Max Verstappen happy to see Mercedes ‘steal points’ from Ferrari

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen up close out on track. Austria July 2022

Max Verstappen believes Mercedes might be able to help his bid for a second title, by stealing points away from Ferrari.

The reigning World Champion’s lead in the 2022 title chase increased at the Hungarian Grand Prix, extending to 80 points between himself and the pursuing Charles Leclerc.

This was after Leclerc fell down to sixth place due to how competitive Mercedes were in Budapest, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell coming home in second and third place respectively.

While Ferrari and Red Bull have had the top positions largely to themselves this year, Mercedes have been making steady progress with their W13 and appear, on occasion, to be able to get themselves in the mix near the front – a situation Verstappen is welcoming as Ferrari continue to make mistakes and lose out to Red Bull.

Mercedes ‘finding more consistency’ as 2022 progresses

“No, it’s good that they are competitive,” Verstappen told media after the Hungarian Grand Prix, when asked if he was concerned by Mercedes slowly latching on to the leaders.

“Because then, they can steal more points off Ferrari! So I’m very happy. They’re doing very well.”

The eye-catching part about Mercedes’ performance in Hungary, aside from George Russell taking pole position on merit, was that the pair were able to keep up the pace and stay in the lead battle despite the lack of intervention of a Safety Car – something the team needed earlier in the year for some of their other strong results.

George Russell slightly blurred leads Charles Leclerc. Hungary July 2022

Hamilton said the team may yet be able to add more performance onto the W13, which could result in them being able to get more directly involved in fights for the outright win.

“[We’re] in a position where we’re starting to understand the car a little bit more, we’ve got more consistency coming up, we’re seeing more consistency,” he said.

“It’s given us much more of an enjoyable drive. We still lack performance in some of those areas but we’re slowly getting there.

“But it’s like small chips, just constantly just chipping away at it. Unfortunately, you can’t take big leaps at the moment. But who knows? Maybe one big leap will come at some stage and we’ll be right there.”

Max Verstappen doesn’t believe Ferrari are ‘helping’ him to the title

Verstappen’s 80-point lead is, by some margin, a far greater lead than he would have if Ferrari hadn’t had as many strategic errors and reliability problems that has seen the Scuderia become a viable target for Mercedes – an unfathomable thought a few races into the season.

Ferrari’s strategic blunder in Hungary saw them throw away the race lead with Leclerc and, due to Mercedes’ competitiveness, fall down to sixth place when, earlier in the year, Leclerc might still have managed third or fourth place due to how far behind the W13s were.

With Verstappen seemingly nailed on for the 2022 title with nine races remaining, the Dutch driver was asked whether he feels Ferrari’s poor performance has resulted in them, essentially, “helping him” to the title.

“Well, I think everyone always tries to do their best and sometimes that’s a bit harder to achieve,” he said.

“I find that difficult to comment because nobody does things on purpose and everyone always wants of course to try and get the best result out of it.

“From my side as well, I always try to get the best result out of it and the team as well.  Sometimes you do that better than other weekends. And we also dropped quite a few points as well from our side by having issues but yeah, I find that difficult to say that they helped me because at the end of the day you always have to perform yourself and as a team.”