Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Max Verstappen: “My hunger for winning hasn’t stopped since winning the Championship”

Max Verstappen became a three-time FIA Formula 1 World Championship Drivers’ Champion during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, with second place in Saturday’s Sprint race enough for him to clinch the title.

The Oracle Red Bull Racing driver recovered to second after sliding to sixth on the opening lap of Saturday’s nineteen lap sprint, with good passes being made on Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr. and George Russell on his way back up the order despite three safety car interventions.

Verstappen said it was a ‘fantastic’ feeling to add the 2023 title to his 2021 and 2022 championships, and with five race weekends still to come, he says he will continue pushing until the end of the season.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” Verstappen said on Saturday evening. “It’s been an incredible year, with a lot of great races, and so enjoyable to be part of it with that group of people.

“We’ll keep on pushing and try to do the best we can. It was an exciting race today – a shame about the Safety Cars, but it was fun out there.”

Verstappen followed up his title by winning his fourteenth race of the season in Sunday’s main race at the Lusail International Circuit, even if conditions were far from ideal for racing as high temperatures and humidity played havoc.

The two McLaren F1 Team drivers, Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, stayed within touching distance throughout, and with three mandatory pit stops thanks to integrity over the tyres, Verstappen felt he was unable to get the most out of his RB19.

“We had a really good race today,” said Verstappen.  “I think what really made it for me was the first stint where we were strong and good on the tyres.

“I had a slow stop at the end so the McLarens were quite close at the chequered flag but they have been quick all weekend. Of course, with the mandatory three stops, we weren’t able to get the best out of our car as we are good on tyres, but we won and that’s the main thing.

“My hunger for winning hasn’t stopped since winning the Championship, I want to keep going and maximising the performance of the car each weekend.”

“For Max it was an incredible win” – Christian Horner

Team Principal Christian Horner was full of praise for the way Verstappen drove, just a day after clinching his third consecutive title, even if the mandated three-stop strategy was not the fastest way to go.

Horner said Verstappen was able to control the race even though Pirelli’s mandate over tyre life did not work in their favour, even if conditions in Qatar were difficult both physically and mentally for all drivers.

“For Max it was an incredible win,” said Horner.  “It’s been a very tough race, both physically and mentally, for all the drivers.

“In a race that was very prescriptive and sub optimal to the fastest race, Max drove well and very controlled, trying to manage the tyres.

“Having an enforced three stop was not the fastest way to run that race so it was a case of making sure we covered off the Safety Car possibilities and managed the deg but the strategy team did their work, got their sums right and helped deliver the victory.”

First place has become common for Max Verstappen in 2023 – Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images