Verstappen: ‘Incredible to be three-time F1 champion’
By Ian Parkes
Sunday 8th October, 2023 - 6:30am
Max Verstappen hailed his achievement of becoming a three-time F1 champion as “incredible”, with his feat now hauling him up alongside some of the greats of the sport.
In a year when Red Bull driver Verstappen has won 13 of 16 grands prix, he had to settle for second in the Qatar sprint behind the superb Oscar Piastri in his McLaren, but that was more than enough to secure him a third consecutive title.
It has often been said that to be declared a true star of F1 three championships is the benchmark, with Verstappen now able to be mentioned in the same breath as Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, and Ayrton Senna.
Only Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, and Sebastian Vettel have won more.
“It’s been an incredible year, a lot of great races, and, of course, super proud, also super proud of the job of the team,” said a beaming Verstappen.
“It’s just been so enjoyable to be part of that group of people, and to be a three-time world champion is just incredible.”
With Red Bull in such dominant form since the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of last season, it would be a surprise if Verstappen does not win the next two championships before the rules change again in 2026.
As to whether he could maintain his startingly high level at present, Verstappen said: “We will keep on pushing, try to do the best we can.
“We’ll just see what happens. I’m enjoying the moment and hopefully, we can keep this momentum going for a while.”
Over the radio on the cool-down lap, Verstappen gave thanks to his team. “Unbelievable guys,” he said initially.
“I don’t know what to say – an incredible year. Thank you for providing me with such a car. It’s been a pleasure to drive this year.
“I just want to say a big thank you to everyone here at the track, back at the factory, putting all the effort in, and to be able to achieve something like this, I can’t thank you all enough.”
Verstappen was courteous enough to praise Piastri for his performance, with the 22-year-old securing his success in what has so far been a brilliant campaign.
Starting the 19-lap race on the medium tyre from pole position, Piastri was passed by the soft-shod George Russell in his Mercedes on lap three.
It was the same for Verstappen from third on the grid as he was fifth by the end of lap one as Russell and the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, also both on softs, all surged by.
The race eventually came to Piastri and Verstappen, with the former gaining revenge on Russell on lap 11.
With four laps remaining, Verstappen had moved up to second, however, Piastri showed superb pace to win by two seconds at the chequered flag.
“He drove a great race,” said Verstappen. “It was not that easy because we were on the medium tyre, and there were some soft starters around us who had a bit more grip in the beginning.
“But he did very well. I tried everything I could to try and catch up but we came short at the end, so well done.”