Formula One team Alpine Racing have announced more investors from a range of sports including golfer Rory McIlroy, heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua as well as footballers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Juan Mata.

Kansas City Chiefs players Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are also part of the 200 million euro (£173m) strategic investment led by consortium Otro Capital in the French team, which is backed by the parent company Renault.

The latest move follows on from Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney expanding their sporting portfolio by also investing in Alpine for a 24 per cent stake of the team, which is currently sixth in the 2023 F1 constructors’ championship.

McIlroy, who helped Europe win the Ryder Cup in Rome last month, said: “Passion for excellence on the golf course has led me to admire the same pursuit in Formula 1.

“Partnering with Otro Capital in Alpine F1 is an exhilarating venture that unites my love for sports, competition, and the relentless drive to be the best.”

Former heavyweight world champion Joshua felt the opportunity was one he could not ignore.

“The heritage of the team, mixed with the global growth of Formula 1 as a sport and brand made this a very serious proposition,” Joshua said.

“I am excited to start this journey with Otro and a great group of fellow investors and hope to help the team achieve its full potential.”

Liverpool and England defender Alexander-Arnold joins the investor group alongside his brother Tyler.

“Our shared goal as an investment group is to help contribute to its continued success on the grid, at a time when F1 is facing incredible growth as a sport,” he said.

Alec Scheiner of Otro Capital added: “We are honoured to be joined by this particular group of investors.

“These are best in class investors, athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs and they are all committed to elevating the Alpine F1 team.”

Ferrari have the capability to threaten Red Bull's recent dominance in Formula One, so says 1978 champion Mario Andretti.

Red Bull secured their second successive constructors' championship last month, with their number one driver Max Verstappen cruising to his third successive title at the Qatar Grand Prix shortly after.

Despite the poor form of Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez's, Red Bull have still accrued more than double the amount of points of the second-place team, Mercedes.

However, tentative signs in recent weeks have begun to hint at a long-awaited shift away from Red Bull’s dominance.

In Singapore, both Verstappen and Perez struggled - finishing fifth and eighth respectively - as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz claimed victory.

Ferrari were tipped to be serious title challengers this year and, despite their poor start to the season, Andretti is encouraged by their performances as of late.

"Well, they've shown the capability," he told Stats Perform. "There were two successive races where they were on pole, and then the one where Max Verstappen had some issues which they won. 

"So, they're there and can cause some issues for Red Bull. You're seeing Ferrari and McLaren also annoying Red Bull quite a bit. And that's the interesting part as well."

McLaren have been the surprise package in the second half of the F1 season, having struggled with their car earlier in the year.

The British team have bounced back superbly, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both finishing on the podium in back-to-back races in Japan and Qatar and Andretti believes the future is bright for the young duo.

"It's been really interesting to watch how much McLaren has really improved in every way," he said.

"Obviously, they've given their drivers the equipment and the improvements that they needed to be competitive. 

"They've been right there, annoying the very top and Red Bull quite a bit. Two young drivers, one being a total rookie. There's a future there and no question, something to be built on. 

"Lando has shown that he is capable and between the two of them, it seems like they really get along very well. There seems to be a lot of harmony within the team."

McLaren's rapid rise has seen them put daylight between themselves and rivals Alpine this season.

Alpine pipped the British team to fourth in the team standings last season but have endured a disappointing season in 2023, with drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly only able to secure one podium each so far this year.

They sit sixth in the standings and a considerable 129 points behind McLaren with six races remaining, but Andretti believes the team will soon rediscover their winning formula.

"You never know why some teams all of a sudden they fall behind; there are many reasons for that," he said.

"I wish you could say 'do this and that, and you'll be right back where you were, or even better', but there's always a reason somewhere.

"That's nothing unusual in this sport. And sometimes the team just have to reboot, but their competitive capability is there. No question. They've shown that before."

Lewis Hamilton can bounce back from a difficult three years to win a record-breaking eighth Formula One drivers' championship, eclipsing Michael Schumacher's achievements.

That is the view of 1978 champion Mario Andretti, who does not believe Hamilton has made a mistake by committing his future to Mercedes.

Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record haul of seven world titles in 2020, but he has failed to surpass the German great amid three years of dominance from Max Verstappen.

Having edged out Hamilton for the 2021 title in controversial circumstances, Verstappen has dominated the last two seasons while his rival has struggled. 

Verstappen clinched his third straight title with six races to spare by finishing second in the sprint race in Qatar last Saturday, and the Dutchman followed that up with another triumph on Sunday – his 14th victory in 17 Grands Prix this year.

While Verstappen holds an unassailable lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the drivers' standings, Hamilton has found himself battling Fernando Alonso for a top-three finish, having ranked sixth last year.

Despite rumours linking him with Ferrari, Hamilton extended his contract with Mercedes until 2025 in August, and Andretti believes the 38-year-old made the correct decision. 

Asked if Hamilton needed to move to boost his chances of winning another title, Andretti told Stats Perform: "Why would he go anywhere else? 

"With Mercedes, that is probably the best possibility to resume his winning ways and win another title. No question. He's young enough. 

"He certainly still has the desire to be at the top. After being a multi-time world champion, you don't lose that ability.

"Right now, he equalled a record that I thought would never be approached, not in my lifetime anyway. He's still young enough that he could go for the eighth title. 

"It's going to take a long time for anyone to reach that and surpass that. So yeah, he's definitely one of the greats, for sure, deservedly so."

Hamilton sits 11 points clear of old rival Alonso in the standings ahead of next week's United States Grand Prix, with the Spaniard enjoying a resurgence since leaving Alpine for Aston Martin ahead of the 2023 season.

Having won four IndyCar championships during his own career, Andretti has a particular admiration for Alonso, who himself competed in the IndyCar Series during a two-year stint out of F1.

"Oh, Fernando is timeless," Andretti said. "I just love to see how much energy he still has and how much desire is still within him. 

"After taking a sabbatical from Formula One, I thought, 'I don't know, he'd better be careful about coming back'. Here he is, coming back as strong as ever. 

"I think he brought Aston Martin to a level that they almost did not expect. They certainly are giving him equipment which is capable, but he's taking it there.

"Fernando's legacy is that of a very ambitious driver, to try to conquer different disciplines. He ventured into IndyCar at Indianapolis. I respect somebody like that. 

"That's pure love for driving and the sport, to be curious like that, not just to drive, but to try to win in a category that's not your speciality."

Lewis Hamilton is facing a second investigation by Formula One’s governing body for walking across the track at last weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton, 38, was fined £43,350 – half of which is suspended for the remainder of the season – in the hours after the race in which he crossed the circuit following a first-corner crash with Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

But seven days on from the incident in Lusail, and in a largely unprecedented move, the FIA has said Hamilton’s actions are again under review.

A spokesperson for the governing body said on Sunday: “The FIA is revisiting the incident in which Lewis Hamilton crossed a live track during the Qatar Grand Prix.

“The FIA notes that Lewis was apologetic during the subsequent stewards’ hearing into the incident and acknowledged that the crossing was a serious safety breach.

“However, in view of his role model status, the FIA is concerned about the impression his actions may have created on younger drivers.”

Following the original investigation, in which Hamilton was also reprimanded, the stewards noted that “crossing a live track can cause extremely dangerous situations and the drivers have to be very cautious about it.”

It is thought that under the FIA’s rules, it is unlikely Hamilton will face additional penalties. But it is possible harsher punishments could be handed out in the future for a similar infringement.

Hamilton will be back in action at next weekend’s US Grand Prix in Austin.

Ex-Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been spared jail after admitting fraudulently failing to declare more than £400million held in a trust in Singapore to the Government.

The court heard the 92-year-old has agreed a civil settlement of £652,634,836 in respect of sums due to HMRC over the course of 18 years.

At Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, Ecclestone was handed a 17-month jail term, suspended for two years.

His defence barrister, Christine Montgomery KC, told sentencing judge Mr Justice Bryan that the defendant “bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial”.

Sentencing Ecclestone, who heard the judge’s remarks from the dock, Mr Justice Bryan said: “Your offending is so serious that neither a fine nor a community order would be appropriate.

“It is rightly acknowledged that the custody threshold has been passed.”

However, he said that he had taken into consideration a number of mitigating factors, including Ecclestone’s health, age, and that he has no previous criminal convictions.

The former racing driver said “I plead guilty” while standing in the well of the court on Thursday wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

He admitted that on July 7, 2015, he failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing around 650 million US dollars, worth about £400million at the time.

Before his guilty plea, he had been due to face trial in November on the single fraud charge.

Prosecutor Richard Wright KC told the court that a meeting was held between Ecclestone and HMRC officers in July 2015.

He said that Ecclestone was “seeking to a draw a line under investigations into his tax affairs.”

Mr Wright added: “He was fed up of paying huge bills for advice.”

Ex-Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has admitted fraud after failing to declare more than £400million held in a trust in Singapore to the Government.

The 92-year-old said “I plead guilty” at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday while standing in the well of the court wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

On July 7, 2015, the billionaire failed to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account containing around 650 million US dollars, worth about £400million at the time.

The charge stated Ecclestone, who has three grown-up daughters, Deborah, Tamara and Petra, and a young son, Ace, had “established only a single trust, that being one in favour of your daughters, and other than the trust established for your daughters you were not the settlor nor beneficiary of any trust in or outside the UK”.

Before his guilty plea, he had been due to face trial in November on the single fraud charge.

The court heard Ecclestone had said “no” when asked by HMRC officers whether he had any links to any further trusts “in or outside the UK”.

Prosecutor Richard Wright KC said: “That answer was untrue or misleading.

“Mr Ecclestone knew his answer may have been untrue or misleading.

“As of July 7, 2015, Mr Ecclestone did not know the truth of the position, so was not able to give an answer to the question.

“Mr Ecclestone was not entirely clear on how ownership of the accounts in question were structured.

“He therefore did not know whether it was liable for tax, interest or penalties in relation to amounts passing through the accounts.

“Mr Ecclestone recognises it was wrong to answer the questions he did because it ran the risk that HMRC would not continue to investigate his affairs.

“He now accepts that some tax is due in relation to these matters.”

The FIA has begun a review into Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix after drivers complained of racing in dangerously high temperatures.

George Russell branded the race “beyond the limit of what is acceptable” as temperatures in the drivers’ cockpits exceeded 50 degrees for a contest which lasted one hour and 28 minutes.

Canadian driver Lance Stroll said he faded in and out of consciousness because of the extreme heat and humidity during the 57-lap race in Lusail and was also seen stumbling towards an ambulance moments after he emerged from his Aston Martin.

London-born driver Alex Albon was treated for acute heat exposure at the on-track medical centre, while his rookie Williams team-mate Logan Sargeant was forced to park his car through illness. Alpine’s French driver Esteban Ocon also vomited during the race.

This was only the second staging of the Qatar race and the first of a 10-year deal which, in the region of £45million each season, is among the most lucrative for the sport’s American owners Liberty Media.

Next year’s edition will be held two months later in December when it is expected to be cooler, but governing body the FIA acknowledged action must be taken now to avoid a repeat of the scenes.

It said in a statement: “The FIA notes with concern that the extreme temperature and humidity during the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix had an impact on the well-being of the drivers.

“While being elite athletes, they should not be expected to compete under conditions that could jeopardise their health or safety.

“The safe operation of the cars is, at all times, the responsibility of the competitors, however as with other matters relating to safety such as circuit infrastructure and car safety requirements, the FIA will take all reasonable measures to establish and communicate acceptable parameters in which competitions are held.

