Max Verstappen and victory have gone hand-in-hand this year, with the Red Bull driver setting a new benchmark for domination in Formula 1 with his Mexican Grand Prix success on Sunday.
The 25-year-old completed a comprehensive lights to flag victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for his 14th win of the 2022 campaign, breaking the record for most victories in a single season in the process.
The newly-crowned world champion also eclipsed Lewis Hamilton’s record for points in a season (413 in 2019) by moving on to 416 points.
Verstappen rightly points out that the F1 season is longer now, making it more achievable to break these kinds of records, but with two races still to go, the Dutchman is on course to set a standard that will be tough for any driver to eclipse in the future.
In a season that was meant to bring the teams closer together, Verstappen is 4/9 to make it 15 wins from 21 races when F1 heads to Brazil in a fortnight, with his rivals running out of ideas to close the gap.
Not even at the height of Mercedes and Ferrari’s domination of F1, or during Red Bull’s previous glory era, did one driver rule the roost in such a comprehensive fashion as Verstappen current’s run.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton’s best win total for a season is 11 with the Brit at least tested by his team mate on occasions during Mercedes’ pomp.
But Red Bull’s decision to cater the RB18 almost entirely to Verstappen’s style has made it tough for even his colleague Sergio Perez to keep up.
Perez has won twice this year and his victory in Singapore forms part of Red Bull’s ongoing nine-race winning run, but more often than not he’s been left behind by Verstappen, as was the case on Sunday.
For the second year running at his home grand prix, the Mexican took third, holding off George Russell but finishing 33 seconds adrift of Verstappen and quite some way behind runner-up Hamilton.
Perez was annoyed by a slow pit stop he believed cost him a chance at making it a Red Bull one-two but in truth, he had struggled to keep pace with Hamilton’s Mercedes all race.
Having previously been hindered by the high altitude that comes with racing in Mexico City, Mercedes got their set up right this year as they at least kept Verstappen honest during qualifying and in the early stages of the race.
Mercedes took the gamble to start the race on the medium tyre, while most of the grid went with the softs, and it was a move that would ultimately backfire.
The medium tyre lasted longer than many had expected, meaning Verstappen only had to make one pit stop, his mediums carrying him home after making the change on lap 26.
With a long run on softs not an option, Hamilton and teammate George Russell were forced to change to the hard compound tyres, which lacked the pace to reel in the race leader, allowing Verstappen to pull away for a comfortable victory.
Hamilton believed the race could have turned out differently had they followed the same strategy as the rest of the grid, although when Red Bull did their post-race analysis they found Verstappen was 0.15 seconds a lap quicker than Mercedes on the medium tyre.
That suggests that while Mercedes might have been closer to Red Bull, the result would have been the same.
The Silver Arrows can at least take heart from another positive showing, following hot on the heels of Hamilton’s being denied victory at the United States Grand Prix by a late Verstappen charge, as they proved Red Bull’s only serious threat all weekend.
Ferrari were nowhere to be seen as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc came home a distant fifth and sixth, failing to even mount a challenge during what’s consistently been their strongest event of the weekend, qualifying.
The Scuderia’s chances were ruined by having to turn down the power on their engines in order to avoid a mechanical failure as a result of the altitude. Perhaps more worryingly for the Italians was Leclerc failing to rule out Ferrari’s worst showing since France being a one-off.
Leclerc came home ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who produced arguably his best drive of the season to take seventh.
The Australian will lose his seat at McLaren at the end of the season after a series of below-par performances, but gave a reminder of his talent with a late charge through the field for only his second points finish in the last eight races.
Ricciardo overcame a collision with Yuki Tsunoda's Alpha Tauri which earned him a 10-second penalty on lap 51 to finish best of the rest, boosted by another technical issue for Fernando Alonso which forced him to retire with six laps to go.
Ricciardo doesn’t have a drive for next season, but performances like this may give team principals food for thought going forward.