As Max Verstappen romps towards a second Drivers’ Championship in drastically different circumstances to how he clinched his first, F1 fans are left to wonder what else is up for grabs in 2022. With that in mind, Express Sport takes you through five key questions that will be answered between now and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 18…
Will anyone stop Max Verstappen retaining his world title?
In short, no. The 25-year-old star has been in a different league since Red Bull found their feet this season and having won 11 of the 16 available races so far, he’s put together about as dominant a season as one can do in F1.
Charles Leclerc remains his nearest challenger but a series of errors in the Ferrari camp have left him 116 points off the pace. Sergio Perez, who effectively has the same equipment as Verstappen, is even further behind with Monaco his only win in 2022.
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Which will be the key races between now and Abu Dhabi?
Singapore this Sunday is well worth keeping tabs on as Verstappen can put himself mathematically out of reach. A win and the fastest lap would be enough to make sure of back-to-back crowns as long as Leclerc finishes eighth or lower and Perez finishes fourth or lower.
That being said, the title is more likely to be decided at Japan’s iconic Suzuka circuit next weekend. Abu Dhabi itself could also be a thriller with places second through to sixth in the Championship still up for grabs.
How far up the drivers’ standings can Lewis Hamilton realistically expect to go?
The Brit agonisingly lost out to Verstappen in a dramatic season finale last season and hopes of immediate revenge were slashed when Mercedes began the current campaign way off the pace.
However, it’s not inconceivable that Hamilton could close a 51-point deficit and make his way up to second, but he’d need things to fall his way and other drivers to slip up. Currently, he sits sixth with fresh-faced team-mate George Russell comfortably ahead, which could spark an intriguing Mercedes battle over the coming weeks.
Will there be one more moment of magic from Sebastian Vettel as heads towards retirement?
The benchmark for ‘magic’ is wildly different in an Aston Martin than in a Red Bull, with whom he won four world titles between 2010 and 2013. There remain questions over whether his hunger is the same as it was in previous years, but the misfortune of working with a slow car has been his main downfall this season.
As such, P6 in Azerbaijan is the best Vettel has managed. Despite being an impressive feat in itself, it likely means that the German’s headline-grabbing days are over.
Who else could be heading into their final few races as an F1 driver?
Amid fierce competition for seats, Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi are all sure to be feeling the pinch. The Aussie has been axed by McLaren with team-mate Lando Norris way ahead in the points standings, and there has been talk of contact with Williams or a switch over to NASCAR.
Schumacher, meanwhile, is approaching the end of his Haas contract with team boss Guenther Steiner providing little in the way of assurances. Finally, Williams have confirmed their decision to part ways with Latifi and prospects of finding another seat appear slim, given that he hasn’t put a single point on the board this season.