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Formula 1 reconvenes at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend – the end of its summer break marking the start of a hectic run of nine races in 12 weeks that will decide the 2022 World Championship, and much more besides.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen appears to be heading inexorably towards a second world title, helped on his way by Ferrari’s propensity for shooting themselves in the foot.

Lewis Hamilton is in danger of losing his record of winning a race in every season of his career – but could a rule change that comes into force this weekend help him maintain it?

And the 2023 driver market still needs to be resolved after Fernando Alonso’s move to Aston Martin sparked a manic couple of days following the last race in Hungary.

Verstappen heads into what are effectively two home races on consecutive weekends in Belgium and the Netherlands with an impregnable-looking 80-point lead over his only realistic rival – Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

It shouldn’t be this way. Red Bull and Ferrari are incredibly closely matched, but while Ferrari has managed to turn seven Leclerc pole positions into only three victories, Verstappen’s record is an almost exact inverse – eight wins from just three poles.

To put the Dutchman’s lead into context, Leclerc could win all the remaining races and claim the fastest lap bonus points and still not win the title if Verstappen is second in each one.—Pass-In-First-Attempt

Things can turn around quickly, as Leclerc has discovered to his dismay. He had a 46-point lead after only three races this season. Three races later, Verstappen was in front, from where he has moved steadily forward, with just the odd blip, ever since.

Ferrari is showing no signs of being able to engineer such a recovery.

Leclerc has lost potentially winning positions five times in 12 races – twice to an engine failure while leading; three times to strategic errors by the team.

On top of that, Leclerc has made two significant errors, including crashing out of the lead in France.

In the context of that performance, team principal Mattia Binotto’s claim after Hungary – the most recent occasion the team cost Leclerc a win with a questionable strategy – that there was “nothing to change” raised eyebrows. Clearly, Ferrari does need to find a way to stop snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Leclerc admitted in an exclusive BBC Sport interview earlier this month that the title looks “more and more difficult” but added: “Until it’s mathematically over, then I still want to believe in it.” What else can he say?

The reality is Leclerc needs a turnaround of historically unprecedented proportions if he is to prevail. And unless Ferrari can find a way to immediately start consistently delivering on their potential, Verstappen will clinch the title long before the end of the season.