When Max Verstappen crossed the line at the end of the Mexican Grand Prix, he did something no other driver has ever done in the history of Formula 1. It was his 14th win in a single season, surpassing the record previously held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. By comparison, Lewis Hamilton has only ever reached 11 wins in a season during 2014, which was matched again in '18, '19, and '20. After the long period of Mercedes dominance, 2022 was the time to show what Verstappen has been waiting for ever since he became F1's youngest race winner on his Red Bull debut at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016. There were races that year which showed how ruthless he could be with the established order of drivers, an example of which being the rain-soaked Brazilian Grand Prix. It was a stunning performance highlighted by the outrageous overtaking move around the outside of soon-to-be World Champion Nico Rosberg in the tricky conditions. At that time the talk of him being a 'future World Champion' was ripe. So now that we've got to this point, why has he suddenly become the pantomime villain?
Horner is right to point out mental health effects of cost cap saga
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix wasn't a conventional ending for a season to say the least, but Verstappen still proved his worth as a champion by winning nine other races prior to the finale. For some, this championship still has an asterisk, which was fuelled even more by this season's cost cap story. It was found that Red Bull went over the $145 million budget cap for 2021, which on the face of it would suggest they gained an unfair advantage. If one examines the details, the team were actually under the budget cap by $4 million and the overspend was due to a disputed amount relating to four key areas . The FIA themselves confirmed the team did not act fraudulently or in bad faith, with Team Principal Christian Horner pointing out that the overspend did not amount to more performance for their car. But it didn't stop the allegations of Red Bull being branded "cheaters", with Horner saying the saga was having effects on the mental health of team members – and even their children. "The damage that that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce, in an age where mental health is prevalent, we're seeing significant issues," he told media, including RacingNews365.com . "Within our workforce, we are having kids that are being bullied in playgrounds that are employees' children – that is not right through fictitious allegations from other teams." The idea that Horner would gaslight members of his team to avoid criticism is abject nonsense. One has to remember that F1 teams are spending months away from their families during the ever-expanding calendar, in the pursuit to win races and championships. To be branded "cheaters" or for there to be "constant digging" from broadcasters at Verstappen's title legitimacy , is insulting to the people that are working the hours to make it happen behind the scenes.
More of a concerted effort to recognise Verstappen's greatness
Prior to the 2021 season, it was Hamilton and Mercedes who were on the receiving end of 'boos' from the fans, with Vettel and Schumacher also getting the same treatment during their years of success for simply being dominant and winning most of the races. I can remember the 2013 British Grand Prix, where fans wanted "anyone but Vettel" to win and when he did retire in front of the grandstand I was sitting in, people cheered as if Hamilton had just overtaken two cars in one corner. It is rather sad that in the very moment athletes and team personnel are achieving their lifelong ambitions – for which they have made untold sacrifices for in the pursuit of – public opinion can turn on them. Red Bull are the only privateer team capable of winning races in F1. Outside of the championship, they do not really have any other income in the same way that Mercedes or Ferrari do with their car companies. If anything, they are the underdogs in all this, in the same way Racing Point were when they won their first race through Sergio Perez at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. To an extent, Red Bull's domination in 2022 is unsurprising for those that know where their strengths have always lay. They've always been the best chassis makers on the grid, which is why neither Mercedes or Ferrari were willing to supply them with an engine when they separated from Renault during the early days of the hybrid era. That being said, Horner is no angel. He's previously overstepped the line with his "rogue marshal" comments during qualifying for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix. But he's got it right this time – Verstappen and Red Bull are unfairly being treated. Verstappen will no doubt remain a perennial title contender for years to come and will continue to develop as a driver, so there should be more of a concerted effort to enjoy his remarkable achievements at just 25 years old.