Verstappen vows to enjoy it while it lasts as Red Bull driver clinches F1 title again

By Sports Desk October 09, 2022

Max Verstappen struck a philosophical tone as he celebrated a second Formula One drivers' title, admitting this could be as good as it gets for him.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has been dominant in the 2022 season, with his 12th race win in 18 races coming at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

It came in curious fashion, with Verstappen initially moving only to the brink of the title with victory. His triumph was confirmed later, when a penalty was imposed on second-placed finisher Charles Leclerc, nudging the Ferrari driver down to third place in the race and giving Verstappen an unassailable championship lead.

He has wrapped up the title with four races to spare, and Verstappen might go on to be the leading light in many more seasons to come. Indeed, it would be a surprise if he does not; but great drivers from years gone by have not necessarily stacked up the titles expected of them.

Fernando Alonso, for one, captured titles in 2005 and 2006 but has not added to those back-to-back successes.

Verstappen is conscious that the car must be right, so he is determined to make the most of Red Bull equipping him with a formidable set of wheels, for as long as that lasts.

"I've got four race weekends at least to celebrate," he said. "There is no real pressure any more, but I still want to of course try and win more races, because with the car we have now you have to try and take advantage of that.

"You don't know if you're ever going to have that again, next year, in the years to come. So, we'll definitely try to win a few more."

Verstappen already accepts that following up the 2022 performance will be a lot to ask of Red Bull and their driver team.

Because of Leclerc's five-second penalty, Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez took second place at Suzuka, and also sits second in the championship, some 113 points behind the champion.

Red Bull are emphatically the team to beat, but many teams have been in such a position across the history of Formula One, and what history tells us is that a rival will at some stage overhaul them.

Next season will be a 24-race slog, two races longer than this campaign, and that will test all the teams.

"Yeah, it's going to be a long season," Verstappen said. "I thought this one was already pretty long – but we'll see. We're going to try and prepare for next year as good as we can.

"Then we'll try to get it as close as we can to this year, because replicating something like this will be very tough – but I have a lot of good hope within the people in the team that we can create again a really good car."

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    George Russell will not "sulk" after giving up sixth place to team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Mercedes failed to arrest their slide.

    Hamilton and Russell finished sixth and seventh respectively as Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris for his third successive victory at the Imola event.

    Russell was ahead of Hamilton as his tyres began to wear late in the race, leading Mercedes to call him in for a pit stop and bring him out ahead of eighth-placed Sergio Perez.

    That ensured Hamilton finished above his team-mate for a second straight race, having failed to top him in any of the first five races of 2024.

    Russell refused to criticise the team's strategy after the race, though he lamented their continued struggles with their W15 car.

    "You're never going to be happy with P6 and P7," Russell told Sky Sports.

    "At the end of the day, as a team we scored an extra point. I lost my position to Lewis but I'm not going to sulk over losing a P6."

    Asked to explain the decision, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: "[Russell's] lap times were getting slower and slower, and our forecast saw he was not going to make it to the end and we didn't want to lose the position to Perez.

    "Lewis would have probably taken him anyway. The point being that we are racing for P6 and P7 and wanted to keep the Red Bull behind. It was a safety call."

    Russell is currently seventh in the drivers' championship standings with Hamilton in eighth, with neither driver managing a podium finish so far this year.

    McLaren have emerged as the foremost challengers to Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, leaving Mercedes marooned in a disappointing fourth place in the team standings. 

    "This is where we are right now, a little bit in no man's land behind the Ferraris and McLarens but ahead of the midfield," Russell said of their struggles.

    "Everyone is still super motivated, the morale isn't dropping at all, which is quite inspiring to say. Everyone is trying to make this work and improve it."

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    Lando Norris is excited to see McLaren emerging as the foremost challengers to Red Bull, after he narrowly missed out on a second straight win at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    Norris started second at Imola on Sunday as a grid penalty dropped his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri to fifth. 

    It initially looked like Norris might face a battle for second as Charles Leclerc closed on him, but he found extraordinary pace late on as leader Max Verstappen started to struggle.

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    "It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him," Norris told Sky Sports. 

    "It's tough. I just lost out too much to Max in the beginning. He was stronger in the first stint.

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    Norris has now managed four podium finishes in the last five races, and he sits fourth in the drivers' championship standings, six points behind Sergio Perez in third.

    He finished second at the Chinese Grand Prix last month, then beat Verstappen to claim his first race win in Miami in early May, benefitting from effective upgrades to McLaren's MCL38 car.

    "Hopefully, it continues like that because it's exciting, it's tough, and it gets you excited every weekend, so I'm looking forward to the next few," he said.

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    Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris on the final lap to get back to winning ways at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

    Having equalled Ayrton Senna's record of eight successive pole positions on Saturday, the three-time world champion initially looked set for a comfortable victory.

    It looked like third might be the best Norris could manage, but the Briton found great pace late on and ultimately challenged for the win, as Verstappen expressed frustration over Red Bull team radio, saying he was struggling for grip when turning.

    Norris pulled within 0.7 seconds of Verstappen on the final lap, but he was ultimately unable to follow up his win at the Miami Grand Prix last time out as the drivers' championship leader clung on.

    Charles Leclerc captured third for Ferrari in front of an enthusiastic Italian crowd, with Oscar Piastri finishing fourth after his grid penalty meant he started the race fifth instead of second.

    Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez only managing eighth, meaning he now trails Leclerc in the standings.

    Data debrief: Verstappen follows Schumacher 

    On Saturday, Verstappen became the first driver with back-to-back poles at Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2002 and 2003. One day later, he became just the second driver to win on three successive visits to the track, after the German achieved that feat between 2002 and 2004.

    Verstappen is also into the top six in the all-time F1 charts for podium finishes, his 104th here moving him ahead of Kimi Raikkonen outright in the rankings.

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