BEIJING: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen secured his third consecutive Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship after finishing second in Saturday’s Sprint race at the Lusail International Circuit in Qatar, with teammate and title rival Sergio Perez failing to finish.
Going into the Qatar weekend, Verstappen was 177 points ahead of second-placed teammate Sergio Perez with only 180 points remaining over the rest of the year, meaning the Dutchman could seal the 2023 title with a sixth-place finish in the Sprint regardless of Perez’s result.
Verstappen’s task was made easier after the morning’s Sprint Shootout to set the Sprint’s grid order, with the Dutchman finishing that session third but Perez only managing 13th after struggling with track limits violations.
Despite dropping to fifth on Lap 1 as he struggled for traction on his Medium compound rubber, Verstappen made his way up to second in an eventful Sprint that featured three separate Safety Car deployments as several drivers became beached in the sand traps.
However, the Dutchman was powerless to take the lead from McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who duly won his first F1 race after having started on pole position.
“It’s a fantastic feeling. Been an incredible year. Lots of great races, super proud of the job from the team. It’s been so enjoyable to be part of that group of people,“ said Verstappen afterwards.
“To be a three-time world champion is just incredible. We will keep on pushing, doing the best we can.”
As it was, Verstappen would have secured the title regardless of his finishing position, as Perez – who needed to finish at least third in order to prolong the title battle – retired on Lap 12 after a three-way tangle involving Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.
Verstappen has won 13 of 16 Grands Prix in an utterly dominant 2023 season, and the Dutchman has a good chance of adding to that tally in Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix, where he will start from pole position after having posted the fastest time in Friday’s qualifying session. -Bernama-Xinhua