Rosberg: Verstappen's only getting started

Are Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 titles tainted?

Rosberg: Verstappen's only getting started

Max Verstappen is a two-time Formula 1 World Champion. That’s a fact, and it can’t be changed, but are his titles tainted some may ask?

No opinion that anyone holds about those championships will erase them, and nothing we say in this article will erase them, either. That being said, there will always be an asterisk next to each of those Titles in the minds of millions of Formula 1 fans around the world.

Verstappen might have won those F1 world championships, but did he truly deserve them? Would he have won them without external assistance – the kind of external assistance that some people would describe as cheating?


There have been controversies about both of the Dutch driver’s Championships, but how much should those anomalies affect our estimation of him as a driver and as a Champion?

Let’s take them one at a time.

The Stench Of Abu Dhabi 2021

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The whole world knows why Verstappen’s 2021 World Championship is contentious. He won because, during the last lap of the final Grand Prix of the season, race director Michael Masi made an incorrect call about lapped cars being permitted to unlap themselves, thus handing Verstappen, in second place, a material advantage over Lewis Hamilton, who was in first place on far older tyres.

When the race restarted, Verstappen unsurprisingly overtook Hamilton and won both the race and the Championship. Hamilton, parked up on the side of the track in the immediate aftermath of the race, said over the radio to his team, “this has been manipulated, man.”

Had the Title been manipulated, man? Was Hamilton right to feel aggrieved, or had Michael Masi simply done his job? All the evidence suggests that Hamilton had a point – not least the fact that Masi was demoted from his job as race director and ultimately left Formula 1 altogether as the fallout from the incident got ugly.

New rules about lapped cars were brought in for 2022 to ensure that there’s no repeat of what we saw in Abu Dhabi in 2021. That’s an admission from the FIA that they got it wrong. In other words, Verstappen won because the FIA made a mistake. That’s reason enough to attach an asterisk to his first world Title win, and to do so firmly.

Financial Doping


The point of cost caps in Formula 1 is to make it easier for teams to remain competitive. They were brought in to try to ensure that none of the big boys of the sport – Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari – gain an even bigger advantage over other teams by spending their way to it.

Every team knows there’s a cost cap before the season begins, and every team agrees to abide by it. It is, therefore, entirely redundant to complain about being disciplined for breaking the cost cap. That hasn’t prevented Red Bull from doing so, but to no avail – they broke the cost cap last season and gained an advantage by doing so.

Red Bull complained that they exceeded the cap by less than five percent and that most of their excess spending went on catering and providing for staff. As other teams have pointed out, that’s irrelevant. Other teams managed to provide for their staff without exceeding the cost cap. If those other teams covered those costs within the cap, it means that they spent less on car development.

Red Bull’s punishment could impact them in 2023

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The upshot of this breach is that Red Bull has paid a fine of seven million dollars and will receive ten percent less time for restricted wind tunnel testing time next season than the other teams. That means they’ll have a (very small) disadvantage next season, but this season they gained an advantage by overspending.

You could argue that spending more money isn’t a guarantee of success, but think of it this way. There’s a game called “F1 Racing” at online casinos and slots websites available at the moment. We could have picked any F1 casino game, but compares casino sites and tells us that it’s the most popular of them at the moment. Anyone who spends money playing that casino game has an equal chance of winning on any spin.

However, someone with deeper pockets can keep playing for longer. Players on a budget might run out of cash to spend before they hit the jackpot. Players who start out with more cash can keep spinning the reels until the big win arrives.

That’s the nature of casino games, but casino games were never supposed to be fair. The F1 cost cap is. Red Bull, in metaphorical terms, entered a cheat code into the casino game and won the jackpot because of it.

If the Red Bull car was better than the rest this year because more money was spent on it, then it’s a cut-and-dry reason to say that, yes, Verstappen’s second World Championship is also tainted and is also worthy of having an asterisk placed next to it. It’s not quite as emphatic as the one from Abu Dhabi, but it deserves to be there all the same.

Don’t blame Max

Verstappen: There was always going to be one winner, one loser

In apportioning the blame, we should note that none of this is Max Verstappen’s fault. Verstappen didn’t ask Michael Masi to disregard the rules in Abu Dhabi in 2021. Verstappen never told Christian Horner or anybody else at Red Bull to spend more money than they were allowed to spend in the build-up to this most recent reason.

All he does is get behind the wheel and drive the car to the best of his ability, and he’s one of the best in the world at what he does. 

Best is to just keep on doing what Verstappen does best – WIN – to claim a third World Championship, even that will never silence his doubters but as the records tumble, the Dutchman grows in stature, matures as he continues to etch his name into the history of the sport forever, no matter what or how.