How Verstappen can clinch third championship title in Qatar sprint race

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Max Verstappen can score his third drivers’ championship victory before the Qatar Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver’s points lead following his 13th victory of the season today means he can clinch the title in the sprint race at the Losail International Circuit in two weeks’ time.

While Verstappen romped to victory from pole position his only remaining championship rival, team mate Sergio Perez, suffered a terrible race. Already on the back foot after breaking his front wing in a first-lap collision with Lewis Hamilton, Perez then crashed into Kevin Magnussen, damaging his front wing again, and subsequently retired from the race.

Verstappen therefore leads the drivers’ championship by 177 points with 180 available over the remaining six rounds. Three of those rounds include sprint races and therefore offer an extra eight points on top of the 25 for a grand prix win and bonus point for fastest lap.

As Verstappen has already ensured he will win more races than any driver this year, he would win the championship if the pair ended the season tied at the top of the standings. Therefore he only needs to ensure Perez does not out-score him by more than five points in the sprint race to secure the title.

If Perez does not finish at least third in the sprint race, Verstappen will be champion. If he does finish in the top three, Verstappen will still be champion if he finishes no more than five places behind his team mate.

No driver has previously clinched the world championship in a sprint race. The format was introduced in 2021 when three sprint races were held, each awarding just three points to the winner. Their value was increased to eight points last year, with each subsequent position awarding one point less, down to a single point for eighth place.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “How Verstappen can clinch third championship title in Qatar sprint race”

  1. If Verstappen clinches the title in the Sprint, would he “technically” tie Schumacher’s record of winning the title with 6 races to spare?

    Tho the Sprint is part of the Grand Prix weekend…

    1. They’ve been very adamant about the fact it’s not a race. They won’t even allow people to call it a “Sprint Race,” as it’s just “F1 Sprint.”

      So yes, he would tie Schumacher’s record if he wins the championship during the Sprint.

    2. I expect you are right, because that’s the sort of stat that the media will want to use. The TV commentator will always want to tell the audience that they’ve just seen the fastest lap in history, the closest ever finish, the biggest ever gap in qualifying, and so on. Comparing records against eras is never that meaningful. Schumacher won in 2022 in a season with 11 teams instead of 10, when only the top six finishers scored points instead of the top 10, and when the season consisted of only 17 races instead of 22 full races, 6 sprint races, plus 22 bonus points for fastest laps. Both seasons had a similar yawn factor though.

      1. Correction: obviously a typo, Schumacher in 2002 not 2022

      2. Interesting to note that 2002 scoring system actually made it easier to become champion earlier than the 2023 scoring system.

        The 2002 point system saw a 40% gap between 1st and 2nd, the fact that MSC was champion with 6 races left was the reason why the FIA immediately changes the point system for 2003 making the gap just 20% and adding 7th & 8th place to point scoring positions.

        The addition of FLAP point makes it more tricky as getting and keeping FLAP for the race leader often is impossible – someone can pit 2 laps before the end if he has a free pit stop to steal it away. Also your points gap needs to be bigger as more available points remain.

        The sprint races requires you to be more points ahead – Max would have clinched the championship in Japan if not for the 3 sprint races still to come. Without sprint races/& FLAP Max would be on 378/371 points, Perez on 208/206 which is a gap of 170/165 points with 150/156 points remaining.

        Max would have been champion after Belgium (5 races remaining) if 2002 scoring system would be used and Qatar was the 17th and last race. Which is odd as Max would have had 102 points after 11 races while MSC only had 96 points.
        So a big part of why MSC managed to win with 6 races remaining has to do with Barrichello failing to finish the first 3 races of 2002 and then not even starting the 5th and 11th race.
        Barrichello had 32 points after 11 races – Perez would have had 49 points resulting in the extra required race to win the championship.

  2. It doesn’t matter what Perez does, Verstappen just needs to score three points to clinch the title. Heck, even Perez not being in the top3 at the end of Qatar’s sprint race is enough.

