Max Verstappen can win his third consecutive Formula One title in the Qatar Grand Prix. And he can do so on Saturday. Verstappen will secure the title if he finishes sixth or better in the sprint race, which could leave Sunday's main grand prix as an afterthought.
Winning the title in a sprint – a 19-lap contest that F1 refuses to call a “race” – could be a bit awkward for the series and for Verstappen. He has previously argued that this format should be scrapped. "It's not proper racing, it's like gambling," he said after the season's first sprint in Azerbaijan in April. "It's not proper racing, it's like gambling. I think I'd have more success in Vegas than if I went to a casino. I love racing, I'm a purebred. I'm a racer and I think it's too much for show."
It has been a consistently dominant season for the Dutch driver, who has Red Bull's fastest car but has also left teammate Sergio Perez far behind in the standings.
Perez is the last driver with a mathematical chance of catching Verstappen in the remaining six rounds of the championship, but even if Verstappen crashes out of the sprint races, Perez will need to finish in the top three to keep the competition alive.
Perez paid tribute to Verstappen's achievements on Thursday, but said the difference in his season was partly because the development of the Red Bull car did not suit his own driving style.
Pérez said, "Max has done a tremendous job. I think no credit should be taken away for what he has done this season. I think he has driven at a different level than anyone else and it That's something I have a lot of respect for. I felt like since Barcelona (the Spanish Grand Prix in June), I was starting to struggle and there was something missing in the car."
Verstappen has not only been fast, he has also been consistent. When he won his 10th consecutive F1 race at the Italian Grand Prix last month, it set a new F1 record. Red Bull has won 16 of the last 17 races dating back to the end of last year.
Verstappen said on the Red Bull Podcast released this week that "you can't really take days off or weekends off" in F1 and said his entire career since making his debut for Toro Rosso at the age of 17 in 2015 has been full of mistakes. There has been a process to remove it.
He said, "I was very young when I joined Formula One, so naturally you lack a lot of experience. And because of this lack of experience, sometimes you make some mistakes. Kind of You also need to make mistakes in life to become a better driver, a better person, and it's about how you learn from them and how you implement improvements, and I It seems like it's an ongoing process. It's not something that will ever stop. It will only stop when you stop running. In that sense, it's about staying on the learning curve and trying not to make the same mistake. Do it twice.”