Max Verstappen thought his hopes of winning the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship were over after he suffered two retirements in the first three races.
Mechanical issues forced the 2021 World Champion out of the Bahrain and Australian Grands Prix, and the Dutchman could only watch on as Charles Leclerc won both races to move 46 points clear of him after three rounds.
But five Grands Prix later, the tables have well and truly turned, with Verstappen winning four races and Leclerc suffering two retirements of his own, putting Verstappen 21 points ahead of teammate Sergio Perez at the top of the standings, and a further seven clear of Leclerc in third.
Though he now sits in a commanding position, Verstappen acknowledged that his early-season reliability woes caused him to think his title hopes were over.
"Starting the season before we had done any races, you don't know," Verstappen told the Talking Bull podcast.
"Maybe we have a good car, maybe we don't. Then it seemed like we had a competitive car, so we can be in the fight for the championship.
"But then after retiring two times, and I was 46 points down, I was like, 'This [Championship] is gone, this is not happening,' or at least it will take a very long time to catch up.
"And then, basically in three races, as a team we turned it around and both of us are now up there."
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Verstappen: Two retirements is too many
Despite having emphatically reversed the trend of the opening three races of 2022, Verstappen cautioned that Red Bull could not afford to rest on their laurels.
"It's quite satisfying, but of course we also know it can also change really quickly, so we have to be on our toes," said Verstappen.
"We have to really focus on not retiring anymore, because already the two we had are too many.
"It's been a bit hectic and crazy, the first few races we've had so far."
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