Max Verstappen wins his ‘first legal championship’

Max Verstappen finished second in the sprint, which was irrelevant in the end as Sergio Perez crashed out of the Qatar sprint race.

Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix as a three-time World Champion, after the Dutchman sealed his crown with a strong display in Saturday evening’s sprint race.

Starting from third, it was expected that Verstappen would complete another successful defence of his title, as team-mate Sergio Perez needed to effectively win the 19-lap race.

As Perez started the sprint in P8, the Mexican needed a miracle.

Unfortunately for Checo, a miracle wasn’t on the cards at the Lusail International Circuit, after he crashed out whilst battling Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg.

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Unlike at the Japanese Grand Prix where he took out Hulkenberg’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen, Perez was more of a victim in the sprint, as Ocon appeared to veer across the front of Hulkenberg and Perez.

All three ended up in the gravel at Turn 2 and out of the sprint, handing Verstappen the Drivers’ Championship.

Even though he was aware that the title was sealed, he still tried his best to win the sprint but could only manage second, behind rookie Oscar Piastri.

Verstappen can now enjoy the final six races of the season knowing that he has nothing to worry about, other than attempting to break his record for 15 wins in a single season.

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By becoming a three-time World Champion, Verstappen has matched Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham.

Winning the 2024 championship would see him match Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost.

He won’t be looking to the future right now though, with him instead focused on winning in Qatar on Sunday and celebrating another crown to add to his growing collection.

Fans were quick to congratulate the 26-year-old on social media, after F1 posted on Twitter/X that Verstappen had secured the title.

“Congratulations Max! Best driver, best car, best team: the perfect combination,” said @osvaldocairob.

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“Legend! So calmly and superbly managed. Let’s hope to see some more exciting drives from this lad!” commented @autodrp.

“Fair play to Max, he has been really consistent and Red Bull has been magnificent,” wrote another fan.

“A true champion! Congratulations to Max for this incredible year,” said @jaw_crypto.

However, not everyone heaped praise onto Verstappen, with some describing it as his “first legal championship.”