Max Verstappen is 116 points clear of Charles Leclerc with six races to go, meaning he could take the title at the Singapore Grand Prix
Realistically, and more fittingly, Verstappen is likely to take his second title at Suzuka, home of the Japanese Grand Prix and Red Bull‘s former engine supplier, Honda.
While the title race is done and dusted, the battle for second behind Verstappen is a tight one.
Just 32 points separate Leclerc in second and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in fifth.
So far, there’s no doubt that Leclerc is most deserving of P2 behind Verstappen, but F1 doesn’t work like that.
Charles Leclerc – 219 points / 3 wins
With six rounds remaining, Leclerc is in the driving seat to finish runner-up to Verstappen.
The 116 points gap isn’t totally representative of Leclerc’s displays this year because of Ferrari’s incompetence on the pit wall combined with poor strategy choices widening the gap.
Leclerc hasn’t been totally faultless due to unforced errors at Imola and Paul Ricard costing him crucial points.
The Monegasque has been devastating in qualifying, with eight pole positions to his name.
On pure performance alone, Leclerc should take the runners up spot, but reliability and decisions from the Ferrari strategists will no doubt play a part.
Plus, he lost out to Sainz in the standings last year, so he will be keen to avoid a repeat.
Sergio Perez – 210 points / 1 win
Given teammate Verstappen’s recent dominance, Sergio Perez must fancy his chances of finishing second in the championship for the first time in his career.
Since Hungary, Red Bull have taken a clear step forward (and Ferrari, arguably, have taken a step back on race day).
However, Red Bull’s improved turn of pace – in the hands of Verstappen – coincided with Perez’s decline.
The gap has only been increasing between the Red Bull duo, with Perez struggling to qualify within half a second of Verstappen in recent rounds.
Perez has the quickest car but has struggled to extract the most from it.
Christian Horner revealed that Verstappen and Perez are running different specifications of floors but downplayed the significance of it.
Perez has the machinery, but on current form, toppling Leclerc seems unlikely.
George Russell – 203 points / 0 wins
George Russell’s sheer consistency in 2022 has put him in contention for the runners up spot behind Verstappen.
It’s hard to believe Russell is still in the fight given how poor Mercedes were in the early part of the season, even being outpaced by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas on a number of occasions.
Despite Mercedes’ lack of outright performance relative to the top two, Russell has continued to extract the maximum from it.
While lady luck has been on his side more than teammate Lewis Hamilton’s, there’s a case of making your own luck.
Russell has finished in the top five in all but one of the races this year – remarkable consistency.
Ironically, he was known for being ‘Mr Saturday’ during his days at Williams but his race day performances and consistency have been even more impressive than his displays in qualifying, Hungary aside.
With reliability on Mercedes’ side, Russell is a real contender for P2 in the championship.
Singapore should suit Mercedes on paper, but they will have to fight at the front in the five subsequent races to give Russell a realistic chance of beating Leclerc and Perez.
Carlos Sainz – 187 points / 1 win
It’s not been one of Sainz’s best years, especially as he out-scored Norris in each of his McLaren seasons and beat Leclerc in 2021.
The Spaniard struggled to adapt to the handling of Ferrari’s 2022 challenger meaning the first half of the year was littered with mistakes and a general lack of pace.
He managed to win at Silverstone, although he was slower than his teammate with a damaged front wing.
Despite not having the outright pace, Sainz has always been a reliable points scorer.
Regardless, finishing behind a Mercedes driver would be unacceptable given Ferrari’s performance advantage at the majority of the tracks this year.
Lewis Hamilton – 168 points – 0 wins
Hamilton is the outsider for P2 in the championship.
While it’s not been a perfect season from the seven-time champion, since ditching Mercedes’ setup experiments in the early part of the season, he’s had the edge on Russell.
Whether it’s untimely Safety Cars, or his DRS flap not opening, luck hasn’t been on Hamilton’s side in 2022.
It’s unlikely Hamilton will be able to overcome the 51-point gap to Leclerc in the final six races without a victory or two to his name.
Even so, Hamilton has proved this year that he still has the speed and motivation to compete at the front in F1.
He’s probably still the only man who can get close to Verstappen over a season – so here’s hoping Mercedes deliver in 2023.