“As such, the FIA has begun an analysis into the situation in Qatar to provide recommendations for future situations of extreme weather conditions.

“It should be noted that while next year’s edition of the Qatar Grand Prix is scheduled later in the year, when temperatures are expected to be lower, the FIA prefers to take material action now to avoid a repeat of this scenario.”

The FIA said measures would be discussed at the upcoming medical commission meeting in Paris, which could include guidance for competitors, research into modifications for more efficient airflow in the cockpit and recommendations for changes to the calendar to fit with acceptable climate conditions.

Research from cross-country events in extreme climates will also be examined for potential applications to track races.

Russell, 25, who is director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, revealed he came close to blacking out after driving back from last to fourth following his first-corner crash with Lewis Hamilton.

He said: “(Sunday) was beyond the limit of what is acceptable.

“Over 50 per cent of the grid said they were feeling sick, couldn’t drive and were close to passing out.

“You don’t want to be passing out at the wheel when you are driving at 200mph, and that is how I felt at times.

“If it got any hotter I would have retired because my body was ready to give up.”

McLaren driver Lando Norris, 23, who finished third, said: “We found the limit (on Sunday) and it is sad we had to find it this way.

“It is never a nice situation to be in when people are ending up in the medical centre or passing out.

“It is not a point where you can just say, ‘the drivers need to train more’. We are in a closed car and it gets extremely hot.

“Clearly, when you have people who end up retiring or in such a bad state it is too much. It is too dangerous.

“I know that next year this race is later on in the season, and it will be cooler, but it is still something that needs to be addressed. I am sure we will speak about it because it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Lance Stroll claimed he passed out at the wheel of his Aston Martin because of the extreme humidity in Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix.

American rookie Logan Sargeant was forced to retire through illness, French driver Esteban Ocon said he vomited in his cockpit, while London-born Thai Alex Albon was taken to the medical centre with acute heat exposure as the grid’s drivers battled the intense conditions at the Lusail International Circuit.

A statement from 27-year-old Albon’s Williams team read: “Following the Qatar Grand Prix, Alex was taken to the medical centre to be treated for acute heat exposure. He has now been assessed and cleared by the medical team.”

Williams also revealed Sargeant, 22, had suffered from “intense dehydration” following “flu-like symptoms earlier in the week”.

Aston Martin’s Stroll, 24, who fell over as he made his way to conduct his media duties, said: “I was passing out in the car.

“They painted the kerbs and made the track narrower but you can’t feel the kerbs. I couldn’t see where I was going because I was passing out. I was fading in and out. The temperature was too much.”

George Russell, who finished fourth following a first-lap collision with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, also revealed he felt ill throughout Sunday’s 57-lap Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old said: “It was an absolutely brutal race and by far the most physical race I have ever experienced.

“I felt close to fainting in that race and I have never experienced anything like it before.

“I wasn’t physically sick in the car but I felt ill. I had to ask my engineer to give me encouragement to take my mind off of it.”

This was only the second staging of the Qatar race and the first of a 10-year deal. Next year’s edition will be held two months later in December when it is expected to be cooler.

Mario Andretti has moved to allay fears that Max Verstappen's dominance of the drivers' championship might put fans off Formula One, asserting there is "nothing boring" about the Dutchman.

Verstappen sealed his third consecutive world title on Saturday, finishing second in an incident-packed sprint race in Qatar to ensure he can no longer be caught by Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

After subsequently capping his title by winning the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday, the Dutchman has won 14 races in 2023, leaving rivals including seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz trailing in his wake.

He also put together an unprecedented sequence of 10 successive victories earlier this year, leading to suggestions the one-sided nature of this campaign may impact F1's popularity.

The sport enjoyed a surge in popularity amid Verstappen's dramatic 2021 title tussle with Hamilton, while the Netflix documentary Drive To Survive helped engage a new generation of fans. 

However, 1978 drivers' champion Mario Andretti does not believe Verstappen's supremacy will have a negative impact on how the sport is perceived. 

