Max Verstappen faces daunting prospect of 2022 title battle with Lewis Hamilton

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen faces a big challenge next season if he is to successfully defend his 2021 World Championship title against Lewis Hamilton with the stats seemingly against him. Since 1950, Formula One has seen 34 world champions, 18 of those drivers did not go on to win a second title.

Of those that did go on to become multiple champions – only seven drivers defended their title the next season and became double world champions,

Alberto Ascari was the first driver to successfully defend his title in 1953 with Scuderia Ferrari before Jack Brabham did similar in 1960 for Cooper-Climax.

Next up was four-time world champion Alain Prost who preserved his 1985 Renault title to win the 1986 crown before Michael Schumacher won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton.

Mika Hakkinen was up next winning in 1998 and 1999 with McLaren-Mercedes before Fernando Alonso won in 2005 and 2006 for Renault. A young Sebastian Vettel began his dominating years with Red Bull by winning the 2010 title as the German won four Drivers’ Championships on the bounce.

The first of Lewis Hamilton’s seven world titles came alongside McLaren in 2008 and he didn’t win another title until 2014 with Mercedes.

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Nico Rosberg opted against defending his title in 2016, with Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen both unable to add a second title to their feat.

But, freshly crowned 2021 champion of the world, Verstappen, will follow the footsteps of Vettel in 2014 by using the number 1 on his car to defend his title in 2022.

It’s the first time a Dutch driver has ever won an F1 world title and a maiden for the 24-year-old alongside Red Bull.

“Yes, I will use it,” Verstappen said. “How many times can you do that? I don’t know, maybe it could be the only time in my life. I think it’s the best number around, so I’ll definitely put it on the car.”

However, Verstappen does have one stat that favours him, in that all of the individuals who went on to defend their title did it with the same team.

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Verstappen has no plans to leave Red Bull any time soon, even joking he’d like to extend his contract.

“I love them so much. And I really really enjoy working with them…I hope we can do this for 10-15 years together.”

Speaking to Sky Sports he added: “It’s been an incredible season, not only this race but incredible battles,” he said. “To be sitting here right now: that’s an unbelievable achievement…I think over the whole season, we were not the quickest team.

“Lewis is an amazing driver, an amazing competitor. They really made it really really hard for us and I think everyone loved to see it.

“Of course, the two teams ran against each other and we had some tough times. But I think that’s all part of the sport and it’s emotion. Everyone wants to win.

“I have a lot of respect for Lewis. I’m just very happy that I won it because it’s been a very tough season fighting Mercedes and Lewis.

“But I don’t want to sound arrogant or whatever to say it’s a satisfaction to win against him.

“I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and I know he’s an amazing driver in terms of what he has achieved.”

Verstappen’s defence starts on March 20 in Bahrain after testing for the new season with a massive overhaul of regulations set to replace the current era of cars.

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