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Verstappen says third F1 title is his best

Doha (AFP) – Max Verstappen said his third consecutive drivers’ world title triumph, achieved in Saturday’s sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix, was “the one I am most proud of – the best.”

The 26-year-old Dutchman, who was champion in 2021 and 2022, finished second behind McLaren’s Oscar Piastri after his Red Bull team-mate and only remaining title rival Sergio Perez crashed out of the race and the championship reckoning.

“This one is the best,” he said, “I think the first one was the most emotional because that is when your dreams are fulfilled, but this is definitely my best year for consecutive wins and stuff like that and the car itself has been probably in the best shape as well.

“So, for me, this is the one I am most proud of because of the consistency.”

Verstappen has won 13 of this year’s 16 Grands Prix to date, seizing the title with six races to go – a rare measure of supremacy not achieved since seven-time Michael Schumacher won for Ferrari in 2002.

He is the 11th driver overall to win three drivers’ titles and one of only five to win three in succession along with Juan-Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

“It’s something, of course, that I never even really dreamt of doing,” he said. “It’s a very proud moment for myself, for my family, my close family. I think everyone within the team I’m working with to be able to experience all of this together… it’s amazing.”

Verstappen said his experience with Toro Rosso, with whom he made his F1 debut aged only 17 in 2016, and Red Bull had been important to his life and his development.

“I keep trying to improve and of course I don’t necessarily think I’ve become a faster driver, but you have a lot more experience in the car, you grow as a driver and you grow also I think as a person in life.

“I think all these kind of things, when I compare to my first season in Formula One, they help a lot in terms of just dealing with every kind of pressure situation throughout the weekend.

“Everything that might be thrown at you in difficult conditions, for example. At the end, it’s all about trying to deliver every single weekend, which is, I think, very hard in F1.”

‘Sparkling waters’

Typically, he stressed that he had no plans to allow any celebrations of his third title to interfere with his plans to win Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix when he seeks to claim his 14th win in 17 races this year.

He said he might celebrate with “a few sparkling waters”.

“It’s going to be the same tomorrow,” he said. “And when I go to the next race, I’ll try to win again because we have a great car. I know that people around us are catching up maybe a little bit so it’s going to be tight, but my mindset is the same.

“It’s not like you suddenly go more risky, or get into any kind of battle… I am pretty happy with what I am doing at the moment so I am going to carry on!”

He said that joining a list of great names from Formula One’s roll call of champions who have won three in a row was a great feeling.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “A fantastic feeling. To be a three-time champion is incredible. It’s been an incredible year with a lot of great races and I am super proud of the job done by the team. It has been so enjoyable to be a part of that group of people.”

Verstappen explained that he felt he had reached a new level of consistency this year.

“Sometimes, I’m not happy with the performance or how the weekend was going. but I always try to be perfect… I always try to be better every race weekend I go to,” he said.

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