstappen facing a new threat to defend his title.

Since then, Verstappen has won 11 out of 15 races, making few mistakes to on his way to a commanding second title triumph. The season as a whole was a stark contrast to the emotionally charged 2021 campaign. The clashes with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone and Monza. The gut-punch of his tyre exploding while he was six laps away from winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. And of course that notorious conclusion in Abu Dhabi.

The 2022 title-decider was also controversial, though for other reasons. And it confirmed Verstappen’s annihilation of the opposition this year, the title settled with four races to go.

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Now a double world champion, Verstappen said his latest triumph left him with “very different emotions” compared to his 2021.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021
Final round title fight was “the worst kind of feeling”
“Last year, [fighting] all the way until the last race is probably the worst kind of feeling. Because at the time I don’t think we were the quickest anymore, so that also doesn’t help. This year I think has just been very, very different in emotions from the start all the way through the year.

“But both [titles] are beautiful and both are, at the end of the day, nice to experience. It’s nice also to really have always the pressure on and having to perform to your limit every single lap of the race. But not for too many years in a row. So I was very happy with the year we had this time around.”

The 2021 season was the last for F1’s previous generation of cars. This year ushered in a new generation of machines designed to race together more closely.

“The whole season anyway [was] very different,” Verstappen explained. “You’re already starting with completely different cars, completely different way of racing.

“Then of course [there’s] the amount of races we’ve won, but also they all came in quite a different way.”

Of his dozen wins, Verstappen has won from pole just four times this year, a clear contrast to last season. “Last year was all really qualifying dependent and that’s how you normally would then win a race,” he says.

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Verstappen has won from as low as 14th on the grid this year, such as at Spa-Francorchamps where he exceeded his maximum allocation of power unit components.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022
Verstappen’s Spa triumph was a masterpiece
“Now, even with some engine penalties coming back to the front, it’s really been an enjoyable year and a very special year. [It] will be very hard, I think, in the future to match from myself I think as well.

“That’s why I think we really have to appreciate it and really enjoy it. We were enjoying it already, probably now we can just enjoy it a little bit more.”

When a driver has been in the sport since the age of just 17 – not something we’re going to see again in the future – the impression he made at the start of his career. After such a short apprenticeship he was constantly learning on the job and had a short fuse at times.

His brush-ins with the sport’s establishment led to flare-ups, notably after he crossed swords with Kimi Raikkonen at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2016. They made contact at La Source at the start of the race, after which Verstappen incensed Raikkonen by firmly blocking him on the Kemmel straight.

Race start, Suzuka, 2022
Commanding Suzuka win sealed title number two for Verstappen
Raikkonen labelled Verstappen’s driving “fucking ridiculous”. Another world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, chimed in, suggesting if Verstappen didn’t calm down on track he was “going to kill someone.” Verstappen shrugged off the comments post-race, saying he was defending his position, and “if someone doesn’t like it that’s their problem.”

His run-ins with Hamilton last year led the Mercedes driver to describe Verstappen’s style as “dangerous” and “crazy”. But this kind of acrimony has been conspicuously absent in 2022.

The two very different championships Verstappen has won demonstrate his ability to adapt. He held on under pressure from Mercedes and a seven-times world champion last season. This year he adapted to a completely new car built to radically altered rules and regulations.

The controversies around this and last year’s championship deciders inevitable provoke a range of opinions. But they shouldn’t detract from the quality of job Verstappen has done as he has blossomed from a rough-edged young ‘future star’ into an impressive double world champion.

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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50 comments on “Why Verstappen’s second title given him “very different emotions” to the first”

  1. Always nice when you really earn it

    1. In an illegal car.

      1. In an illegal car.

        I don’t think that statement is correct, the car was legal.

        The amount spent on it is a different question.

    2. Way more deserved in 2021 than 2022, not that he didn’t drive slightly better than leclerc, but it’s really the car, and especially the team making the difference here, in 2021 it was verstappen.

      1. Way more deserved in 2021 than 2022, not that he didn’t drive slightly better than leclerc, but it’s really the car, and especially the team making the difference here, in 2021 it was verstappen.

        No, I believe you will find the thing making the difference was Masi, this year’s result is down to the team and every penny they spent.

        1. If you can prove there was a conspiracy between Masi and RedBull then fair enough. If you can’t, then it was just a matter of luck for Max.
          I would then argue that Lewis gained a ton more points than Max with good fortune and that it is really short sighted to focus on one incident that helped Max gain one position.