    1. I was going to say that, it is a very silly mistake. After the Sprint there are only 172 points left. Max can lose five points to Checo in the sprint and still clinch it

  3. It would be a great opportunity for him do damage the narrative the FIA and Liberty are pushing for the sprint races. Imagine something like this:

    ‘We are having such a great year, but to win it like this is just disappointing. I really wanted to have a proper podium celebration, and a full race distance completed before winning the title, like this the entire Sunday now feels empty to me. I think any future WDC’s deserve better than this’

    A man can dream.

    1. Coventry Climax
      24th September 2023, 8:53

      I share that dream.

    2. I have a little big dream: Max retire the car on purpose for not winning the championship during sprint. That would meant destroying liberty <3

    3. José Lopes da Silva
      24th September 2023, 10:27

      Nelson Piquet became a triple champion on a Friday. He retired on Sunday – no podium celebration, only 46 laps ran.

      It seems appropriate that Verstappen, now Piquet’s son-in-law, turns a triple champion – at least on a Saturday.

    4. And Verstappen, like him or not, is probably the only one on the grid who would say something like this.

  4. Therefore he only needs to out-score Perez by three points at the next race to secure the title.

    Umm, that’s not correct. Verstappen simply needs to score 3 points in the sprint (6th place or above) to secure the title.

    1. Or just finish higher regardless of their positions, etc.

      1. Or just finish higher regardless of their positions, etc.

        or points

      2. No need to finish higher. Max can finish up to five positions behind and clinch it
        Checo survives the title race being 1st with Max 7th or worse, 2nd with Max 8th or worse, or 3rd with Max not scoring.
        Any other results (and all these are very unlikely unless something strange happens to Max) and it is done

  5. Merely winning the sprint automatically clinches the championship regardless of Checo’s finishing position because the number of points achievable after the sprint will be 172 & the gap is already above that amount, so Checo would have to outscore by at least 6 points to delay the inevitable by a session.
    I only think about the sprint, given the extremely high likelihood as any scenario of Checo outscoring by at least 6, i.e., finishing in the top 3 with Max facing a non-score outcome, would require something drastic to happen.
    The permutation couldn’t really be any simpler, so just 172 or more is enough for the sprint.

  6. 6th place, in a sprint race. In Qatar.
    That would be a fitting title decider for F1 in 2023.

  7. When was the last time a driver started a grand prix hungover?

    1. I guess it’s likely one would have to go back to Kimi’s days, or maybe James Hunt before that.

      Honestly, if Kimi would not have been such a drinker, I think he had potential to be like Alonso now. People tend to underestimate the negative effects from alcohol a lot, especially when it comes to recovery and performance at the top of one’s ability.

  8. I detest the Sprint idea with every fibre of my being and always have but this is the cherry on the top. A Grand Prix World Champion decided before the Grand Prix. And this is what the marketing brains at Liberty came up with? Have a title settled midway through an event. A celebration when most broadcasters go off air early after a 45 minute procession.

    Make it make sense.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      24th September 2023, 15:12

      It was decided this way in 1987

      1. Yeah through injury. You’re never going to be able to prevent someone getting hurt, at the track on any day or in their daily life. That’s different from introducing a new format which could decide the title on days when the casual audience aren’t watching. This was always a potential outcome and it’s going to happen within 3 years of the sprint format, it’s embarrassing.

    2. @rbalonso Given Verstappen effectively won the title back in Miami, race 5, it really does sum up this season is a competitive non-event.

    3. There is literally no issue with that at all. You’re all grasping for straws with your hate for sprint races. They will be part of every race weekend in the future. The sooner you accept that, the easier it gets. F1 fans really are even worse than Star Wars fans when it comes to changes.

      1. I understand preferences and opinions differ amongst people and I am glad to hear there are some that can accept Sprint races as they will indeed become the default, no doubt. I do not like them for two reasons: firstly, they distract from the main event (which there are too many of anyway, but that’s another point), reducing their value. Secondly, they are ONLY there to create additional revenue. There is no sports angle that makes any sense to have them. Their sole reason is to get more money out of the franchise (though us the public, that hand in our money like sheep) Liberty bought.

