When Max Verstappen saw the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc nose-first in the wall at the French Grand Prix, in late July, the Dutch ace knew he would be Formula 1 World Champion for a second time, made even sweeter that he clinched at the Japanese Grand Prix as Suzuka.
Poetic justice for Honda, not long ago the laughing stock of F1 for their “Formula 2 engines” to the lofty heights of powering Verstappen to his two titles; a love affair of the style Japanese F1 fans had with the late great Ayrton Senna is manifesting with Max.
Looking back on the season during “Picture Perfect 2022” interview with Viaplay, Verstappen admitted: “Especially after the start of the year, I had never expected a season like that. The whole Red Bull team is so happy. I know that these kinds of years do not happen often, with fifteen wins. Before 2022, I only had twenty victories. Now fifteen in one year, that is unbelievable.
“It has been two amazing years. This year was even better. To achieve that together with Honda, and all the efforts they have put in over the years, to be here today, to have won two titles together, that is an incredible feeling.”
Verstappen: Winning at Suzuka was a dream come true
“The win was also a dream come true for the team,” recalled Verstappen. “We really wanted to try to win the title in Suzuka. That made it even better. When that became reality everyone was really happy and very proud.”
Ma started the season on the back foot with two DNFs in the first three races of 2022, however when he and the Red Bull RB18 gelled they were on another level with every race, gobbling up wins – 15 in total by the season’s end – thumping a Ferrari team that too often slipped up on just about every front.
Verstappen recalls the Sunday at Paul Ricard after Leclerc had crashed his Ferrari: “From that moment I thought: The title is ours. Without bad luck, it will be alright. We had quite a big lead and I thought, we are not going to lose this. Actually, from that race in France, it only went better.”
Alberto Ascari, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mika Hakkinen, Fernando Alonso and now Max Verstappen are F1’s double World Champions; the Dutchman added: “Who would have thought? I never did when I started. I hope it will not stop here.”
Max: A big thank you to Honda for organizing this day
Late last month, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez with both AlphaTauri drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly attended the Honda Racing Thanks Day 2022 at the Mobility Resort Motegimultiple, with Honda MotoGP world champion Marc Márquez.
The Dutch ace recalled: “It is an amazing day. I am very happy to be here. Incredible to see so many fans here today, to celebrate this day together with all the drivers. A big thank you to Honda for organizing this day.”
He then had a go driving a Honda NSX-GT, which is raced in the domestic Super GT series; Verstappen reported: “I have driven the track a bit on the simulator, but on Saturday I had my first real experience. It is a beautiful track. I used to watch the MotoGP here, but [this time] I could drive the track myself in the Honda Super GT car, that was a great experience.
“It is a very nice car, it has very good brakes. The power compared to the weight, the ratio, is amazing, so I had a smile on my face while driving.”