Scoring double the points of the second-placed driver and with enough to single-handedly win the Constructors’ Championship, Karun Chandhok has rubbished suggestions it was the RB19 and not Max Verstappen that deserved 2023’s success.
Verstappen was in a league of his own this past season as he scoffed at his team-mate Sergio Perez’s early-season challenge to win the title by 575 points to 285.
That the triple World Champion was 166 points ahead of Mercedes alone in the race for the Constructors’ Championship opened the debate of car versus driver.
Karun Chandhok: Give credit where it’s due
But while it has long been said that having the best car is the advantage, in this case, Chandhok believes Perez’s deficit to Verstappen screams right driver too.
“The statistics are very crafty,” he told the Sky F1 podcast. “I think it’s horrendously impressive.
“You know, anytime you look at a season where a driver scored twice as many points as the person in second place that just underlines what a great year they’ve had.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there who say ‘they won because they cheated on the cost cap in the year before’ or ‘Max won because he’s in the most dominant car and he’s only winning because he’s in the most dominant car’.
“Yes, he is in the most dominant car of this season. But it’s not like Checo blitzed the rest of the opposition by a long, long way, and he’s a very, very high quality driver.
“So I think even with the cost cap thing, Lewis himself said they stopped updating the car since August, and I don’t know what are they breached at 1.2 million or something, I think you’d have spent a lot more since August if you’d be in a championship fight.
“So I think the reality is you have to give credit where it’s due. And what we’ve seen this year is one of the greatest seasons put together by a driver perfectly in tune with their car.”
Perez’s early-season wins inspired Verstappen to perfection
Part of that credit, at least according to Chandhok’s fellow pundit Ted Kravitz, belongs to Perez.
According to Sky’s pit-lane reporter, Perez’s win in Azerbaijan on a weekend in which he overhauled Charles Leclerc in the Sprint and again in the Grand Prix to claim the weekend’s double irritated Verstappen.
So much so that one weekend later in Miami, he wiped out Perez’s ‘Street King’ tag by racing from ninth on the grid to first at the chequered flag.
“The relentless nature of the pursuit of perfection, and that was it,” said Kravitz of Verstappen’s season. “They never gave up, and he never wanted to give up being perfect.
“And, you know, there were some races that showed that you have to be perfect. Max had to be perfect.
“There was enough of competition left for them to be caught if they had slipped up in any way.
“And Max himself hadn’t got to grips with a car in Azerbaijan and in Saudi Arabia, which Checo won, but after that it was as if those disappointments and those annoyances, and remember how annoying it was after Saudi – do you remember the Checo celebration and Jos not wanting to say well done to Checo moment – so he was really annoyed.
“Max was really annoyed. And that’s what made him carry on so relentlessly for perfection.”