      2. Do you honestly think the best way for a Champion to be crowned to a neutral audience is the day before the main event? What are the comparative viewing numbers for a sprint versus a GP? My hatred comes as it’s an entirely predictable outcome which is completely unnecessary. We’re ruining a spectacle for something casual fans have a don’t care for and die hard fans hate. It’s nonsense.

        Regarding change. I don’t think the current 3 day format is sustainable, I think F1 will drop to a 2 day format which will stop the sprint races entirely. Sprint races were a mistake, as Ferdinand points out above, and will dropped once Liberty realise the product is diluted by missing a huge commercial opportunity next weekend. Change is fine providing it’s not a money grab which has harmful outcomes as is patently the case here.

    4. You are absolutely right. This is the cherry on top. Anything for the money, even if it means destroying the legacy of a sports event.. yes a sports event, not an entertainment program. And this is just the beginning.

  9. This will look pathetic if he clinches during the sprint. They will then justify this for sprint race weekends.

    1. This will look pathetic if he clinches during the sprint. They will then justify this for sprint race weekends.

      Verstappen reportedly doesn’t like the sprints.
      So, how would it be if neither RBR scored any points in the sprint?
      Verstappen still wins the WDC, but the sprint contributed no points to either contender and was therefore irrelevant, which I think sums up the sprint – an irrelevance.

      1. I hope he will retire the car after lap 1 in protest.

  10. If Perez has another disaster like this and Hamilton can get on the podium the battle for second in the WDC will really be on for the rest of the year. History rarely notes the runner up but it would be a huge achievement to nick that place off of RBR with the struggles Mercedes has had.

  11. If he wins it in the silly liberty gimmick sprint it destroys the narrative that the sprint doesn’t detract from the gp.

    I’ve not watched a second of Saturday action for any of the sprint weekends the past 2 years and won’t in Qatar so guess I’ll probably be missing the title decider for the first time ever.

    Oh well.

  12. I guess the one redeeming thing about this is that it’s been a ‘when, not if’ title since June or thereabouts. Having a championship that’s been in some way exciting decided in a sprint would be a lot worse.

    1. At least that would make some more people watch the sprint if they knew it could be decisive, but thinking about it, not even then: even if you have a sprint in the last race of the year, if you have a driver outscore the other driver by 8 points and reach 26, ensuring title win before the race even starts, that’s not an exciting championship, it’s basically a foregone conclusion given the reliability nowadays.

  13. Max for the love of F1 please dont participate in the sprint. We want you to win the championship in a proper race.

    1. This is not referred to you in particular, I’m seeing many similar comments: I don’t see what the problem is for us as fans if he wins the title in a sprint instead of a race, it’s a borefest of a season, the title has been realistically decided in miami (as someone else said above), when perez could no longer keep up with verstappen, to the point nowadays I don’t even watch podium celebrations or the post race comments, I just turn off as soon as the last person in the points reaches the finish line. He will win the title that weekend and it’s been known basically since the first race, after that dominant performance red bull put out that it was gonna happen sooner or later, I don’t care when, with which result or in which session.

  14. Without sprint races this season Max would have been crowned champion at Japan – which would have been so much better given the history of Suzuka, Red Bull ties to Honda and the absolute dominant performance of Max last weekend.

    The FIA would do wel to remove sprint races and also to remove the pointless FLAP bonus point.

    If you want to reward excellent performance than please give a point to whoever set the fastest time in race qualifying Q3 on Saturday (Friday if they keep sprints) and also ensure that “Pole” gets credited to that person rather than the farcical situation that Leclerc statically had “Pole” while Max was 0.820 quicker during Q3 on Friday.

    1. The reason we’ve historically not awarded pole for fastest lap was to avoid the championship being decided away from the main GP. Liberty have fallen into a trap we’ve actively avoided for generations.

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