"There's nothing boring about Max Verstappen," Andretti told Stats Perform. "The only thing is, the next thing that is obviously of interest is who can beat him? 

"That's the point, and that's interesting. You look forward to that every weekend, whenever the race is coming on, you say, 'I wonder if he's going to still be dominant?' 

"The other teams are not sitting still with the other drivers. But right now, Max is in a very enviable position to just really keep going."

Red Bull retained the constructors' title in September, with the team boasting a massive lead over Mercedes in the team standings. Andretti, though, does not feel changes are required to make things more competitive.

The team has won 16 of the 17 races so far this season.

"I personally love Formula One the way it is because, let's look at it on the technical side, you look at the grid and sometimes there are 10 to 12 drivers inside a second [of one another]," Andretti continued. 

"Each car, each team has different engineering, and the car looks different. Everybody obviously follows the same rules, but it's like a lawyer. A good lawyer obviously interprets a law maybe just a little bit better than the next one. That's what it's all about.

"I think Formula One has it all, it's got the technical side, but also, there's something to be appreciated there as to how close they come. I think that interest is there and will be prevalent."

Max Verstappen's third successive Formula One drivers' championship is "only the beginning", says 1978 title-winner Mario Andretti, who feels the Dutchman could go on to break records in the sport.

Red Bull star Verstappen wrapped up his third world title in as many years by finishing second in a dramatic sprint race in Qatar on Saturday, having left his rivals in the dust throughout a dominant 2023 season. 

Verstappen capped off his championship triumph in style on Sunday by cruising to victory at the Qatar Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old has a long way to go to match the accomplishments of the sport's all-time greats, however, with Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven titles being equalled by Lewis Hamilton in 2020.

However, Andretti – who captured the world crown when driving for Team Lotus in 1978 – feels those are the names Verstappen will be looking to hunt down in the coming years.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Andretti said of Verstappen: "There's no question that he fits the category of the greats, and it's ongoing.

"Like you say, it's three championships in a row and he's still going. There's no sign anywhere that he has reached a peak. 

"It's really fun watching someone like that, because he's just taking advantage of every single ounce that's at his disposal under any circumstance.

"The way I look at it, records are made to be broken. I never thought that Schumacher would have any rivals, not in my lifetime.

"I think Lewis Hamilton disproved that by tying that record, and Max is on his way, no question. 

"I mean, if there's anyone that you could consider to be a record-breaker, it's going to be Max Verstappen. At 26, it's only the beginning."

Verstappen has won 14 races this season, including an unprecedented run of 10 successive victories starting with May's Miami Grand Prix and ending after he triumphed at Monza last month.

Andretti recalled Verstappen's very first race win – which came as an 18-year-old at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix – as he heaped further praise on the Dutchman for his dominant displays.

"What makes Verstappen a great driver is that he is something special," Andretti continued.

"As a matter of fact, when you say 'special', that's understating what this man is all about. He has shown something right from the very beginning. 

"I remember in 2016, what he did that day, he revealed himself. After that, obviously the rest is history. 

"He has been dominant and is taking advantage of every possibility in the best possible way. I think for any team on the grid, they're all envious of the fact Red Bull has a contract with this guy."

A furious George Russell lashed out at Lewis Hamilton following a dramatic crash with his Mercedes team-mate at the very first corner of Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, crowned champion of the world for a third time following Saturday’s sprint, started his title parade by racing to his 14th win from the 17 rounds so far.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed up his victory in Saturday’s 19-lap dash by taking second place while his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris completed the podium.

But Verstappen’s emphatic win and McLaren’s continued resurgence played second fiddle to Hamilton’s crash with Russell which left the seven-time world champion in the gravel. Russell fought back from last to fourth.

Hamilton, third on the grid, attempted to drive round the outside of Russell, one starting place higher, and pole-sitter Verstappen in a gung-ho bid for glory.

