Max Verstappen's "maturity" in the 2022 Formula 1 season has been highlighted by Red Bull boss Christian Horner as a standout trait in his second title-winning campaign.
Verstappen entered 2022 as the reigning World Champion and put in one of the most dominant seasons in F1 history, having set new records for most wins in single a season (15) and most points collected (454).
This was in contrast to the 2021 championship where he was locked in a white-hot fight with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, although Verstappen did still win 11 races and haul 395.5 points as he defeated the seven-time champion.
Hamilton was not in title contention in 2022 thanks to Mercedes' troubles – and did not win a race for the first time in his F1 career – as Charles Leclerc stepped up to be the main title challenger in his Ferrari.
After a troubled start to the campaign with reliability concerns, Verstappen hit his stride at Imola and would win 14 of the 18 races after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in April.
Horner feels that the Verstappen's increased "maturity" was a key building block as he became a two-time World Champion.
Horner picks out Verstappen's maturity
"One forgets that [Max] is still so young – 25 years of age and doing [what he did] last year and coming into this, I think he made another step," Horner explained to media, including RacingNews365.com.
"The maturity that he has driven with, he's taken it to another level this year.
"If you look at the Grands Prix he won earlier in the year, the [Sprint race] double-header in Imola was spectacular and the wheel-to-wheel racing in those early races was stunning.
"He's just kept going, like a metronome – he's kept delivering.
'The more pressure there was, the more he delivered.
"Hungary springs to mind, where he had to drive through the field, [Belgium] was totally dominant and then the [home race] pressure of Zandvoort – the list goes on and on."
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Upside of winning in Japan
Verstappen secured the 2022 title in bizarre circumstances at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Red Bull partner Honda increased branding on the RB18 after missing out on doing so in 2021.
A rain delay meant the race was timed with reduced points expecting to be awarded, but a rules quirk meant full points were dished out.
This, coupled with a final lap time penalty for Leclerc that dropped him to third, secured Verstappen the title, making him the first driver to do so in Japan since Sebastian Vettel in 2011.
And the poignancy of this was highlighted by Horner as Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz passed away before the next race in the United States.
"To win in Japan, with four races to go, was quite some achievement – despite the confusion at the time whether he had actually won it or not," Horner explained.
"The thing that we are most grateful for with the points anomaly is that Dietrich got to see him retain the championship as it was the last race that he watched.
"That was very much the upside of doing it in Japan and being able to get it done early – it was very, very special for him and the team."
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