          1. If you can prove there was a conspiracy between Masi and RedBull then fair enough.

            Conspiracy, conspiracy, conspiracy. Is that all people can think of?
            How about ineptitude, or vindictive response to an imagined slight?

            A perfectly reasonable explanation is that Masi panicked and cocked up, then covered up and pressured the local stewards to help.
            There are other scenarios, non-require a conspiracy.

            “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

          2. I don’t think it was a conspiracy at all, just a sequence of events under growing pressure. Max got a small percentage of luck go his way after Lewis getting the lion’s share of it all year.
            Max had to perform at a higher, more consistent level all year to offset the DNF’s and all the lucky red flag points Lewis accumulated. That is for me why he was the deserving champion.

          3. Luck is when your adversary has a tyre blowout, slides off track or presses a magic button, all within the parameters of the sport, within the rules. However when the rules are violated, that’s not anymore a simple matter of luck. Luck has nothing to do with it. There’s no sport or competition anymore when the rules are broken. The entire game contract collapses.

          4. The drivers had no input into the decisions made. It wasn’t like Silverstone or Hungary where a driver’s actions massively affected the points standings.
            In Bahrain they decided to change a rule mid race which ultimately benefitted Lewis. He had gained approx 3 seconds by running wide at the corner where Max passed him and had to give the position back. If not for that, Max would have caught him sooner and had more laps to make a move.
            But that wasn’t the last race so it obviously doesn’t count, right?

  2. I think he’s about his best now. He’s more calm, but not overly calculating and still agressive. The way he passed Charles in turn 1 in the wet was fantastic. He could have laid back for a lap and then pass him on a straight, but these are the moves I really love to see.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th October 2022, 13:20

      The Red Bull has more downforce – Leclerc’s Ferrari couldn’t hang with the Red Bull.

      1. The Ferrari has plenty of downforce, it just destroys it’s tyres over a stint.
        Max had the better line on the outside and could keep his steering more open than Charles.

        1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
          13th October 2022, 14:43

          Did you see the picture of their intermediate tires after the Japan race?

          Leclerc tires were near slicks, Perez looked used but still showed some groves and Max tires looked like he only driven a few laps on them and then considering he was lapping more than second a lap quicker than Leclerc and Perez.

          From lap 9 (after pitstops and both passed Mick) to lap 28 Max extended his lead over Leclerc from 4.6 seconds to 26.7 seconds that is 22.1 seconds in 19 laps on average 70 seconds per lap.
          The first 2 laps Leclerc kept the gap the same and after each lap he lost time despite having no real issue with spray and only from lap 22 was Perez close to him.

          1. While I agree, I don’t understand the “on average 70 seconds” per lap part, the lap duration on the wet was around 110 seconds, don’t understand what else 70 seconds could refer to.

          2. Looks like a silly mistake – 22.1 seconds in 19 laps, on average 1.16 seconds per lap, not 70

            Now, extending his lead over Leclerc 70 seconds per lap would have been noteworthy, that’s 22 minutes and 10 seconds ahead.

        2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          13th October 2022, 15:00

          They probably would have had closer downforce if they had the same budget. Kudos to Red Bull for developing a better and more expensive car than the rest of the paddock!

          1. A bit too early, if red bull spent 100k more than ferrari it’s the same budget at those values. 5 mil extra is another talk.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            13th October 2022, 18:23

            @esploratore1 Fred Vasseur said that 200k brings a big update that translates into a 0.1-0.2 seconds per race for the season. Even Steiner is asking for disqualification and clearly it would apply to 2 seasons.

            These are 2 teams that were affected the least by Red Bull as more than likely Red Bull would have ended ahead of them even without overspending.

            Brown said the same. Binotto said the same. Wolff said the same.

            But let’s go with your personal opinion.

            I personally do NOT want Red Bull disqualified from 2 championships but I have no skin in the game and the rules are clear unfortunately as defined by Brawn. I hope that doesn’t come to pass. After thinking long and hard, a 50% deduction for 2021 and 2022 with a 25% deduction in 2023 might be the best result Red Bull can hope for because the teams are going to ask for a 2-season disqualification of team and drivers.

            Why so many points? Because nothing else changes anything, I explained yesterday how a 200 point deduction had no effect whatsoever in both seasons… Red Bull suddenly enjoyed a stupendous performance advantage with the old and the new regulation changes. It should also be noted that it’s more than likely that Red Bull has broken the cap this season too and they would be wise to negotiate with that in mind and try to salvage any points they can get for both seasons because if they broke it this season, they’ll be disqualified for the 2 seasons and probably get a 50% point deduction next year.

