4 pilots still in dispute


  • Max Verstappen has overcome early difficulties to take a comfortable lead in the 2022 F1 drivers’ championship.
  • Three others are chasing Verstappen, including George Russell, who has quietly become a contender.
  • There are almost two thirds of the season left, and we have already seen that the top teams have reliability issues and different times.
  • Here’s a look at the four drivers who still have a legitimate chance and two more who could use a miracle.

the big favorite

max verstappen

After the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he “would rather fix a fast car than try to make a slow reliable car fast” and that is what they have done.

Verstappen failed to finish two of the first three races and dropped 46 points behind Charles Leclerc as it looked like Ferrari would dominate the season. But since then, the defending champion has finished on the podium in five consecutive races, winning four.


Now it’s Verstappen with a 34-point lead over Leclerc.

The legitimate contenders

Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and George Russell

If Max Verstappen fails, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and George Russell are close enough to catch him.

Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Charles Leclerc

Ferrari came out of the gates, showing they had plenty of speed this season to compete in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. However, much like Red Bull’s early season struggles, Ferrari has had its own slump.

Leclerc has been the fastest driver all season, taking pole at six rounds and starting from the front row at all eight. But after winning two of the first three races, he hasn’t won since: he had to retire his car twice and only finished on the podium once (P2 at Miami).

There is still plenty of season to go to catch Verstappen, but first Ferrari must fix its reliability issues. Unfortunately for Leclerc, he will soon have to start receiving grid penalties for exceeding the number of turbochargers allowed in a season. Every future engine failure could result in a 10-place grid penalty for Leclerc.

Sergio Perez

Pérez overtook Leclerc to second in the standings after a solid three-race run that included a win in Monaco, an easy P2 in Baku and a controversial P2 in Spain, where he was ordered not to challenge Verstappen for the win.

Now the question is whether Red Bull will allow Perez to compete for the championship. Publicly, they are saying all the right things.

While everyone knows Verstappen is still the No. 1 driver, Perez is just one win away from making the title race a soap opera between teammates.

george russell

Despite Mercedes’ struggles, Russell has quietly positioned himself to make a race if his team can improve the car’s performance and get the porpoise that brought team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a back injury in Baku under control.

Russell’s consistency has been key. He is the only driver to score points in every race and finish in the top five in all eight, with two podium finishes in the last three rounds.

Russell is 51 points behind Verstappen but just 17 behind Leclerc. With 14 races remaining, Russell has a big chance if Mercedes can find a little more speed and a little less rebound.

I’m still alive, just

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton need a lot of help to get back in the hunt.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Carlos Sainz

While Perez is about to make Red Bull reconsider their pairing, Sainz has shown nothing to indicate he’s ready to challenge for the top spot in The Prancing Horse cars.

Both Ferrari drivers have struggled at times in races this season. However, Sainz has been outqualified by his team-mate in every race and has yet to pick up the slack or a win when Leclerc has run into trouble.

Sainz would need a shocking change to the season to get into the championship picture, but his car remains one of the quickest on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton had a solid fourth place in Baku, tied for his best finish of the entire season (he was also P4 in Australia). However, his season hit a new low when the rebounding in his car got so bad that he had trouble getting out of his car after the race.

While Russell is the strongest contender at this point in the season, if Mercedes can fix their car problems, no one would be surprised if Hamilton jumped ahead of Russell and challenged him for more wins. But until that happens, the hole he finds himself in now feels too big.