Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc started the season as the two main contenders for the 2022 F1 Drivers' Championship. Sergio Perez came into contention after his win in Monaco, but it was far fetched to think he could beat the Dutchman in the same machinery.

Leclerc's title challenge began to fizzle when the European races got underway. Ferrari's poor reliability robbed the Monegasque driver of two potential wins in Spain and Azerbaijan. Verstappen has revealed exactly when he knew he had a firm grip on the 2022 title, and it was in France when Leclerc made a costly error.

Verstappen had taken advantage of Leclerc and Ferrari's issues to claim six wins going into the French Grand Prix in July. The Monaco resident was aware that he needed to start winning again in order to remain in the title race, and his opportunity came at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Max Verstappen celebrates winning the world championship in Japan with his Red Bull teammates
Max Verstappen celebrates winning the world championship in Japan with his Red Bull teammates AFP News

Leclerc was in the lead after Verstappen's early pit stop, and was pushing to protect it ahead of his first stop. However, it was not to be, as the Ferrari driver pushed too hard and spun into the barriers bringing his race to an early end.

Verstappen has revealed it was then that he realised the 2022 Drivers' title was his to lose. He was certain the added 25 points he earned in France combined with Leclerc's crash would be enough for his team to not lose their advantage for the rest of the season.

"I think the moment where I thought, 'now we are going to win it' was after Paul Ricard, where the lead increased by quite a bit," Verstappen said, as quoted on Formula1 News.

"We had a quite competitive car, I knew it was going to be quite close in the coming races, but I was like, 'this is a gap which we cannot give away anymore'."

Leclerc accepted that his mistake in France was "costly", but the Monegasque driver is certain it will not be the last time he makes a mistake. He expects it to happen at some point again next season, but is hoping it will not be as devastating as losing a potential race win.

"Speaking about my mistakes, yes, I made a mistake in France. But speaking about the season like I've done this year... honestly, you're always going to make a mistake in a season. This one was a costly one because I was obviously in the lead but it happens."

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc finished second to Max Verstappen in the 2022 F1 Drivers' championship Manu Fernandez/POOL via AFP