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Max Verstappen is officially the 2023 F1 champion. The mathematical confirmation was simply a matter of time, and the Dutchman sealed the deal in his first match point by finishing second in the Qatar sprint race. Join us as we recap the Red Bull driver’s road to his third consecutive title.
F1 Qatar sprint race: Piastri wins as Verstappen clinches title
Verstappen went with the conservative strategy, starting the race on the mediums. The Dutchman dropped down to fifth on the opening lap, but as the soft-shod runners ahead began to fade down the order, the champion-elect quickly made his way up to second place. Much against his own will, Verstappen settled for the runner-up spot behind Oscar Piastri. The result was more than enough for the Red Bull driver to secure his three-peat.
The Dutchman’s job was made easier by Sergio Perez. The Mexican, who was the only driver still in contention, retired halfway through the sprint after getting involved in a three-wide crash with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg.
An even more dominant year: Recapping Verstappen’s historic 2023 season so far
Verstappen had already scored a dominant title in 2022, winning 15 of the 22 races. His run included nine wins in the second half of the season, as Red Bull clearly pulled ahead of Ferrari in the development race.
The signs were already there. And following Red Bull’s flawless run during the preseason tests in Bahrain, it soon became apparent that the Dutchman had a very clear path to the number 3 title.
Verstappen’s season started with a comfortable lights-to-flag win in Bahrain, leading teammate Sergio Perez home by nearly 20 seconds.
In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen had a rare mechanical failure in qualifying. A driveshaft failure in Q2 relegated him to 15th place. On Sunday, the Dutchman methodically made his way up the order to finish second. Verstappen also denied Perez the chance to lead the championship by securing the fastest lap at the end of the race.
The reigning two-time champion returned to the top step of the podium in Australia, arguably his toughest win of the season. Struggling to generate heat on the tyres all weekend, Verstappen had a poor getaway from pole, and was muscled down to third on the opening lap by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. But following a red flag restart, Verstappen got back to the front, opening a sizable gap despite a near spin. The Red Bull driver still had to navigate through another red flag start in the final five laps on the way to his second win of 2023.
In Azerbaijan, Verstappen had a run-in with Russell during the sprint race, which led to a heated discussion on the way to the podium. The defending champion finished second, third, behind Perez and the Mercedes driver. On Sunday, the Dutchman took the lead from polesitter Charles Leclerc and looked set for a comfortable win. But a safety car intervention and a poorly timed pit stop handed the lead over to Perez, who went on to secure his second victory, reducing the gap between the pair to just six points.
And Perez looked set to take over the championship lead in Miami. After dominating all practice sessions, as well as the early part of qualifying, Verstappen did not set a time in the shortened Q3. The Dutchman started down in ninth, while Perez secured his second pole position of the season. In what was probably his best weekend of the season, Verstappen started on hards, lapped faster than the rest of the field, and climbed to the top of the order. After emerging behind Perez following the pit cycle, but on much fresher rubber, Verstappen had little trouble getting around his teammate to secure his third win of the season.
From them on, the Dutchman went on a tear. Verstappen won 10 in a row between Miami and the Italian Grand Prix, setting a new F1 record for the most consecutive victories. The run included a last-gasp pole in Monaco, a grand slam in Barcelona, and 249 consecutive laps led between Miami and the Austrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s run of consecutive wins came to an unexpected end in Singapore, a weekend in which Red Bull faced some unusual struggles. Following a Q2 elimination, the Dutchman went with an alternative strategy in the race. However, a SC intervention cost a shot at a potential podium finish. The reigning champion eventually made his way up to fifth, which nearly became fourth at the line.
In Japan, the Dutchman came back with a vengeance. In yet another dominant weekend, Verstappen secured pole position by over half a second, and then went on to secure victory by over 20 seconds.
3His 13th triumph of 2023, combined with Perez’s retirement, meant that the Dutchman would only need three points across the Qatar sprint weekend to secure back-to-back-to-back titles.
Which F1 records can Max Verstappen still break in 2023?
With the title now secured, Verstappen can aim for additional records until the end of the season. Here are some of them:
- Most wins in an F1 season: Verstappen needs to win three of the final six races to secure the record for the most wins in an F1 season. He is the current record holder with 15 wins, a mark he established in 2022.
- Most pole positions in an F1 season: Sebastian Vettel is the current record holder, with 15 pole positions in the 2011 season. Verstappen needs to win all remaining pole positions in order to tie Vettel’s record.
- Highest winning percentage in an F1 season: Michael Schumacher won 13 of 18 races in 2004, good enough for a 72.22% ratio. Verstappen has won 13 of 17 so far, which puts him slightly above that mark at 76.47%. He will also need another three wins in the final six races to secure this record.
- Most podium finishes in an F1 season: Verstappen has finished on the podium in 15 of the 16 GPs so far. The newly crowned three-time champion only needs another two podium finishes to break his own mark from last year. In 2022, the Dutchman finished 17 times on the rostrum, breaking Schumacher’s record from the 2002 season. That year, the German legend had a perfect record of 16 podium finishes in 16 races, which included 15 top 2 results. Verstappen won’t be able to match that mark following his fifth place in Singapore.
- Most fastest laps in an F1 season: Verstappen currently sits at seven fastest laps in 2023, and would need another four in the remaining six races to break the current mark. The joint record of 10 fastest laps in a season is currently held by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Kimi Raikkonen (2005 and 2008).
- Most consecutive pole to win conversions in F1 history: Last time out in Japan, Verstappen secured his 13th consecutive pole to win conversion, a new F1 record. Schumacher held the previous mark, having converted on 12 consecutive pole positions between the 2003 San Marino Grand Prix and the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix. Verstappen has the highest pole to win rate in F1 history, currently at 86.67% as of the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix (26 out of 30). No other driver with at least five poles has gone beyond 70%.
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