Reigning world champion Max Verstappen took six years to clinch his first-ever championship title in 2021 after a thrilling battle with Lewis Hamilton. For the first time last year, the Dutchman had a car that had the potential to challenge Mercedes and he certainly made the most of it.
While the Silver Arrows appear to have lost their edge and winning streak in 2022, Ferrari are certainly back stronger this year than ever before. The Italian outfit have two extremely talented drivers who are unlikely to make this season an easy win for Verstappen and Red Bull.
Ferrari's 2022 challenger has also seemingly had an upper hand over Red Bull on several occasions. The Milton Keynes-based team suffered reliability issues in the season opener, allowing Ferrari to start the season with a glorious 1-2, while Red Bull left the Bahrain Grand Prix with zero points. With a pole position and race win for Red Bull in Saudi Arabia, however, they have certainly put themselves back in the game this season. Max Verstappen clinched his first race win of the year and will look to close the gap on current championship leader Charles Leclerc. Whether or not the Dutchman will be able to take a second title at the end of the year, only time will tell.
In this piece, we discuss 3 reasons why we feel Max Verstappen might not win the 2022 F1 championship
#1 Charles Leclerc is the 2022 favorite
After taking home a much-deserved win at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has undoubtedly put himself in the running as a title contender. He has now instantly become the new favorite ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The Monegasque has been pegged as a title-worthy driver for as long as he has been a part of the sport, given his exceptional racecraft and pace.
This year, however, for the first time, the 24-year-old has been given a car that truly has the potential to put up a challenge for the championship title. And Leclerc has certainly been extracting everything out of it with this goal in mind. Red Bull are yet to have some catching up to do with their reliability, while Ferrari have yet to improve on their straight-line pace. Leclerc unquestionably poses a threat to Verstappen's chances for a second consecutive title. So it is expected to be a close fight, just as seen in the intense wheel-to-wheel battling at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
#2 Max Verstappen has a different rival mentality in 2022
The 2021 F1 season saw one of the most intense rivalries in the history of the sport between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. With numerous controversial moves, dramatic accidents, and endless penalties, it saw two very extreme sides of both drivers who constantly pushed each other to the edge to get to the top.
If the 2022 Saudi Arabian GP is of any indication, however, there is a visible difference in the Dutchman's mentality when racing Ferrari's Charles Leclerc as compared to that against the Briton. One can, therefore, assume that Verstappen will be showing a very different side to himself as a driver this year. The Red Bull driver has been criticized on several occasions for being too aggressive and this has often cost him heavily in the form of significant penalties. Several people, however, think that it was this aggression that got him his first world championship title.
Leclerc and Verstappen share a rather friendly relationship off-track, unlike that of Verstappen and Hamilton, and this could be a cause for concern for Red Bull fans. While the wheel-to-wheel racing in Saudi Arabia was intense and extremely respectful, it certainly showed a side of the Dutchman that was not seen before in his fight with Hamilton. If Verstappen is taking a different approach in his fight against Leclerc, who seems to be his greatest rival for the title as things stand today, one can assume that he may lose his edge.
#1 Max Verstappen has already achieved his F1 dream
Every single F1 driver dreams of winning a world championship title. Every driver on the grid has nearly the same level of hunger and determination to get to this one goal and this is what keeps them motivated through all the severity of the sport. It takes a different mentality, however, to remain as hungry for a second title just as for the first. Several fans fear that Max Verstappen could become complacent after having "achieved everything in Formula 1". Many drivers such as his 2021 rival Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel have proven that this may not necessarily always be the case. James Hunt, however, is a great example of drivers who remain content with their single title and this could very well be a possibility for the 24-year-old.