There are few outcomes in sport that seem inevitable. Human and, in F1, engineering error can strike at any moment, with competitors waiting to pounce. But occasionally, someone comes along and dominates in a way that any anticipation, any lingering tension regarding the outcome dissipates.
Verstappen’s coronation was a moment that has seemed inevitable since the very first race of the season when he led the field from start to finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old, who has won 13 of 16 races so far this season, needed to finish sixth or above in the sprint race, a shortened version of a traditional main Sunday race which was first introduced in the 2021 season, to win the title.
When teammate Sergio Pérez – the only other driver who could challenge Verstappen to the championship – crashed out in the 11th of 19 laps, meaning he would not earn any championship points, it ensured the Dutchman, who finished second in the race, won the title.
“A fantastic feeling. It’s been an incredible year. Super proud of the job of the team,” Max Verstappen told Sky Sports. “To be three-time world champion is just incredible.”
With Verstappen qualifying third for the 100km race under the lights at the Lusail circuit and Pérez five places behind at the start line, it felt inevitable that Verstappen would successfully defend his title on Saturday.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who qualified in pole position, won an exciting sprint which featured three safety cars. His teammate Lando Norris was third, overtaking Mercedes’ George Russell late in the race.
A dominant season
Overtures of a potential fight within Red Bull itself began playing early in the season as Sergio Pérez and Verstappen shared two wins apiece after the first four races, but the Dutchman’s record-breaking run of 10 consecutive wins confirmed his absolute authority.
Such has been the dominance of Red Bull that, at one point, it seemed probable rather than possible that the team would win every race of the season. That achievement faded away when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz won the Singapore Grand Prix last month but it has not diminish the scale of Red Bull’s achievement.
The team sealed its second consecutive constructors’ championship at the Japanese Grand Prix last month with six races still remaining.
Its car has been widely hailed as one of the greatest ever built in the sport, somehow proving even more successful than last year’s model which won 17 of 22 races.
When such an impressive car is driven by one of the all-time greats, which Verstappen now is, it is sporting alchemy.
“Everything that he’s done this year has been phenomenal,” team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports.
“He’s the most competitive driver that I’ve ever met. The determination that he drives with, the passion, the heart, the commitment and, of course, the abundance of skill that he has, he’s up there with the very best.”
With this title Verstappen joins greats Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna as the sport’s three-time world champions.
Only five other drivers have won more world titles: Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel.