Formula One: More milestones on Max Verstappen's radar
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has more wins in mind, and a record still to break, this season after securing his second successive Formula One world championship at Suzuka on Sunday.
The Japanese Grand Prix victory, which elevated Verstappen to a select group of double world champions, was the Dutch driver’s 12th from 18 races.
With four rounds remaining, that puts him on course to smash the record for most victories in a single season.
That benchmark stands at 13 and is shared by seven-time world champion and Ferrari great Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, who won four successive titles with Red Bull between 2010-13.
The two Germans dominated in seasons of 18 races for Schumacher (2004) and 19 races for Vettel (2013) rather than the current record 22.
Verstappen can equal the record at the next round in Austin, Texas, a race he won from pole position last year.
“There is no real pressure any more but I still want to of course try and win more races,” Verstappen told reporters on Sunday.
“With the car we have now you have to try and take advantage of that, because you don’t know if you’re ever going to have that again, next year, in the years to come.
“So, we’ll definitely try to win a few more.”
Provided Verstappen wins in Austin, he can then go for the record at his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez’s home Mexican Grand Prix.
Perez, 32, finished on the podium there last year with Verstappen victorious. Having won in Monaco and Singapore, the Mexican will be keen to give his passionate fans a home triumph to celebrate.
Verstappen would need to win all the last four races for a success rate of 72.7 per cent from this season and beat Schumacher’s victory percentage of 72.2 per cent from 2004 – a record for the modern era.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a similar run before and was on a five-race victory streak up to Singapore, the race before Japan.
“It’s really been an enjoyable year and of course, a very special year, which will be very hard, I think, in the future to match from myself,” said Verstappen, who is now level with double world champion Fernando Alonso on 32 career wins.
“That’s why I think we really have to appreciate it and really enjoy it.”
Verstappen won the restarted race amid persistent rain in Suzuka, with Leclerc initially looking set to finish second.
But the Ferrari driver was penalised for cutting the chicane on the final lap as he defended from the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
The race originally got underway on time, with Verstappen defending from Leclercafter a close run to Turn 1, and only two laps being completed before the action was red-flagged amid intense spray and a series of incidents –which included Carlos Sainzcrashing out.
While Verstappen controlled proceedings up front, Perez began to close in on Leclerc in his Red Bull.
Verstappen saw out the final few laps to take victory and, just a few moments later, the World Championship, with Leclerc picking up a five-second time penalty for cutting the final chicane as he defended from Perez.
With the pre-podium interviews already under way, Verstappen was told mid-conversation that he had won the title, adding to his 2021 crown, as Leclerc dropped behind Perez.