            It’s a tough pill to swallow but you broke it, you bought it.

          3. I think the cost of the Copse shunt by Lewis was in excess of 1.5M so if it’s under that, I’d say it’s money well spent.

          4. @freelittlebirds Wishful thinking. FIA is not going to disqualify anyone a year after, just like they didn’t disqualify Ferrari either with their illegal engine. It will be settled behind the screens.

          5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            14th October 2022, 13:33

            @spafrancochamps there a few key differences between the two such as the fact that Ferrari hadn’t won any championships, Todt was president of the FIA, and no statement had been made that a breach of the cap would cost you the championship.

            If this is settled behind the scenes, Mercedes will be 3 seconds quicker than everyone next season. They’ll delay their filings and take 6 championships in the process then pay $20 million to the FIA president and another $10 to a few other folks. By the time it’s resolved there may be no cost cap and the FIA may apply it retroactively like college debt forgiveness :-) It’s all good stuff, the sport should have no integrity and strive for that!

          6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            14th October 2022, 14:05

            @spafrancorchamps oh, got your tag wrong. See reply above.

          7. Copse shunt by Lewis was his frontwing only. Copse shunt by Max was more expensive, but he was partly to blame for it himself (as ruled by stewards, and argued also by other experienced drivers)

          8. I don’t think you actually believe that @Romtrain , but it’s the only thing that holds the whole pretence together that Lewis deserved to get those 26 points.
            Max’ line was arcing out to the outside kerb, the problem was, so was Lewis’.

      2. You try it then;-)

        1. The non RB fans are going to hang on to this until they die, from this day forward, no RB victory will ever be valid. In 20 years time if RB win a race it going to be because they exceeded the cap in 2021. Let it go…
          Let the authorities and teams sort it out. We don’t know if/how much anyone is over by and we don’t know what the agreed (NB! agreed by all Teams) sanction for $x is. So all these arguments are based on complete lack of validated information, useless and pointless, just emotional hopes.
          The FIA have another issues to deal with as something was leaked and that is of concern to all Teams.

      3. If you can’t appreciate such overtakes out of preference for or dislike of certain drivers, then Netflix might be better to watch than actual racing.

  3. It’s kind of hard to describe just how good Max was this season. I’ve never seen a driver just dominate his rivals and teammate in a fashion he did this season. It doesn’t even matter how many grid penalties were applied, or what his starting position is, he just cut through rivals like a hot knife on butter every Sunday.

    Schumacher’s 2002 was a remarkably consistent season, but at no time did I ever feel Schumacher was a league above every driver at every race. The Ferrari was far too ahead of any of its rivals, and the only challenger for Schumi was Barrichello, who had a contract in place which prevented from really racing Michael. So, I couldn’t say this was season for Schumi was any better than Lewis’ 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons.

    Vettel’s 2011 and 2013 seasons were great performances as well.. but then again, it only demonstrated how ahead of the curve Red Bull were at qualifying, and how Vettel had mastered the art of winning races purely from pole position. When he started a little behind, he looked nowhere close to the masterclass that Max is on Sundays.

    I’ve been watching the sport since 1996, and I’ve never seen a driver more complete than Max this season. He’s fast on Saturdays, a league above every driver on Sundays. Best overtaker on the grid, best driver in all weather conditions and probably the best at race management as well.

    If Ferrari and Mercedes don’t make a car at least half a second faster than Red Bull, we’re going to see non stop years of Max domination.

    1. The 2004 schumi season was the most dominant season and probably the 1992/93 Wiliams the most dominant car I have ever seen in F1. Hope we don’t get seasons like that again. This year it started with two compatative car’s but at the moment it looks like the RB has got the performance over Ferrari. I don’t think Perez has a 2nd driver contract but like Bottas he just doesn’t have it to challenge their teammate. I don’t see an other driver next to Max that will challenge him so it could be some boring seasons ahead.

      1. Yo probably weren’t around in ’61 but the Sharknose domination was stupendous

    2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      13th October 2022, 14:28

      The second half of the season he used that red bull to the max especially when it was outright the fastest on race pace but he’s had quite few errors this season which he’s ultimately got away with as ferrari failed to grow on their early advantage and other cars stalled on development. It may have been a different story if ferrari actually capitalised when they should have.

