Max Verstappen deserved a better way to enjoy his second title. It was former F1 driver Johnny Herbert, who had to break the news to the Dutch while conducting the post-race interviews.
The champion-elect secured his second title after winning the rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix but neither he nor his team was sure if he would get the full 25 points as less than 75% of the race distance was only completed.
In the end, he was given full points and secured his place in history as a double world champion even though the confusion which even the driver called ‘funny’ took the sheen away from his performance on track on Sunday in challenging conditions.
Verstappen’s performance in Suzuka in effect was a microcosm of how dominant he has been this season. In just about 25 laps of racing, Verstappen managed to finish 27 seconds ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez in the same car, who came second, lapping a second quicker than the rest of the grid.
It is in wet conditions where the gap between elite drivers and the merely very good ones is seen and the Red Bull driver showed why he is a generational talent.
When he burst onto the scene in 2015, he was fast and aggressive, pushing the boundary of what is acceptable in racing and often crashing into others or the barriers.
Though he was faster than his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo after joining Red Bull midway through 2016, Verstappen’s impatience was not serving him well.
In the first half of 2018, as Ricciardo won two races, Verstappen’s prodigious pace was going to waste as he kept getting involved in an incident every race.
However, halfway through the year, the youngster managed to find the right balance and cut out the mistakes to beat his teammate handily in the end.
Since then, Verstappen has been able to refine his craft and it was on display this year as he managed to find the balance between aggression and sensible driving.
Unlike last year, where he felt a need to lay down the marker against seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, with the duo involved in quite a few incidents, Verstappen has hardly been in any tussle this year with his rivals and cruised his way to a second title.
It was this trait that allowed him to seal the title with four races left despite being down 46 points to his chief rival Charles Leclerc after the first three rounds.
While there will always be an asterisk on his maiden title last year in 2021, this year he has proven beyond doubt he is the pre-eminent force in Formula One and could well be for the next few years.
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