Pre-season testing in Bahrain looked hopeful for Verstappen and Red Bull, with the Dutchman setting the fastest time in the three day test period. However, when the Grand Prix rolled around in Bahrain, Red Bull were less than satisfied with their race weekend. Reliability caused not only Verstappen to retire from second place but also his teammate Sergio Perez, who was running in third.
Round two of the 2022 season was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a track where Verstappen finished second to Hamilton in 2021. The Dutchman only qualified fourth in Jeddah, with teammate Perez winning his first career pole and the two Ferraris occupying second and third.
However, an ill-timed safety car ruined Perez’s race but greatly benefitted Verstappen. After some close wheel-to-wheel racing with Charles Leclerc, Verstappen overtook and went on to claim his first win of the 2022 season.
Australia saw the return of the reliability issues that ended Verstappen’s race prematurely in Bahrain. Once again the Dutchman, in P2, had an issue with the car and had to retire, though the other Red Bull did manage to complete the race, inheriting and defending second place.
Verstappen’s performance throughout the entire race weekend at Imola saw him cut Leclerc’s Championship lead from 46 points to 27. The Dutchman won pole position in Friday’s qualifying session, won the sprint race even after falling behind Leclerc following a poor start, and finished first in the Grand Prix.
Verstappen also completed a grand slam in Imola, with the race win, pole position and having led every single lap.
Leclerc’s poor performance in Imola allowed Verstappen to start closing in on the Monagasque’s lead and to build momentum for his charge for a back-to-back World Driver’s Championship.