Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he enjoyed Max Verstappen‘s title-clinching race just as much as in 2021, as the Dutchman became a two-time world champion with victory at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix.
After the chaotic end to last year’s championship with Michael Masi circumventing the rules to ensure a last lap of racing that handed Verstappen the championship, things were even more ambiguous in Suzuka.
Verstappen drove a flawless race after hanging onto the lead in the first corner, but there was confusion as to whether the race was for half or full points, and Verstappen only found out he was champion as he celebrated his win.
“A championship win’s a championship win,” Horner said. “I think this one the blood pressure is way lower than in Abu Dhabi but it means just as much.
“For Max, becoming World Champion last year, carrying that No.1 on the car, he’s driven with such conviction this year and he’s defended the title in such a dominant fashion, it’s been a joy to see just him reach another level this year.”
Given many fans still hold an asterisk over Verstappen‘s 2021 title, the Dutchman has been the class of the field in 2022.
He took a dominant victory in Suzuka and was barely challenged, apart from a hair-raising first corner where he and Charles Leclerc went wheel-to-wheel in the soaking conditions.
That mirrored much of the season between the pair, as Ferrari were able to challenge early on and Leclerc led by 50 points after three races that featured two Verstappen retirements.
However, Leclerc has only managed one race win since the start of the European leg – less than even Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez – despite seven pole positions.
“I think last year was such a heavyweight bout between two titans,” Horner added.
“I think having achieved that world championship last year I think it releases, and it happened with Sebastian [Vettel], and it’s happened again with Max it’s just taken that pressure off his shoulders of expectation and he’s just gone out and smashed it out the park this year.”