‘Max Verstappen would still have been World Champion driving for Ferrari’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen crowed 2022 F1 World Champion. Japan October 2022

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen crowed 2022 F1 World Champion. Japan October 2022

Such has been Max Verstappen’s class this season that Dutch racer Michael Bleekemolen believes he would have won the title even if he’d been driving Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Unlike in 2021 when Verstappen was pushed all the way to the line by Lewis Hamilton, this season, having resolved the reliability issues that led to a troubled start to the championship, Verstappen has strolled his second World title.

Gifted points several times by Ferrari’s mishaps, Verstappen benefitted from the Scuderia’s strategy errors, Leclerc’s on-track mistakes, and also the team’s poor PU reliability.

So much so that as Ferrari continued to count their lost points, Ralf Schumacher declared: “One gets the impression that they really want Red Bull to become World Champion.”

But it would be unfair to say it was all down to Ferrari as Verstappen did his part too, the Dutchman coming through the season with hardly any mistakes in his column.

What he does have, though, is 12 wins, number 12 – P1 at the Japanese Grand Prix – guaranteeing him the 2022 World title and doing so with four races to spare.

“I remember people all saying he wasn’t going to be a World Champion when we were three races on the road,” Bleekemolen told GPFans. “You see with so many grands prix it was still possible.

“He made it by making no mistakes. We hardly ever see him make a mistake anymore.

“I don’t even want to say he had the fastest car, but he had a good car.

“I think if Max had been in the Ferrari, he would have been World Champion too.”

Bleekemolen was asked to explain why he felt Verstappen could have won with Ferrari, especially as it was the team’s strategy department and not the driver that was responsible for the bulk of the lost points.

“That,” he replied, “is of course an accumulation of things, but Max influences a team. People start to work well for him, people become more alert.

“That also happened with [Michael] Schumacher in the past. Max could have achieved that there just like he did.”

As for Leclerc, the Dutch racer reckons the Monégasque driver at times fell foul to the pressure he was under.

That was evident at the Japanese Grand Prix when he went off track on the final lap while defending against Sergio Perez, Leclerc handed a five-second time penalty.

Had he not been penalised, Verstappen would have been left two points short of the title.

“Leclerc was regularly unable to handle the pressure,” he continued. “He also galloped the last lap. It was not necessary and not convenient.”

“That,” he added, “is the difference [between the two]. I think Max had just kept him on track.”

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