The current gap between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the Drivers’ Standings is 116 points.
With yet another win, his eleventh this year, Verstappen is on 335 points whilst Leclerc, whose last win came in Austria, is playing second fiddle with 219.
Though, truly speaking, this isn’t a gap. It’s a difference so exemplary between two of the best drivers this year that you feel Leclerc’s quite the ant Verstappen’s elephant.
On a day where Ferrari threw everything they had in the stockpile- undercutting Red Bull, pitting Leclerc behind the first safety car, then later switching Leclerc on another set of softs for one last push, nothing came the Italian team’s way.
Red Bull, on the other hand, exit Monza as victors who’ve quite honestly avenged what was done to them when the battle took place at their territory.
Lest it is forgotten, Leclerc won at Spielberg, Red Bull’s home race. In winning at Monza, Ferrari’s home Grand Prix, Red Bull have hit back.
Scores settled, what’s done is done and we move on now. But, do we, really?
What’s there to play for, Ferrari might wonder? The inevitable is perhaps on its way. The writing is on the wall; with another strong performance, Verstappen is set to seal the title in his favour at Singapore.
And that’ll be that.
Any chance that Ferrari realistically had of denying Max the world title was perhaps dashed to the ground as Daniel Ricciardo race-retired, thus prompting the deployment of the safety car.
An episode so sudden in the complexion of the race and yet so shambolic from a Ferrari point of view that it washed away a realistic chance of a great result for both Charles Leclerc and his team.
Forget not that Max wasn’t on fresher tyres, Charles was. Forget not that despite facing a gap of 20 seconds to Max, when he emerged second after his final stop, Charles was cutting down that gap remorselessly.
What also can’t be ignored is that we actually lost an opportunity of seeing proper racing for no fewer than four back-to-back laps.
On a day where there was no rain and no dangerous accidents whatsoever, sudden mechanical and technical faults led one driver after another to punctuate the Monza race with drama.
It’s what the fans needed perhaps to enjoy an action-packed and proper Formula 1 Grand Prix. Yet, it’s precisely the thing that Ferrari didn’t need. Not one bit.
But then, it’s not for nothing that they say that “Destiny favours the brave,” right?
If that’s any indication of how Verstappen succeeded in the end, not to forget with actual raw race pace, then it makes perfect sense as to why that happened: the race finished behind the safety car to hand the championship leader an easy win.
Let’s rewind to 2021.
This is a grid that has not one but three other legendary drivers besides Lewis Hamilton in Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
It’s also a grid that has several young and impassioned talents in Leclerc, Gasly and some who’re not exactly spring chicken but full of potential nonetheless, such as Ricciardo.
Yet, only one man from a grid of twenty stands up to challenge Sir Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutch consider him a lion whilst the English may not necessarily relish his presence.
He’s been nicknamed “Mad Max,” though for real, he’s the one and only Max Jos Verstappen.
Much of what we remember and even revile last year’s world championship fight is simply down to one simple fact, one hardcore truth that mustn’t be belittled: Max Verstappen truly stood up to face Lewis Hamilton when it seemed others could too have tried but simply failed to.
Not because they didn’t want to; but maybe because Max Verstappen wanted it ever so bad.
Whilst Red Bull armed him with a dazzling- not recalcitrant partner- Mercedes still matched the Milton Keynes outfit’s dauntless pace.
And thus was born a spectacular season with competition so immense (and eccentric even) that the two drivers entered the season-finale on level.
Whatever happened thereafter was no driver’s fault and no team’s mistake; it’s what it was. Nothing will be achieved in foul mouthing Michael Masi or the venerable FIA!
Cut to 2022.
Destiny is still favoring the one who’s brave and one who maybe wants it real bad again.
Surely, Charles is the fastest. The Ferrari car is no slouch either. It is, at best, a real defender of Maranello pride, the antithesis to Red Bull especially where events like Australia, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Silverstone stand.
Yet, it’s Verstappen who’s in full control of the season, not Charles Leclerc who’s set more poles than the famous flying Dutchman. It’s Verstappen who despite finding Lelcerc ahead of him, not always in his mirrors, who’s controlling Ferrari’s destiny and giving them a hard time going to bed.
It’s not that Leclerc doesn’t or didn’t want to win. Why else would he put himself on the absolute limits especially where drives like Spielberg and Monza are concerned?
It’s just that besides Ferrari shooting themselves in the foot (think the Dutch GP, Canada, and Monaco), Verstappen hasn’t changed a bit.
He still wants another title with more keenness and perhaps even greater resolve than Leclerc.
To you, the doting viewer, it may’ve always seemed like a Ferrari show against Red Bull. Though in the end, it was actually about which of the two wanted it with more passion and keenness?
For it is only then that one would commit fewer mistakes.
On that account, it’s evidently clear that Ferrari may have cost themselves a world title.
And they’ve not just extended their dubious record of failing to gather a title, their last coming in 2007 thanks to Kimi Raikkonen, they’ve converted Leclerc into the Ferrari tribe.
Though, besides fanfare and excitement it’s the soul searching that often leads to the path of one’s higher calling.
Just that in Charles Leclerc’s case, there are more disappointments from his own stable than in conceding several defeats to archrival Verstappen.
Just that, Max is fully focused, and maybe a touch more from start to finish in every single Grand Prix than Charles. While, the Monegasque, who anyways has a lot on his mind, has to also deal with (worrying) thoughts about Ferrari’s ability to eke out wins from pole positions.
Which plausibly explains how Max holds the edge whilst Leclerc, despite a faster car, doesn’t.
But would you blame Charles for it alone? Would you blame Max for driving like a man possessed race after race?