But Hamilton tagged the front-left of Russell’s machine. An out-of-control Hamilton was sent into the gravel with the right-rear wheel of his Mercedes flying off into the air.

Russell was sent spinning round before limping back to the pits for a new front wing. Out came the safety car and the inquest started.

“F****** hell,” yelled Russell, 25. “Come on! What the hell! I have got damage.”

Referencing their ding-dong battle at the last round in Japan, Russell added: “Guys, come on, f***! Two races in a row.”

Sitting in the sandtrap, Hamilton, 38, pointed the finger at his younger team-mate.

“Yeah, I got taken out by my team-mate,” he said.

Back on track and sitting at the rear of the field, Russell returned to the intercom.

“Sorry guys, I wasn’t even looking,” he added. “I was focused ahead and he came from nowhere.

“I am lost for words. Honestly. I have just seen the replays on the TV screen. I couldn’t do anything. Totally sandwiched.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is absent from this race – his second in a row – as he recovers from knee surgery. But the Austrian came on the intercom in a move to calm Russell down.

“George, let’s race now and get the best out of it,” he said.

Forty minutes after the accident, Hamilton, 38, accepted blame for the coming together.

“In the heat of the moment, it was frustrating because I felt this tap from the rear but I don’t think George had anywhere to go,” said the seven-time world champion using a towel to mop the sweat from his brow.

“It was an unfortunate scenario and I am happy to take responsibility because that is my role. I need to go back and look at it, but I don’t feel like it was George’s fault.

“Before the race, we knew we were on different tyres so we wanted to work together. I had the soft tyre and everyone around me was on the medium and I needed to get by. I tried going round the outside of Max and it just didn’t work out.

“It was not our plan to come together. It is just really gutting for the team. I feel just really sad for everybody for my part in it.”

Hamilton insisted his partnership with Russell had not been damaged by the collision.

Mercedes announced at the end of August that Hamilton and Russell will continue alongside each other until at least the end of 2025.

He continued: “The relationship is not broken. I don’t have any problems with George. We have a great relationship and we always talk about things.

“This is just unfortunate and I am sure he was frustrated in the moment, as I was, but we will talk about it offline and move forwards.”

Amid safety concerns about the Pirelli tyres, Sunday’s 57-lap race took place against the backdrop of a flurry of mandatory pit stops – with the drivers only able to do 18 laps on a single set of rubber.

Yet, the disruption had little impact on Verstappen who sealed another comfortable win, taking the flag 4.8 seconds clear for the 49th win of his career.

Charles Leclerc finished fifth for Ferrari ahead of the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

Sergio Perez, whose crash in Saturday’s sprint officially handed Verstappen his third title, started from the pit lane and crossed the line ninth on yet another weekend to forget for the Mexican.

Perez was also handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits, demoting him to 10th.

Lewis Hamilton is out of the Qatar Grand Prix after a dramatic collision with Mercedes team-mate George Russell at the very first corner of Sunday’s race.

Hamilton, who started third, drove around the outside of his team-mate, one place higher on the grid, and pole-sitter Max Verstappen before making contact with Russell’s machine.

Hamilton was sent into the gravel with the right-rear of his Mercedes flying off in the accident.

Both Hamilton and Russell pointed the finger at one another.

“Come on, what the hell,” yelled Russell. “That is two races in a row.”

Russell was sent spinning round in the incident before limping back to the pits for repairs.

But Hamilton’s race was over. “Yeah, I got taken out by team-mate,” said Hamilton, 38.

Russell was back on the radio. “Sorry guys, I wasn’t even looking,” he added amid a flurry of expletives. “I was focused ahead and he came from nowhere.

“F*** I am lost for words. Honestly. I have just seen the replays on the TV screen. I couldn’t do anything. Totally sandwiched. “F***, come on.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is absent from this race – his second in a row – as he recovers from knee surgery.

But the Austrian came on the intercom in a move to calm Russell, 25, down.

