Max Verstappen’s third Formula 1 title was arguably the most anti-climactic championship-clinching moment in the sport’s history - but the lulled nature of the occasion only served to be a true reflection of his greatness this year.
Crossing the line in second place during the Qatar Sprint race was enough to seal the title with six Grands Prix left to run this season - including the main event itself at the Lusail International Circuit.
His championship glory this campaign has been a long time coming as he has continuously stretched out his lead in the Drivers’ Championship with perfect performance after perfect performance.
At an 82% win rate win rate, Verstappen is on course to secure the most dominant season in F1 history.
It would break a record that has stood since 1952 when Alberto Ascari won six out of the eight races, claiming 75% of the victories on offer in that year’s World Championship. In fact, winning just two of the remaining five races this year would be enough to ensure he seals the record.
Verstappen’s approach to race weekends this year has been mesmerising. A traditional method that many drivers are taught early in their careers to adopt is easing into the weekend before applying all of their learnings when it comes to qualifying.
But Verstappen is almost always on top form as soon as the first free practice session gets underway. He wants to assert his dominance quickly and declare to his rivals that he is the benchmark from the get-go.
Verstappen’s hunt for success in Formula 1 isn’t just about winning. It’s about crushing the competition and asserting to those around him that they can’t get near his level.
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“Max doesn't leave anything on the table,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told media including RacingNews365.com. “He wants it all.
“That drives and motivates the team internally. He is relentless in his pursuit of performance. He doesn't want to just win, he wants to dominate.
“You see that in any great sportsman, their pursuit of excellence and pursuit of not just wanting to beat but to totally dominate your opposition. It’s a hallmark of what makes him such an exceptional talent.”
There is no question that Verstappen’s dominant run has been aided by the tremendous performance of the RB19. It will be remembered as one of the greatest cars in F1 history, alongside challengers such as the McLaren MP4/4, the Ferrari F2002 and the Mercedes W11.
There is nonetheless still a job to do, to translate the workload of hundreds of people into tangible results. It's big pressure that befalls all drivers, not just Verstappen.
"He is relentless in his pursuit of performance. He doesn't want to just win, he wants to dominate."
This year the Dutchman has been delivered an exceptional machine that has allowed him to win races. But it’s not so simple to say that Verstappen has been able to use the car’s strengths for his own success - he has channelled his own inner abilities to extract the highest potential from the car.
Sergio Perez’s season of woe has been well-documented, and the Mexican, who has enjoyed a respectable career in F1, has been so far away from emulating Verstappen’s mechanisms.
That being said, there is no such thing as a perfect weekend, never mind a perfect season. But Verstappen’s mistakes have been so minimal this year. In Qatar, he likely would’ve taken the Sprint Race pole position if not for running deep into Turn 1 on his final lap.
In Miami, he made an error on his first lap in Q3 and didn’t get a second lap time in after Charles Leclerc crashed out of the session, which left the Red Bull driver down the order for the start of the race - little did it matter as Verstappen caught and overtook Perez for the win in a move that was seen as a turning point for the title fight this year.
There have been times when Verstappen has been so close to the edge but his prowess has been enough to see him weather the storm and prevail in spectacular fashion.
The greatest example of this is perhaps Monaco, where the Dutchman was under pressure in Q3 to deliver a lap time for pole position as Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso claimed the top spot with his final lap.
Verstappen needed to make up two-tenths in the final sector [the shortest of them all] to Alonso and pushed the limits of the car to extract the time, bouncing off the walls as he flirted with relegating himself further down the order. But his self-belief was enough to see him across the line eight-hundredths of a second up on the Spaniard for pole position.
It was a prime example of Verstappen still being able to deliver under the most intensely fought circumstances amid a season where his biggest rival has often been himself.
In years gone by, Verstappen annoyed some of his competitors with his driving, particularly in the opening stages of the 2018 campaign when he was involved in incidents at several of the early races.
But experience is the greatest teacher and he has overcome his early career moments of recklessness to fashion himself into one of the most complete drivers that F1 has seen.
He doesn’t need other drivers to push him in order to realise his potential and doesn’t relish a fight against a rival the same way other drivers might do as they search for the hard-to-match adrenaline of a wheel-to-wheel F1 fight.
“Of course, for F1 you would like to see more competition, but for me, I don't need any other team or like a team-mate to get the best out of myself,” he said.
“I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to always try and be the best I can, try to prepare in the best possible way. That's what I enjoy and that's the only thing that I really look at.”
This season has been a glowing example of that - Verstappen’s biggest nemesis has been his own self-desire to better himself. He challenges himself to be a stronger driver every time he steps into the car.
At 26 years of age, there is simply no telling where the ceiling lies with the now three-time World Champion Max Verstappen. But as he’s continued to show us, it’s up to himself and no one else to raise the bar.