Formula One’s double champion is Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen’s Formula One competitors have no need to be reminded that the only previous Red Bull driver to win two world championships in a succession went on to win four consecutive crowns.
Only time will tell how many he can win, but at 25 years old, Verstappen is just getting started with two victories as the sport enters a new era following Mercedes’ dominance.
The win of the Dutch driver in Japan evoked recollections of another October 9 weekend at Suzuka in 2011, when a youthful Sebastian Vettel, then 24 years old, won his second championship with the energy drink squad.
“I seen this exact scenario 11 years ago with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull,” 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who won the race for McLaren, told Sky Sports on Sunday.
“He went out and won the title at this grand prix, and he was so dominant throughout the year, while his colleague was close behind… remarkably close to what Max just did.”
Red Bull is expected to win both crowns this season, ending Mercedes’ streak of eight consecutive constructors’ titles, and will likely be the team to beat in 2023.
Vettel, like Verstappen the previous year, won his first championship during a season-ending race in Abu Dhabi. In 2011, he won 11 races against Button and McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton’s three and won the championship with four races remaining.
Verstappen claimed his 12th victory in 18 races on Sunday, clinching the championship with four races remaining.
Vettel, who is currently with Aston Martin and will make his final appearance at Suzuka on Sunday before retiring at the end of the season, was always Red Bull’s top driver, but Verstappen now has that position.
Johnny Herbert, Michael Schumacher’s teammate at Benetton in 1995, remarked, “He’s molded the entire squad around him, and they think and feel he’s the greatest of all time.”
“I recall Michael Schumacher; the situation is same. And he will just continue to become stronger. This is the frightening part for everyone else who will be competing against him.”
Rob Marshall, chief engineering officer of Red Bull, argued that results may provide a misleading impression.
As the squad rejoiced, he stated, “There have been moments when they (Ferrari) have been faster, so I don’t think it’s dominance at all.”
“I simply believe we’ve performed better. It’s a good car, but I don’t believe it’s significantly better than theirs.”
Red Bull’s 2023 vehicle will be built on solid foundations, and the team is operating like a well-oiled machine, whilst Ferrari and Mercedes have issues to fix.
Adrian Newey, the team’s technical guru, described it as “one of those fantasy seasons,” citing Verstappen’s victory from 10th on the grid in Hungary as a highlight.
He expressed amazement at Verstappen’s car management and admiration for his maturity.
“Part of it is the relief of having won his first championship, so he doesn’t feel the need to prove himself as he did last year,” he explained.
“This year, when he hasn’t been in the lead, he’s exhibited great patience and still won. Respect for making such significant progress. Perhaps two years ago he would not have done that.”