Is The Path Clear For Another Max Verstappen Charge?

Why Are Formula 1 Drivers So Young
Why Are Formula 1 Drivers So Young

Max Verstappen charged to victory in the 2022 Formula One season to claim his second Drivers’ Championship crown in a row. The Dutchman was nothing short of dominant by winning 15 out of 22 races and mustering 454 points over the course of the campaign. Verstappen finished an incredible 146 points ahead of his nearest rival Charles Leclerc.

The Red Bull driver was relentless in his pursuit of the crown and will now be aiming to secure his third title on the bounce to join an illustrious company of drivers to achieve the feat. Verstappen seemingly has a step on his rivals ahead of the 2023 campaign, and he will be tough to stop, although there are a number of challengers that are ready to halt his charge for the crown.

Can Max Verstappen Maintain His Form?

Verstappen will have to be at his best amid the improvements of the other teams that were lackluster compared to Red Bull last term. The Dutchman’s 15 victories last season were the most that any driver had ever achieved in the history of the sport. It would be extremely impressive if he were able to match his success from the 2022 campaign next season. Verstappen’s success required exceptional skill behind the wheel, flawless preparation, and of course a bit of luck here and there when it mattered the most.

A prime example of all three came in the United States, where he managed to overcome a poor pit stop and capitalized on Mercedes’ lack of speed to beat out Lewis Hamilton for the victory. The result highlighted the difference between Verstappen and the rest of the field. Even though there were mistakes from his pit team and the driver himself, Verstappen still managed to drive himself out of trouble to beat out the seven-time champion.

It is why Verstappen will start the season as the leading contender in all the betting odds for the Drivers’ Championship. The legalization of online betting has opened up a range of possibilities for Formula One fans in the United States. The popularity of Formula One has gradually increased due to the presence of the sport in the USA on an annual basis, while other media aspects such as the Netflix series Drive to Survive have also raised their profile after being overlooked in favor of NASCAR by Americans. Lewis Hamilton’s celebrity status and his ownership stake in the Denver Broncos have also helped put the sport on the map. So, Formula One and betting on the sport is not only for hardcore fans.

You can see by the commitment of sports betting sites in the United States to improving their F1 product that Hamilton and Verstappen have made an impact. So much so, there is a range of markets available for bettors that bet online or even in states such as Delaware State, where you can place in-person wagers on Formula One. Naturally, the most popular market is the Drivers’ Championship where Verstappen is the driver to beat. Verstappen will be eyeing a similar run that Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed over the last decade and Red Bull seemingly has the edge over their rivals ahead of the 2023 campaign. It will take something special to knock him off his perch given his current aura of invincibility.

Will Lewis Hamilton Make A Comeback?

Hamilton was extremely unlucky to lose his crown to Verstappen in 2021. The circumstances in Abu Dhabi were controversial, to say the least. Debate rages to this day, and will no doubt go on forever, whether race director Michael Masi was right to allow Verstappen a clear path to duel it out with the Brit on the final lap of the race.

Hamilton was expected to bounce back in 2022 to challenge for his eighth Drivers’ Championship, but the result was massively underwhelming. He recorded one of the worst campaigns of his career, failing to register a Grand Prix victory in a season for the first time, finishing in sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings and over 200 points behind Verstappen.

Mercedes W-13 vehicle took the brunt of the blame, but Hamilton was not himself behind the wheel. It could be argued that he was still aggrieved from his controversial defeat in 2021. He found it very difficult to hide his frustrations with his car and his team as a whole. Mercedes have made strides to improve their car for the 2023 campaign. But, at the age of 38, Hamilton will have to roll back the years to challenge Verstappen. At his best, he is more than capable of dethroning his rival but will need a strong level of intensity, a lot of luck, and a better car than 2022 to complete the task.

The Rise Of George Russell

Even if Hamilton gets the right vehicle from Mercedes to challenge Verstappen, he will also face a talented opponent from within his own team for the Drivers’ Championship. George Russell enjoyed a solid if unspectacular first season with Mercedes.

He enjoyed a strong end to the campaign and secured his maiden Grand Prix victory at Sao Paulo. Russell appeared to be more locked in on the task at hand over the course of the campaign compared to Hamilton. He insisted that some of the issues with Mercedes’ W-13 were overblown, despite evidence that the car was well behind Red Bull and Ferrari for the majority of the year.

Russell did display good levels of consistency, which bode well for the 2023 season. In 2022, he finished outside of the top five on only three occasions, and one of those came in disappointing fashion in the British Grand Prix when he was forced to retire following a collision with Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu in the first lap of the race. The 24-year-old will hope to avoid those incidents by placing himself at the front of the grid more regularly. Russell has all the attributes needed to challenge Verstappen, he just needs the speed from the Mercedes W-14 to compete with Red Bull in 2023.

The victory in Sao Paulo will have given the Brit a lot of confidence and momentum to take forward into the new season. If he has a fast start all eyes will be on him to see whether he can dislodge Verstappen, handing Formula One a new duel at the top of the sport that has been sorely lacking over the last 10 years.

Will Ferrari Flatter To Deceive Again?

Ferrari threatened to end their longstanding drought without the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship at the start of the 2022 season. Charles Leclerc was exceptional out of the gate with two victories and a second-place finish in the opening three races of the campaign. With the F1-75, Ferrari believed that they had the speed to match Red Bull and Verstappen on the track, and the early results were very encouraging.

However, the team as a whole lacked the experience and the composure to challenge the well-oiled Red Bull machine. Whether it was mistakes from Leclerc, notably in the French Grand Prix, or the team itself for mechanical failures with the F1-75, Ferrari lacked the organization to produce a champion. Carlos Sainz Jnr had the same issues that held back his potential charge. Leclerc was the major disappointment as he seemed capable of matching Verstappen’s brilliance behind the wheel, but lacked the clinical edge when it mattered the most.

It was almost as if Leclerc wanted the title too much. The Monegasque will have learned a lot from his 2022 season, but only time will tell whether he has learned from his mistakes. He has the benefit of the doubt, but Ferrari certainly does not. For 15 years the Italian outfit has been a pretender rather than a contender for both crowns of the sport.

Ferrari has poured significant investment into their cars, although they’re seemingly no closer to producing a winner. The 2023 season has to be the year that they at least compete into the dying stages of the campaign. If they can harness the speed of the F1-75 and add the key ingredient of reliability, it might be enough to allow Leclerc to put Verstappen under pressure.

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