Max Verstappen could secure the title with five races to spare in Singapore, which Lewis Hamilton says is not nice for the fans.
Verstappen and Hamilton delivered an all-time classic battle for the World Championship in 2021, a last-lap overtake at the final race in Abu Dhabi seeing Verstappen snatch the title from Hamilton.
With that, Verstappen became World Champion for the first time, while Hamilton lost that chance to become a record-breaking eight-time champion at the very end.
This season though, Mercedes have not been able to provide a car to keep Hamilton in the title fight, the first time this has happened since 2013, while Red Bull have maintained their place as a leading force under the new regulations.
Ferrari certainly possessed the pace to at least push Verstappen and Red Bull all the way, but errors on the part of both Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, as well as reliability troubles, have combined to allow Verstappen to open up a comfortable advantage.
Going into the Singapore Grand Prix, round 17 of 22, Verstappen is 116 points ahead of Leclerc and can secure the title if he outscores him by 22 points, Sergio Perez by 13 and Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell by six.
Hamilton himself is no stranger to wrapping up a championship before the calendar reaches its conclusion, so without knocking Verstappen he explained it is not ideal from the fans’ perspective when the titles are decided early.
“Definitely, I feel for the fans,” Hamilton told reporters ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix race weekend. “For everyone and even for us last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody.
“It’s never great when the season finishes early. Even when I’ve experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico [in 2017 and 2018]. For you as the one individual, it’s great. But for the actual sport, it’s not spectacular.
“I’m really grateful to have had like 2008 right down to the last 17 seconds and obviously last year, pretty much the same thing. Let’s hope for the future it’s a bit better.”
— KENZO (@kenzo) September 29, 2022
Ferrari should have made it harder for Max Verstappen
Hamilton won six Drivers’ titles in the space of seven seasons from 2014-2020 with several of those campaigns, as Hamilton alluded to, seeing him take the title with races to spare – 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 all being examples.
But while it can feel rather drab and frustrating when the title is decided before the season ends, 2022 has been particularly frustrating as the ingredients were there for another thrilling title scrap but Leclerc and Ferrari could not deliver.
The opening rounds saw Verstappen and Leclerc put on some fantastic battles on track, creating optimism for a pulsating season ahead if that continued, but alas, team and driver failed to make sure that was the case.
Errors at Imola and particularly Paul Ricard for Leclerc, where he crashed out of the lead of the French GP, did little to help his cause, while Ferrari inflicted plenty of damage on their part with questionable strategical decisions and struggles to provide a reliable power unit.
This then gives the 2022 season a particularly dissatisfying feeling, as the title fight that could have been never was.