Red Bull driver dominant in 2022 F1 season
Verstappen to the Max
Published: Dec 23, 2022 01:48 PM
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix File Photo: IC

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix File Photo: IC

More dominant and a lot less controversial, Max Verstappen's second Formula One world championship was very different to the first.

The 25-year-old Red Bull driver may start 2023 as favorite for a third, but the chances are he will face more of a challenge than in 2022.

The Dutchman never had it so good, coming back from two retirements in the first three races to turn around a massive 46-point deficit and finish with a record 15 victories from 22 Grands Prix.

He scored more points in a season (454) than anyone ever before, and nine of the wins were not from pole position. Belgium was perhaps the most satisfying victory of all from 14th on the grid.

"We won the drivers' [title], and the constructors', we had a lot of victories as a team, so I would say this one is better and more rewarding. But the first one will always be more emotional," he said. 

Verstappen made it successive titles with four races to spare, a marked contrast to 2021 when he entered the final race in Abu Dhabi level on points with Mercedes' seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. 

That first title owed much to a controversial late change to the safety car procedure but this time there was a sense of inevitability as Hamilton, 37, endured his first season without a victory and finished a career-low sixth overall.

The fans lapped it up, with races sold out and viewing figures soaring.

There were memorable moments, not least the spectacular crash of Chinese rookie Zhou Guanyu whose Alfa Romeo flipped upside down and over the tire wall at Silverstone in an accident that ripped off the roll hoop but left him unhurt.

It was Red Bull's best-ever season - 17 wins and five one-two finishes bringing a fifth constructors' title and ending Mercedes' record run of eight in a row.

It was also bittersweet, the team title secured a day after the death of billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz. 

Red Bull were also punished for breaching the budget cap in 2021 - a big talking point - but have an impressive car to build on for 2023 and stability with Mexican Sergio Perez alongside Verstappen. 

Wrong turn

Mercedes took a wrong turn, all at sea with a "porpoising" car but salvaging some pride late on with George Russell leading a one-two in Brazil for his first win.

"With our learnings, the values in the team, the empowerment and the no blame culture, I think we will be back in a more potent form next year - hopefully winning races on merit and fighting for the championship," said team boss Toto Wolff.

Ferrari started strongly, in the first year of a major aerodynamic rule change aimed at making racing closer and more exciting, but hopes of a first title since 2008 turned to dust.

After winning two of the first three races with Charles Leclerc, they suffered driver errors, strategy mistakes and a lack of reliability although Carlos Sainz did take his first Grand Prix win.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto resigned in November after the team finished distant runners-up, still a big step forward compared to the previous two winless seasons.

He will be replaced by Frederic Vasseur next season, the Frenchman moving from Sauber-run Alfa Romeo as Formula One gave the managerial merry-go-round a hefty push post-season.

Andreas Seidl took Vasseur's place at Sauber and was replaced at McLaren by Andrea Stella, who spent his formative years with Ferrari. Jost Capito also stood aside as Williams principal.

The changes mean that in the space of a year, six of the 10 teams have changed bosses - Aston Martin and Renault-owned Alpine doing so in January and February of 2022 respectively.

There will be at least 23 races in 2023 and the debut of a Saturday night spectacular in Las Vegas.

Four-time world champion ­Sebastian Vettel will not be there, the ­German retiring after his last race with Aston Martin.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo also stepped off the grid after another difficult year at McLaren, to be replaced by compatriot Oscar Piastri after the team won a contract battle with Renault-owned Alpine.

Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time world champion Michael, will be another absentee after losing his Haas seat to fellow-German Nico Hulkenberg while Canadian Nicholas Latifi bowed out at Williams.

Ross Brawn, who won titles with his own team and then became Formula One's managing director for motorsport, also said farewell.