When can Verstappen clinch the 2022 F1 world title?

Following Max Verstappen's utterly dominant display in last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, the question is not if but when the Dutchman will clinch his second Formula 1 world drivers' title. Let's dive into when Verstappen can reasonably expect to celebrate.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, lifts the trophy

After seeing Verstappen romp home to victory from P14 on the grid Mercedes team boss Wolff suggested that "we are in a situation where the championship will be concluded in Europe, probably".

While technically not possible, Wolff's hyperbolic comment was perhaps a factor of just how soul-destroying Verstappen's pace was for the competition.

After being kept honest by Charles Leclerc and Ferrari in the opening third of the season, Verstappen is now running riot in the championship, starving whatever was left of the 2022 title battle of oxygen and instead placing it on life support.

With just 216 points still on offer across the final eight races, which includes one more sprint in Brazil, Verstappen now holds a 93-point lead on nearest competitor Sergio Perez and 98 on Leclerc, making a repeat of 2021's final race title showdown extremely implausible. All Verstappen needs is four wins from the remaining eight races to seal the deal.

Max Verstappen dominated in Belgium after starting from the 14th grid spot.

Max Verstappen dominated in Belgium after starting from the 14th grid spot.

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen wrapping up the title at his earliest convenience could happen as soon as Singapore, with five races remaining, but then he needs to win the next three races in Zandvoort, Monza and Singapore with both Perez and Leclerc not scoring a single point. For simplicity's sake we'll assume that the winner also takes the bonus point for fastest lap and then the situations looks as follows.

Scenario 1: Verstappen wins, competitors fail to score x 4

Points remaining 216 190 164 138 112 86 60 26  
Verstappen 284 310 336 362          
Perez' deficit 93 119 145 171          
Leclerc's deficit 98 124 150 176          

That's the most extreme projection, so let's look at what's plausible instead. At Spa Verstappen clinched his ninth race win of 2022, and our second scenario is that Red Bull now has the fastest car for the remainder of the season.

If Verstappen were to continue his streak and take the maximum haul of 26 points in Zandvoort, Monza and Singapore and Perez were to finish second each race, that would take the Dutchman to a 117-point lead with 138 remaining.

After the following race at Suzuka the number of points on offer shrinks to just 112. Perez would have to outscore his teammate at least once, and by more than the difference between first and second, to avoid Verstappen going big in Japan.

Scenario 2: Verstappen wins, Perez takes second, Leclerc third x 4

Points remaining 216 190 164 138 112 86 60 26  
Verstappen 284 310 336 362 388        
Perez' deficit 93 101 109 117 125        
Leclerc's deficit 98 109 120 131 142        

The above logic obviously also applies to Leclerc, who is more likely to take points off Verstappen given the Mexican's supporting role.

In order to prolong the wait until Austin, Perez and Leclerc need to leave Suzuka with a gap smaller than 112 points. Perez can lose no more than 18 points over the next four races, and Leclerc just 23, bearing in mind that on equal points Verstappen's win tally will tip him over the edge.

For the championship to last until Mexico, both drivers must soon start outscoring Verstappen instead of ceding more ground. Perez has to claw back eight points, Leclerc 13. Beyond Mexico, there are just 60 points on offer in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, so barring a dramatic turnaround it doesn't appear feasible that Verstappen's rivals will last that distance.

Given Verstappen's and Red Bull's dominance, then, our projection is that Japan's Suzuka will be the most likely scene of the Dutchman's second coronation. If Leclerc and Ferrari can find some pace to turn the tide, or if Verstappen were to run into some issues, then Austin's Circuit of the Americas could hold its first title decider since 2015.

But despite Verstappen's near insurmountable lead, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner won't be drawn into complacency.

"I think as far as championship tables look, they obviously look really healthy," Horner said on Sunday night.

"But things can change very, very quickly. We saw that: I think we were 46 points behind when we left Australia and within a couple of races had managed to turn that around.

"Our prerogative is on each race, one at a time and the championship tables will take care of themselves, so we just want to keep this momentum rolling forward."

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