By winning the hugely-anticipated and widely-followed Spanish Grand Prix of 2022, Max Verstappen has done three things right, one of which is truly fantastic.
For starters, victory for Max at Spain means that the Dutchman has become the first driver of 2022 to claim a hat-trick of wins (three successive wins).
If that’s not some serious form, then what is?
Second, he’s proven, well and truly speaking, that the 2022 world championship fight with Ferrari is truly on.
And also the fact that he’s not going to bow out without giving it everything in his battles with Leclerc, the thorn in Red Bull’s path this year.
At a time where Leclerc’s commanding wins, starting from Bahrain and later, Australia, were giving a hard time to the Red Bull contingent, Verstappen’s ominous form as seen recently has neutralized the threat Ferrari fired with rich aplomb.
And finally, Verstappen has with him the lead in the drivers’ standings; no more is he trailing Charles Leclerc.
This clearly means that come Monaco, i.e., Formula 1’s next halt, it’ll be the blue-eyed Ferrari boy who’ll, without a doubt, be in some pressure and not Max Verstappen.
For largely speaking, the driver of Red Bull#1 will be focusing on only extending his lead over his archrival.
Where it stands at the moment, then it’s important to take cognisance of the fact that Max Verstappen, in the same position on the rankings as his car number, has opened a six point lead over Charles Leclerc.
Yet interestingly, both drivers have so far suffered DNFs for little fault of their own and have come to embrace the very pertinent subject that could well factor into the 2022 championship: the reliability issues with their respective power engines.
For starters, Leclerc ruled at Bahrain, the season-opening Grand Prix of 2022, whilst Verstappen was left gutted siding an engine reliability woe in his Red Bull.
Not that at Australia, seen of another famous Leclerc victory, Max didn’t suffer; he’d DNF again. It was Ferrari on top and Red Bull on the decline.
But typical of F1’s unprecedented nature where to expect the unexpected is pretty much the rule of the thumb, we have amid us a rather fascinating sight:
The very driver who we found distraught complaining that maybe finishing races for the rest of the season would be nothing less than an ‘achievement’ is today leading the tables of drivers’ standings.
And the driver who wasn’t really complaining about anything as such and simply sporting a contented smile is in a bit of a worry.
The faster that Ferrari get to the bottom of what is currently being called the ‘power unit issues’, the better for the red squad where the rest of the season is concerned.
Yet, make no mistake; on his part, Verstappen, who won his second Grand Prix at Spain gave it everything on May 22.
For someone who began from second on the grid, not the first, Verstappen experienced some challenging moments at Barcelona.
So how’s that?
At Turn 4 on lap 9, Verstappen, pretty much like Sainz in the other Ferrari, went straight into the gravel.
There were doubts that maybe his rear tires were overheating or maybe the Red Bull was suffering from a tad bit of oversteer.
Nevertheless, the way the driver fought back later on in the contest, executing brave and clean overtakes on others such as the one on Bottas, was simply exemplary.
Finding great grip out of turn 11 in the approach to turn 12, Vertappen went on the outside of the Finn’s Alfa Romeo and blasted past ahead to clinch third.
He was now trailing Russell and Perez.
Moving past the Mercedes wasn’t that difficult but when on lap 38, Perez pitted for his medium compounds, the race lead, for the first time ever, came in the grasp of Verstappen.
From that point on, he’d exhibit excellent control and tire management (the latter, such a huge ask here in Spain), to take the checkered flag.
In the end, the Red Bull 1-2 is just the kind of result that Horner and his team would’ve wanted.
Now that they’ve done it and fair play to Perez for being the ultimate team man, the Milton Keynes-based outfit would want to do it another time, especially at Monaco.
And that, precisely, would be the toughest challenge for Ferrari, who wouldn’t like that one bit. Not one bit.