Christian Horner says Max Verstappen took his skills to the next level in 2022, the Red Bull team boss praising the Dutchman for his relentless forward march to the title.
Verstappen suffered a troubled start to his 2022 campaign, with a pair of DNFs due to reliability issues leaving him 46 points adrift from championship leader and rival Charles Leclerc after just three races.
The deficit appeared almost unsurmountable at the time to a despondent Verstappen, but five wins in six races for the latter coupled with mistakes and poor execution by Ferrari reset the title battle at the start of the summer.
Thereafter, the Dutchman was in command and never looked back as he pursued his dominant run to his second consecutive world championship.
Reflecting on Verstappen's successive titles, Horner believes his driver went from one big step forward to another, and advanced with the regularity and consistency of a well-oiled machine.
"I mean, 2021 was an epic year, and I think it’ll go down in history – when we reflect on it in years to come – as one of the all-time great seasons of Formula 1.
"I think that Max, having been through that and triumphed at the end of that… one forgets that he’s still so young, you know,  years of age.
"Doing that last year, [and then] coming into this year, I think he just made another step.
"I think the maturity that he’s driven with, he’s just taken it to another level this year.
"You look at the Grands Prix that he won earlier in the year: the double-header in Imola was spectacular, his race in Miami with Charles… in those early races, the racing that was wheel-to-wheel was stunning.
“Then he just kept going, like a metronome, he kept delivering, and the more pressure there was, the more he delivered – [there were] some incredible victories.
"Hungary springs to mind, where he had to take a penalty and drive through the field; Spa was totally dominant; the pressure of Zandvoort… the list just goes on and on."
Verstappen's hegemonic progress landed him the title in Japan, with four races to spare, and at a point in time that would prove particularly meaningful for Red Bull co-founder, the late Dietrich Mateschitz.
"I think he has been truly outstanding this year," added Horner.
"It’s been an incredible season for him, it’s been an incredible season for the team. And, obviously, to win [the title] in Japan, with four races to go, was quite some achievement.
"Despite the confusion at the time, whether he had actually won it or not, the thing that we’re most grateful for is that Dietrich Mateschitz got to see him retain that championship as the last race that he watched.
"That was very much the upside of doing it in Japan, and being able to get it done early. [Very, very special for him [and] for the team."