    3. It’s kind of hard to describe just how good Max was this season

      Not really. “Better than average in an overly expensive car” covers it in a few words.

      BTW. You covered Schumacher and Vettel in your comparisons with teammates with comments like “the only challenger for Schumi was Barrichello” in which you’ve ignored other seasons and the likes of Irvine who beat him quite often until told to back off.

      Vettel – team orders, mate.

      and you missed one notable driver from recent years. That would have had your keyboard catch fire or something though… :)

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        13th October 2022, 21:49

        “the likes of Irvine who beat him quite often until told to back off”
        Often “means” “several times”. You probably meant “less than seldom”, and surely not in the Malaysian and Japan 1999 races when Irvine had all the support of the team. I won’t even mention the embarrassment that was Germany 1999 for Irvine.

        By “Vettel team orders” you mean Malaysia 2013?

    4. José Lopes da Silva
      13th October 2022, 21:46


      I also started watching in 1996. Yes, you didn’t mention Schumacher’s 2004, but it was very much a repeat of 2002, a little more shining at the beginning of the year and a little less towards the end.

      Many people, for reasons of driver’s human profile and persona, and nationality, and whatever, refused to accept that in 2016 he already was a complete top driver, able to mount a challenge to Ricciardo. The only thing that kept him going off was that he was taking too much risks in a hopeless attempt to overcome the difference to Ferrari and Mercedes – because there was no doubt he had the upper hand over Ricciardo.

      He lost sure wins to Ricciardo in China 2018 and Monaco 2018. Immediately after Monaco there was the only time Red Bull warned him about his driving ever in his career. And immediately after that he stopped taking extra risks and consistent results started to show up in sequence, until he beat Bottas in the end. And the pattern followed.

      2021 Verstappen was brilliant in the way that he was not risk-gambling like in 2018, although the difference to Mercedes was not that big (many times Red Bull was faster). 2022 Verstappen is something one could imagine already in 2016 when he gets comfortably in Red Bull in dry and makes a mockery of his rivals in the wet (Brazil 2016 being surely the greatest wet weather performance of the decade).

      Exciting years ahead as Hamilton and Ferrari surely will fight back.

  4. It left the Red Bull team bosses frantically studying the rule books to find out if their man had won.

    Thought it said financially

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th October 2022, 15:52

      good one;-)

    2. Thought it said financially

      Can’t buy a better title (as they say in every garage except RBR)
      Although, maybe it was “buy one, get one free”

  5. This doesn’t even need an explanation.
    F1 2021’s ending was a farse made for television.

    With just the right amount of calls an manipulation, Liberty media produced an “epic” and “unprecedent” title decision that felt cheap and forced by anyone who watches this stuff for more than 3 years.

    Now he dominated and won fair and square. Nobody will ever take this from him and diminish his merit.
    He should be proud of what he accomplished as it is one of the best seasons by a driver ever.

    1. Despite the title decision last year he won the title with a car that was not the fastest and they didn’t win the WCC. That doesn’t happen much in F1, the last time that happened was 2008 with Lewis also Hakkinen 1999 and Schumacher 1994. Domination usualy means the world champion has the fastest car and he beat his teammate. This is why I think Max deserved both titles but last year was more special for me. But to be honest the WDC is never fair and square because not all drivers have the same oppertunity

  6. Nobody will ever take this from him and diminish his merit

    That is already going on in this comment section, taking it away….

  7. He’s dominating and i’m not surprised at all. 2019 was the first season he showed “ready for the title” skills, it’s pity he was quite overshadowed by Leclerc’s hype in that semi-legal Ferrari.

    1. he was quite overshadowed by Leclerc’s hype in that semi-legal Ferrari.

      I’m shocked!

      Are you implying that both the Ferrari and the Red Bull were both illegal in different ways:
      One overpriced and the other of dubious design.

      That would mean the fastest legal car out there hasn’t won a race all season.

  8. I think… Leclerc in a Red Bull vs Verstappen in a Ferrari would have been an decent title fight.

    1. Max and Lewis in the Ferrari, Leclerc and Russel in the RB. That would be fun

      1. Max would win

  9. I thought last weekend was a fitting way for Max to win the title…

    Nobody knew he won it
    Nobody cared he won it

    Barley anybody’s even mentioned it

  10. Nobody knew he won it
    Nobody cared he won it

    And even RBR can’t pay enough to make people to believe it?

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