Max Verstappen could win F1 title in 2022 as Canada weekend shows he is on par with his rivals

Max Verstappen could win F1 title in 2022 as Canada weekend shows he is on par with his rivals

As a safety car approached the streets of Montreal, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz threatened to end a thrilling end to Sunday’s Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix as two men driving the fastest cars on the field started in 15 laps. penalty for victory.

Sainz, the Ferrari driver who, through a combination of bad luck and fundamental mistakes, was sidelined in this season’s title race, climbed the entire Verstappen gearbox in the final part of the race as he chased his victory in the top-class motorcycle category. sport. Separated in less than a second, with fresher tires and the marginally fastest car of the day, the 27-year-old Spaniard seemed destined to overtake his former teammate and climb to the top of the podium for the first time. in his eight-season career.

On each course of the track before the checkered flag fluttered, Sainz was able to use the help of the F1 DRS system to pull himself towards the back wing of the Verstappen along the great straight back of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. With the speed advantage of the straight line provided by the DRS, it should be possible to make a pass only once in fifteen attempts.

But at the finish line, it was Red Bull ahead of Ferrari, Verstappen ahead of Sainz and an increased 46-point lead at the top of the Dutch drivers’ championship.

In fact, it was hard to believe that Sainz would really be able to beat Verstappen. All the accessories were there – the tires, the DRS and the number of laps – but Verstappen had so much control over the weekend in Canada that the idea of ​​faltering just seemed unlikely.

Each time Sainz pulled behind Verstappen or tried to equalize as he entered the final chicane at turn 1, Verstappen placed his car perfectly to block a possible pass, compromising Sainz’s line on the next straight pit and to secure himself enough traction to be able to defend himself again in turn 1 at the beginning of the next lap.

Both Sainz and Verstappen agreed that Ferrari was the fastest car on race day in Montreal and that it was Verstappen ‘s steady lead in the race and Verstappen’ s ability to avoid even the smallest mistakes which meant he simply did not exist. way to pass the brave Sainz. , as fast as he was.

“I pushed hard out,” Sainz said in a post-match interview. “I did not leave an inch on the walls, I tried my best to pass Max. Eventually I left nothing on the table out there. I really want my first victory, so you can imagine how much I was pushing. “I was the fastest on the track today and I gave my all.”

The power of Sainz’s insistence that he had nothing to give to the faster of the two cars underlined a simple fact that dominates Formula 1 right now – Max Verstappen drives to a completely different level than anyone else on the track.

Max Verstappen won in Canada for the first time on Sunday.

(AP)

The 24-year-old started the season indifferently, suffering from mechanical injuries in two of the first three races in Bahrain and Australia, and was left behind first-placed leader Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari. But Red Bull have won the last six rounds of the season, five of which are Verstappen victories, and their lead now means they are essentially two wins in games ahead of their nearest rival.

In Canada he was completely imperial. In fraudulent conditions on a wet Saturday, he qualified for the pole, more than six-tenths of a second ahead of the rest of the court, in a show that underscored his ability to drive even better when things get tough.

With the sly Fernando Alonso starting second on the grid and promising to try to take the lead from the start, Verstappen broke out of the two-time title winner as the lights went out and he drove away at the start of the race.

From there he drove quickly and consistently, only to be challenged when the safety car carrying Yuki Tsunoda’s unexplained turn at the dam after exiting the pitlane gave Sainz a shot at a victory he would never otherwise claim, but neither one moment he lost a victory. a bit of the unmistakable composure that defines his driving style.

Red Bull team leader Christian Horner believes the current world champions have never driven better.

“Max is in the shape of his life,” Horner said after the fight. “It’s so easy to lock a wheel in the last hairpin, but Max was absolutely clinical today. A really impressive route. “

Of course, Red Bull has nailed the transition to the new technical era of Formula 1 better than any other team. They have built a car that is faster than any other over long distances on most tracks, they have managed to avoid the intense puffiness that has destroyed teams, including Mercedes, and they have skillfully managed strategy calls throughout the campaign.

But, as in 2021, Verstappen’s record when he can finish races was impressive. In the seven races in which his car has reached the end so far in 2022, Verstappen has won six and finished third once. Were it not for the mechanical damage he suffered at Sakhir and Albert Park, he would have two more second places to add to that record and would be at least 82 points ahead of the top of the pre-season standings. it is even close to half way.

Despite the pre-season debate that a change in F1 car design could bring the pitch closer and shake things up at the top, there is a very realistic chance that Verstappen will simply go to sunset with the championship . trophy in its cockpit during the summer at the traditional European F1 Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s credibility issues, which cost Verstappen’s teammate and closest rival Sergio Perez a chance to cut damage to Canada, could potentially deter him from doing so. And the misfortune that has befallen Leclerc in recent months could change and prevent Verstappen at some stage.

Verstappen’s opponents will have to pin all their hopes on reliability problems or pure bad luck, because here he showed that there is so little weakness in his driving, so little deviation in his confidence and so little chance that he will make a mistake, that pass for the title would be as impossible as Sainz found himself on track in Canada.

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