Max Verstappen is a machine that will be difficult to stop in the 2022 F1 season, according to former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Verstappen has been operating on another echelon altogether this season. The defending world champion has secured eight wins in 13 races in the current campaign. He has been on the podium in every race he has finished bar the 2022 F1 British GP.
This superlative run of form, coupled with Ferrari’s issues, has helped Max Verstappen build an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc heading into the summer break.
With nine races remaining in the year, Villeneuve feels Verstappen is on track to land his second world title and no one on the field can deny the Dutchman.
In his column for Dutch publication Formule1.NL after the 2022 F1 Hungarian GP, where Max Verstappen won despite starting from P10 and spinning his car during the race, the Canadian wrote:
“We’ve already seen nice battles from Ferrari with Red Bull. Ferrari is just as strong, if not stronger. But Red Bull has a street-length lead. It’s not a foregone conclusion, there’s still quite a few races to go. But if the trend continues, if Verstappen keeps driving at this level and Red Bull also keeps developing, it will be very difficult to stop them.”
Villeneuve, who won the 1997 F1 World Championship with Williams, went on to add:
“And Max is a machine, really not normal. He wasn’t even tired yesterday, I don’t think he even needs a vacation! He’s driving so strong this year, the team doesn’t make mistakes. And when something goes wrong, he and Red Bull always provide the best conditions to put things right. Yesterday he could have limited the damage, he didn’t have to win but he does. That’s how they go into the race, don’t put any pressure on themselves but then play it excellently.”
Max Verstappen believes the level of mutual respect between Red Bull and Ferrari in the ongoing 2022 F1 season is at a higher level than what he experienced last year while taking on Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
Things got testy between Verstappen and Hamilton in 2021, especially after the feature race at Silverstone where the Dutchman was involved in a massive 51G crash on the opening lap.
This was followed by a double DNF for the pair at Monza before as well as some feisty encounters at Interlagos, Jeddah, and the Yas Marina Circuit, where the 2021 title was decided under controversial circumstances.
The introduction of the new regulations for 2022 and beyond has made the gap between Red Bull and Mercedes much wider this season. It has also allowed Ferrari to join the world championship conversation after their bout of mediocrity over the last two seasons.
Charles Leclerc has replaced Lewis Hamilton as Max Verstappen’s primary on-track foe but the pair still seem to share a relaxed relationship off it.
In an interview with Channel 4 in the build-up to the 2022 F1 Austrian GP, Max Verstappen said the intensity of the rivalry with Lewis Hamilton in 2021 was boosted by the rivalry between Red Bull and Mercedes. The 24-year-old said:
“I don’t think necessarily it was between the drivers, it was mainly because it’s a completely different approach between the teams last year and this year, and probably there was a bit more respect between the two teams as well this year. I think that helps a lot for sure, and I’ve known Charles [Leclerc] for a longer time because we basically grew up together throughout racing and go-karting, and all the way to Formula 1.”
Verstappen, however, was quick to acknowledge that all the occurrences from 2021 are now in the past for him and Hamilton, adding:
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“But I always had [and] still have a lot of respect for Lewis [Hamilton] and we always got on well, and also today, you know, as racing drivers, you know you come together but you also very quickly forget and just move on. The amount of times I’ve crashed with Charles in the past, but now we can laugh about it, so it just, you know racing drivers, they of course, look at themselves.”
The 24-year-old will be raring to go when the season resumes with the 2022 F1 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps at the end of the month.