Max Verstappen has revealed when he believed the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship was his to lose after securing the title at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Despite winning at Suzuka, Verstappen initially believed he did not have enough points to win the crown - with Charles Leclerc set for second and teammate Sergio Perez third.
However, a five-second time penalty for cutting the final chicane on the last lap dropped Leclerc to P3 - giving Verstappen a title-winning scenario.
Further doubt was thrown as it was unclear whether the race qualified for full or staggered points - but the FIA confirmed it would be a full helping of 25 for the winner, 18 for second and 15 for third.
A Verstappen-led one-two for Red Bull with Leclerc third would have been enough with the new World Champion given the news in Parc Ferme by Johnny Herbert.
In his post-race press conference, Verstappen revealed when exactly he believed the title was possible.
Verstappen on title win
"I mean, there were a few moments where I thought: 'You know, we have a good chance of winning it,'" he told media after becoming a two-time champion at the age of 25.
"But I think the moment where I thought now we are going to win it was after [the French GP at] Paul Ricard where the lead, you know, increased by quite a bit.
"We had a quite competitive car, I knew it was going to be quite close in the coming races, but I was like: 'You know, this is a gap, which we cannot give away anymore."
In the French GP, Verstappen won after main title rival Charles Leclerc crashed after a mistake.
It was a 50 point swing in the end, as Leclerc was leading at the time - with the race being the first in Verstappen's run of five straight either side of the summer break that catapulted him to the cusp of, and eventually the title.
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Verstappen surprised by margin
Verstappen has won the title in 18 races, despite retiring from two of the first three - a situation he admitted left him upset.
"At the time, I was just really upset with the situation," he said.
"But just looking at how the whole season has gone in terms of how close the cars were, it is very surprising to have this much of a lead when you look at what happened during the races.
"I'm, of course in a way, pleased that it was like that, but in the other way you do like having a close battle.
"Hopefully we can have that next year."
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