RACING

4 drivers still in contention

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  • Max Verstappen overcame early difficulties to take a comfortable lead in the 2022 F1 Drivers’ Championship.
  • Three others are pursuing Verstappen, including George Russell, who has quietly become a contender.
  • There are almost two-thirds of the season left, and we’ve already seen the top teams have reliability issues and different times.
  • Here’s a look at the four drivers who still have a legit shot and two more who could use a miracle.

The big favorite

Max Verstappen

After the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he would “rather fix a fast car than try to make it reliable, slow and fast”. , and that’s exactly what they did.

Verstappen failed to finish two of the first three races and fell 46 points behind Charles Leclerc as it looked like Ferrari would dominate the season. But since then, the defending champion has finished on the podium in five consecutive races, winning four.

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It is now Verstappen who is 34 points ahead of Leclerc.

The legitimate suitors

Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and George Russell

If Max Verstappen falters, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and George Russell are all close enough to catch him.

Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Charles Leclerc

Ferrari has come out of the gates proving it has plenty of speed this season to compete in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. However, similar to Red Bull’s struggles at the start of the season, Ferrari had its own difficult period.

Leclerc was the fastest driver all season, taking pole in six rounds and starting on the front row in all eight. But after winning two of the first three races, he hasn’t won anything since: he had to abandon his car twice and only finished on the podium once (P2 in Miami).

There is still plenty of season to catch up with Verstappen, but Ferrari must first resolve its reliability issues. Unfortunately for Leclerc, he will soon have to start taking grid penalties for exceeding the number of turbochargers allowed in a season. Every engine failure in the future could result in a 10-place grid penalty for Leclerc.

Sergio Perez

Perez passed Leclerc and sits second in the standings after a strong three-race run that included a win at Monaco, an easy P2 in Baku and a controversial P2 in Spain, where he was told not to challenge Verstappen for victory.

Now the question is whether Red Bull will allow Perez to compete for the championship. Publicly, they say all the right things.

While everyone knows Verstappen is still the No. 1 driver, Perez is just one win away from making the title chase a teammate soap opera.

george russell

Despite Mercedes’ struggles, Russell has quietly positioned himself to make a run if his team can improve the car’s performance and tame the porpoising that left team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a back injury in Baku.

Russell’s consistency was key. He is the only driver to score points in every race and has finished in the top five of eight, with two podiums in the last three rounds.

Russell is 51 points behind Verstappen but only 17 behind Leclerc. With 14 races remaining, Russell has an outside chance if Mercedes can find a little more speed and a little less rebound.

Still alive, barely

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton need a lot of help getting back into the hunt.

Clive Mason/Getty Images


carlos sainz

While Perez is set to make Red Bull rethink their pairing, Sainz hasn’t shown anything to indicate he’s ready to fight for the top spot in the Prancing Horse cars.

Both Ferrari drivers have struggled at times in racing this season. However, Sainz has been edged out in qualifying by his teammate in every race and has yet to take over or win when Leclerc has run into trouble.

Sainz would need a shocking season turnaround to enter the championship table, but his car is still one of the fastest on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton secured a solid fourth place in Baku, tied for his best result all season (he was also P4 in Australia). However, his season hit a new low when his car’s bouncing got so bad that he had trouble getting out of his car after the race.

While Russell is the strongest contender at this stage of the season, if Mercedes can fix their cars’ problems, no one would be shocked if Hamilton edged Russell and challenged for more wins. But until that happens, the hole he’s in now seems too big.

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