By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
Max Verstappen took another major step to sealing his second world championship after winning Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the unstoppable Dutchman, and his dominant Red Bull machine.
How close is Verstappen to winning the title?
Following his fifth win in succession and his 11th from 16 this season, Verstappen will gain his first shot at title glory at the next round in Singapore on October 2.
Verstappen’s championship lead stands at 116 points with only 164 available, meaning he will take the crown at the Marina Bay Circuit if he outscores Charles Leclerc by 22 points, Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 13 points, and Mercedes’ George Russell by six points.
Is Verstappen in a league of his own?
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2022
It is quite ironic that Formula One motorsport boss Ross Brawn oversaw the design of this season’s new cars in the hope of bringing the field closer together, and spicing up the show.
But Red Bull, with Verstappen at the wheel, have nailed the new regulations, paving the way for the most one-sided F1 campaign in recent memory.
If Verstappen does take the championship in Singapore, he will have done so with five rounds still to play – a significant contrast to last year’s title fight for the ages between the Dutchman and Lewis Hamilton which went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
How good has Verstappen been?
Sport is built on rivalries and the absence of a Hamilton-Verstappen rematch has been a major blow to F1. That said, nothing should be taken away from Verstappen, who is in the purple patch of his career.
The 24-year-old has become a more measured version of the win-at-all-costs driver of last year – aided in part by the lack of a major rival. He has been in a different postcode to Hamilton and Mercedes, and Ferrari driver Leclerc’s encouraging start imploded through faults by man and machine.
It is difficult to recall Verstappen making a major mistake, while Red Bull are so often first class when it comes to in-race strategy.
It does not seem to matter where Verstappen starts either. Three of his last four wins in Hungary, Belgium and Italy, came from starting positions of 10th, 14th and seventh respectively.
What does the future hold for Verstappen?
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) September 11, 2022
The Dutch driver’s victory in Monza was the 31st of his career, drawing him level with Nigel Mansell, and moving him just one shy of sixth-placed Fernando Alonso on the all-time list.
Only Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53), Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (43) would then sit above him.
Verstappen also looks set to eclipse the record of most wins in a season (13) shared by Schumacher and Vettel. And with a second title to follow next month, it is not hyperbole to suggest Hamilton’s win record is starting to look vulnerable.