“George, let’s race now, and get the best out of it,” he said.

There had been a lot of talk about Max in karting. The first time I saw him was in his opening Formula Three race at Silverstone in 2014.

I remember raising it to Helmut Marko – Red Bull’s motorsport consultant – that this kid looks the real deal. Helmut watched him at the Norisring in Germany and he was convinced.

There was interest from Niki Lauda and Mercedes, but Red Bull could take him to Formula One immediately. So, he came to us a very young age. He was 16. And I remember in his very first outing for us – a demonstration run in Rotterdam – he took the front wing off the car! But you could tell in the seat fitting the confidence he had for a young guy was exceptional.

All of the drivers that came through the junior categories learned their trade out of the spotlight, but Max became the youngest driver in Formula One ever. He was only 17. Every move and every mistake he made was scrutinised.

Jean Todt, who was the FIA president at the time, changed the regulations to ensure someone as young and inexperienced as Max could not enter F1. There will never be a driver that moves so rapidly from karting to F1 again. But the way he dealt with it mentally made him a standout character.

It was obvious in his first full F1 season when he drove for Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso, that he was an emerging talent, and at the beginning of 2016 he was performing beyond the capability of the car.

Daniil Kvyat was struggling, and there was a lot of interest in Max. We made the decision to move him to Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Mercedes did their thing when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed into each other on the first lap and Max, who started fourth which was already stunning, made the one-stop strategy work to win in his first Grand Prix with the team. He became the sport’s youngest ever winner, aged 18. It was a fairytale. Max had arrived.

He won races in 2017 and 2018, and in 2019 he became the team leader following Daniel Ricciardo’s departure to Renault. He grew up, and it was a transformative year for him.

In 2021 we had a car and an engine that could take the fight to Mercedes, and that season will go down as one of the most competitive sporting duels the sport has ever had.

From the first race in Bahrain through to Abu Dhabi, Max and Lewis were like two heavyweights going up against each other. Max was a dog with a bone. He wouldn’t let it go. And you couldn’t script that they would head to the final race tied on points.

Max was very cool. He put the car on pole, and we took our opportunity under the final safety car. Max had one lap to get the job done. I don’t think Lewis expected Max to attack in the corner that he did, and people overlook that he still had to beat Lewis. He still had to win the race. It wasn’t about two unlapped backmarkers. It was about Max reacting to the circumstances and getting the job done. And under the most intense pressure he did just that. He sent it down the inside and the whole place went bananas.

To see him and his father, Jos, celebrate was a very special moment because it was the culmination of all the effort that his father had put into him at a very young age. Max achieved his goal, and anything after that was the icing on the cake, because for him, it was all about becoming a world champion.

Max has still got all the tenacity he had when he got in the car as a 17-year-old, but he now marries that with experience. Outside of the car, he is a normal guy, too. He has his feet on the ground and he hasn’t had his head turned by fame and fortune. He still loves racing, and he has got good, grounded principals.

He is competitive and wears his heart on his sleeve. He is very honest. He will give you everything, but he expects everything in return.

He can go on to achieve so much more. We are riding a wave at the moment, and we want to continue riding that wave for as long as we can.

Will Max be in Formula One for a long, long time? I don’t think so. He has ambitions beyond F1 and beyond racing. And at 26, 36 seems a long way away.

We have a long-term agreement with him until 2028, and he has always said he will be happy to start and end his career here, but motivation will be a crucial factor.

Max Verstappen hailed his third Formula One world title as the finest of his career – and vowed to celebrate by downing a few sparkling waters.

The 26-year-old Dutchman has emulated Sir Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna after being crowned a triple world champion with six grands prix still remaining – equalling Michael Schumacher’s 21-year-old record.

Red Bull’s Verstappen has dominated Formula One since he beat Lewis Hamilton to clinch his maiden championship at the deeply controversial season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.

And his coronation of this most one-sided of campaigns was confirmed on lap 11 of 19 of a frantic sprint race when Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull crashed out under the floodlights of the Lusail International Circuit.

