There are still plenty of scores to be settled across the grid between now and the end of the Formula One season despite Max Verstappen having already clinched this year’s Drivers’ Championship title. The Dutchman managed to wrap up proceedings by taking victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc’s post-race penalty giving his Red Bull rival an insurmountable lead in the standings.
The race marked the end of a one-sided battle for the end-of-season honours, with Verstappen having dominated for the vast majority of the campaign in spite of Leclerc’s best efforts. The on-track drama is far from over, though, as Express Sport takes a look at the exciting sub-plots that are set to be concluded over the course of the run-in…
Hamilton’s barren spell continues
Lewis Hamilton is still searching for his first Grand Prix victory of 2022 as he looks to end his worst season to date on a somewhat positive note. The 37-year-old has struggled to keep up with the pace-setters on a consistent basis, with Mercedes having failed to produce a race-winning car for the first time in nearly a decade.
Hamilton only has four races left to end his dry spell and maintain his record for the most consecutive seasons in F1 with at least one victory, which he currently shares with fellow seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. It will be a difficult task for him to keep the run going, though, if Mercedes fail to catch up with Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of pace over the next few weeks.
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Mercedes to catch Ferrari?
The Silver Arrows will also be desperate to beat Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship standings, with the gap between the two teams standing at just 67 points. Ferrari have been their own worst enemy at times in 2022, with poor strategy calls often letting their drivers down, while individual mistakes have also crept in to derail their campaign on more than a few occasions.
Any further errors would give Mercedes a great chance of pipping Ferrari to second place before the end of the season, with a huge number of points still left to play for before the action winds down. However, the Silver Arrows will need to be at their very best to stand any chance of doing so, with an improvement in their consistency likely to be their key to success.
Verstappen out to make history
Verstappen, meanwhile, will be aiming to equal the record for the most wins in a single year by claiming one more victory before the campaign draws to a close. He has already done so on 12 occasions this season to mark his personal best tally after surpassing the 10 wins he achieved on the way to his maiden Drivers’ Championship title in 2021.
It seems likely that Verstappen will stand a good chance of beating the existing record, which is held jointly by Schumacher and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, if he is able to maintain his red-hot form behind the wheel for the rest of the year. He is showing no signs of slowing down as things stand, although he will be looking to avoid taking his eye off the prize over the final four races with the Drivers’ Championship title already in his grasp.
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What happens to Ricciardo and Schumacher?
It will also be interesting to see what the future holds for Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher, who are yet to be tied down for 2023 as things stand.
Ricciardo looks set to spend a year away from the F1 grid after his deal at McLaren was cut short, with the popular Aussie having failed to find a new team as a result of his sub-par results when compared to team-mate Lando Norris. It remains to be seen whether he will be a candidate to drive for Haas if Mick Schumacher leaves to join Williams, who are reportedly considering the possibility of offering him a one-year contract upon the expiry of his current deal.
Nico Hulkenberg is thought to be the first-choice option to replace his compatriot at Haas, though, which could see Ricciardo left out in the cold for at least one season or more. Only time will tell if the latter will be snapped up by another team at the eleventh hour, although everything suggests that he will not be racing in F1 next year for the first time since making his debut back in 2011.