Five key races where Max Verstappen showed his mettle this year

Picture: Mark Thompson / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

Picture: Mark Thompson / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

Published Dec 28, 2023


Max Verstappen secured a third world Formula One title during the sprint race of the Qatar Grand Prix back in October, five races before the end of the season.

He then completed a majestic and record-breaking F1 season in familiar style in late November when he cruised to a record-breaking 19th win of the year at an action-packed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But what were the pivotal moments that led to his third championship win? AFP Sport looks back at the key moments leading up to his premature title victory in Qatar.

Bahrain statement

Verstappen made an ominous statement of intent, dominating at Sakhir in early March for his maiden season opening win at the 10th attempt.

He led from pole to flag, barring pitstops, with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez 12sec behind. "They have this championship sewn up" muttered Mercedes' George Russell, prophetically.

Miami maestro

Verstappen had to work hard for his third win of the season starting from ninth on the grid after a poor qualifying.

But that wasn't going to stop the driver at the top of his game behind the wheel of the redoubtable Red Bull and he powered through the field, taking just 15 laps to move into second, and the outright lead on lap 48, for a fourth 1-2 for his team.

Belgium grit

Verstappen brushed aside starting sixth after a grid penalty to put in a masterful display at Spa-Francorchamps.

In a league of his own he finished a country mile - 22.305 seconds to be precise - clear of Perez.

Picture: Francois Nel / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

He felt so relaxed and confident he playfully bickered over the team radio with his engineer about tyre degradation and making a pit-stop to give the mechanics extra practice. His beaten rivals resorted to humour to sum up his supremacy. "He is having a smoke and a pancake," observed seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton referring to the 2002 Austin Powers film Goldmember.

Monza magic

Not even Ferrari's vociferous tifosi could silence Verstappen who, not for the first time, rewrote Formula One history with an unparalled 10th successive win after equalling Sebastian Vettel's record of nine set in 2013 at Zandvoort in front of his home fans the weekend before.

Pipped for pole at Monza by Carlos Sainz's Ferrari, Verstappen took his accustomed place at the head of the field by lap 15 to beat Perez with Sainz third.

Japan 'rocket ship'

Verstappen arrived at Suzuka after a rare blip in Singapore the previous weekend focused on resuming business as usual.

From Friday's practice it was plain nothing was going to stop him securing win number 13 for the season and the constructors championship for Red Bull.

Picture: Mark Thompson / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

A superb qualifying session put him on pole, and he translated that into a win and the fastest lap with another flawless drive aided by the car he hailed as "a rocket ship".

With his closest challenger and teammate Sergio Perez winding up with a DNF he left Japan stretching his lead to 177 points, one of the Dutchman's hands firmly on the title. One footnote for F1 statisticians - this was his 13th consecutive win from pole, surpassing Michael Schumacher's record.

And he joined Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, the only other drivers to win 13 races in one season, to put him within striking distance of bettering his own benchmark of 15 wins in 2022.

Agence France-Presse

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