Verstappen has failed to win just three of the 16 rounds so far this season, and he became the first driver in history to win 10 consecutive races following a remarkable unbeaten streak from the opening weekend of May in Miami to the Italian Grand Prix on September 3.

Verstappen’s title parade will start here at 8pm local time (6pm BST) when the lights go out on Sunday’s 57-lap Grand Prix.

“This championship is the best one,” said Verstappen. “The first one was the most emotional because that is when my dreams were fulfilled. But this has been my best year in terms of performance.

“I am the most proud of this one because of how consistent I have been. I will have quite a few sparkling waters tonight, but I will be here tomorrow.”

Verstappen’s championship-winning campaign has been one largely led from the front but the Dutchman dropped from third to fifth at the end of the opening lap of Saturday’s sprint race.

After being usurped by Mercedes’ George Russell and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc off the line, Verstappen momentarily got out of shape at the opening right-hander, with Fernando Alonso nibbling at the back of his machine.

Verstappen survived, and then slung his Red Bull underneath Lando Norris for fifth. Two safety cars followed as Liam Lawson and Logan Sargeant beached their respective cars and Verstappen – on the slower, but more durable, medium rubber – set about his comeback.

First to be swatted aside was Leclerc on the main straight on lap nine, with Sainz the Dutchman’s next victim on the following lap.

On lap 11, the championship was officially over. Esteban Ocon attempted to overtake Nico Hulkenberg on the inside of the second corner, and with Perez to the right of the Haas driver, Ocon lost control of his Alpine and took the Red Bull with him. It summed up the Mexican’s woefully disappointing campaign.

Perez shared two wins apiece with Verstappen from the opening four fixtures but his demise has been dramatic. He is 177 points – the equivalent of more than seven victories – behind the man driving identical machinery.

On lap 16, Verstappen eased past Russell with Oscar Piastri 2.6 seconds up the road. However, the impressive McLaren rookie could not be caught as he claimed his first win in F1. It did not matter for Verstappen who could celebrate becoming just the 11th driver to win the title on more than two occasions.

“Max, you are a three-time world champion,” roared Red Bull’s jubilant team principal Christian Horner over the radio. “That is unbelievable. It has been an incredible year for you.”

Verstappen, who starts on pole on Sunday, could claim the 49th win of his career with only Hamilton (103 victories), Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51) ahead of him.

Verstappen turned 26 only last week, and the prospect of emulating the seven championships shared by Hamilton and Schumacher is surely possible.

“I am enjoying the moment and hopefully we will keep this momentum going for a while,” said Verstappen, whose deal with Red Bull runs until 2028.

“It is different to other sports where you can set out targets and if I keep in good shape then these things are possible.

“But in F1 it doesn’t always work like that. It depends on the package. I have quite a few more years in me to operate at my best but we will see how long that is. It is more about how long I want to be here.

“I live in the moment and I have achieved way more than I ever thought was possible.”

Max Verstappen clinched the Formula One world drivers’ title after finishing second in the sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the Dutchman’s season and overall record in numbers.

3 – Verstappen has wrapped up his third world title.

11 – he is the 11th driver to win the title three times or more, and only the fifth to do so in successive years.

10 – along the way Verstappen produced a record-breaking run of 10 consecutive race wins, from the Miami Grand Prix in May to September’s Italian GP.

13 – his overall win tally this season, from 16 races. He has finished second twice, and fifth in Singapore.

407 – Verstappen’s points tally.

184 – lead over second-placed Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

10 – pole positions.

7 – fastest laps.

2 – sprint race wins.

48 – Verstappen’s career win total ranks fifth in F1 history. He has the chance to climb to fourth or even third by the end of the season, with Alain Prost winning 51 races and Sebastian Vettel 53.

6 – clinching the title in the Qatar sprint race means Verstappen did so with six grands prix remaining, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record from 2002.

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