Mika Hakkinen believes it will not be a “straightforward” task for Max Verstappen to maintain the level of dominance he showed in 2022, given the chances others will have to close the gap.
Verstappen earned his second title in crushing fashion in the end, winning a record 15 races out of 22 compared to just two for Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the same machinery.
Even though Ferrari’s F1-75 was more than a match for Red Bull’s RB18 for most of the season, Verstappen rarely looked troubled in the lead of races and ultimately cruised to title glory with races to spare, eventually taking top spot by a whopping 146 points – or almost five race victories’ worth of points.
It will be incumbent on the rest of the field to catch up to the Dutchman’s benchmark as a result of his form throughout the year, then, and fellow two-time champion Hakkinen believes chances are there for others to close the gap, given the new regulations in Formula 1 were introduced in the hope of eventually bringing the field closer together.
“He has done a great job with a great team, with the great engineers and designers, including Adrian Newey, who I used to work [with] when I won multiple World Championships,” Hakkinen told Sky Sports at the launch of the new F1 Arcade in London.
“Regulations of Formula 1 are different now than it used to be my time or used to be three, four years ago, so it’s giving a lot of opportunities to other teams for success.
“So I don’t think it’s so straightforward that way he will continue dominating, even [though] he is a great driver. I’m confident we will see some surprises, but who [from]? I don’t know.”
When asked by Sky Sports F1 in Abu Dhabi if he thought 15 wins would be on the cards this season, Verstappen himself responded quickly: “For sure not.
“Already after last year, I said if I can have a season like this again, that would be amazing. But yeah, again, incredible, but also the whole team effort, it’s been really enjoyable to be part of.
“Of course, the goal is always to try and be better, even though I know that is hard to achieve.
I think that attitude should always be there, even if you’re not a champion, you know. At the end of the day, you’re trying to always push for more. I mean, it’s never good enough.”