Max Verstappen has hailed the feeling of winning a third Formula 1 World Championship as “incredible”, as the Dutchman took P2 in the Qatar Sprint – with team mate Sergio Perez’s crash in the 100km dash having handed the title to Verstappen even before he'd crossed the finish line.

    Starting on medium tyres, Verstappen fell from P3 on the grid to P5 as the Sprint got under way under the lights at the Lusail International Circuit. But as the medium compound began to come on song, Verstappen quickly moved past the soft-shod cars of Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and George Russell – via a full three Safety Car interventions – to claim P2, as Oscar Piastri held on to win the Sprint.

    READ MORE: Verstappen secures third F1 world title as Piastri takes Sprint victory in Qatar

    However, Verstappen’s third consecutive title had been sealed on Lap 11 of 19, as Perez made contact with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg and crashed into the gravel, rendering the chances of catching Verstappen mathematically impossible.

    “Unbelievable guys,” said Verstappen on his cool-down lap. “I don’t know what to say. An incredible year. Thank you for providing me with such a car. It’s been a pleasure so far this year. I just want to say a big thank you to everyone here at the track, back at the factory for putting all the effort in.

    2023 Qatar GP Sprint: Verstappen drops to fifth at the start as Lawson spin triggers the Safety Car

    “To have been able to achieve something like this, I can’t thank you all enough, and besides all the performance-related stuff, it’s also been a pleasure working with you all, and that’s definitely the most important in the end. Thank you very much.”

    Having then climbed out and onto the Red Bull RB19 that, in his hands, has crushed all-comers this season – Verstappen with 13 wins thus far – Verstappen told the media: “Of course, a fantastic feeling. It’s been an incredible year, lots of great races. Of course, super proud… and to be a three-time world champion is just incredible.”

    SPRINT START: Watch the action-packed opening lap in the Qatar Sprint as Piastri leads the way

    LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - OCTOBER 07: 2023 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of the Netherlands
    Newly-crowned three-time champion Verstappen congratulates Sprint winner Piastri

    Asked, meanwhile, whether he was already eyeing up future titles, Verstappen replied: “We’ll just see what happens. I’m enjoying the moment and hopefully of course we can keep this momentum going for a while.”

    AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from the F1 Sprint in Qatar

    Verstappen’s title completes the double for Red Bull, with the team having sewn up the constructors’ championship last time out in Suzuka – with Verstappen now turning his attention to Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix, where he’ll start from his 10th pole position of the season.

    In taking a third title, meanwhile, Verstappen now joins an elite club of Formula 1 drivers, namely Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.

    Check out the championship Max Verstappen collection on F1 Store here

    2023 Qatar GP Sprint: Max Verstappen crosses the line to claim his third world championship