F1 standings: How Verstappen and Leclerc's title battle looks at 2022 halfway point – iNews

Closer racing. Harder battling. Surprise winners. Thrilling action.
The 2022 Formula One season promised everything at its outset back in early spring, with a brand new generation of cars taking to the grid with the potential to change the face of the sport forever.
The revamped machinery saw the sport return to ground effect car designs for the first time since the 1980s, meaning that all ten teams had to build their new car concepts from scratch.
So, has the sport delivered on its array of promises? For the most part, yes.
Cars are indeed able to cut through dirty air more efficiently than in the past, meaning drivers can follow the man in front more closely and continue battling through a succession of corners. The running order has been ripped up to, with Mercedes toiling in the midfield after winning eight consecutive constructors’ championships, while the likes of Alfa Romeo and Haas have taken significant strides forward.
The one significant disappointment is that still only teams have been capable of challenging for race victories so far this season, with Red Bull and Ferrari significantly quicker than all of their other rivals.
That means that reigning champion Max Verstappen currently holds an impressive lead at the top of the standings, but Charles Leclerc remains in the fight 38 points behind. Unless their respective team-mate Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz can mount a huge and unexpected turnaround in the second half of the campaign, Verstappen and Leclerc will be the two drivers competing for the biggest prize in motorsport.
The season opener at Bahrain was the perfect start for the marketing staff at F1 hoping for more excitement to kickstart the new era.
Leclerc and Verstappen traded places in a thrilling tactical tussle for the lead over multiple laps following the first round of pit stops, with Leclerc going on to win the race as both Verstappen and Perez retired late on with mechanical failures. The king was left wounded, and the prince was galloping towards the castle on his prancing horse.
The Monegasque took two wins from the opening three rounds, with the Ferrari looking like both the faster and more reliable car. But from there, Red Bull developed their car and moved ahead of Ferrari in terms of both pace and durability.
Red Bull took victory in the next six races in a row, Verstappen winning five of them, while Leclerc lost shots at victory thanks to a crippling combination of engine failures and strategy errors.
He won last time out in Austria to reduce the gap, but the consistent momentum is with Verstappen and he is the significant favourite to take the title at the halfway point.
That opening round squabble around Sakhir set the storyline for the entire campaign. Two drivers who have raced against one another since they were young teenagers in junior karting pushing one another to – but unlike when Verstappen fought Lewis Hamilton last year, within – the limits of their ability to control the fastest race cars on Earth.
Leclerc’s spin in the latter stages of the fourth round at Imola, when he should have played the long game and hunkered down in position rather than trying to race through the field on a damp track, switched the psychology of the title race and allowed Verstappen to take advantage.
Drivers’ Championship
The dual retirements due to reliability problems in Spain and Azerbaijan cost Leclerc major ground, as did Ferrari’s strategy error behind the safety car at Silverstone which cost him what would have been a fully deserved victory.
The first grand prix after the summer break, which comes after the French and Hungarian races, takes place at the fan-and-driver-favourite Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Here, motorsport governing body the FIA will implement a technical directive designed to regulate the intensity of porpoising suffered by cars, which has the potential to compromise the performance of any teams which have been running their floors in breach of regulations. If Red Bull or Ferrari are affected, the title race could take a huge turn.
Verstappen’s home race in the Netherlands at the Zandvoort circuit will follow, and the fervent support he receives could well give him a boost at an important point in the campaign.
The race after that takes place in Italy at Monza, where Ferrari’s Tifosi turns out in huge numbers to support the Scuderia. Leclerc took his first victory for the team there in 2019 and another this year could be a major morale boost for the 24-year-old and his team. Last season saw Verstappen and Hamilton crash at Monza, with both dropping out of the race is one of the most controversial moments in their battle for the title.
The final F1 sprint of the season is scheduled for the penultimate round in Brazil in mid-November, and if Leclerc is still within touching distance of Verstappen it could be crucial. Last season Hamilton started the weekend last but managed to move up the order in the sprint, before ultimately winning the race on Sunday to make sure he and Verstappen entered the Abu Dhabi finale level on points.
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