Max Verstappen clinched his third consecutive world title on Saturday when he finished second behind rookie Oscar Piastri in an incident-filled sprint race at the Qatar Grand Prix, describing his success as “fantastic”.
It was a fine maiden Formula One victory for Australian 22-year-old Piastri, but his feat was overshadowed by Verstappen’s achievement, the Dutchman having required only three points to take the title.
His only rival and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was involved in a collision and retired, making him the first “Saturday champion” since Nelson Piquet, father of his girlfriend Kelly, in South Africa in 1983.
“I don’t know what to say. Incredible year. Thank you for providing me with such a car. It has been a pleasure so far this year,” 26-year-old Verstappen told his team over the car radio.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner described the Dutchman as “phenomenal” and “out of this world”.
Piastri’s win was McLaren’s first since Daniel Ricciardo triumphed for them at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix and it was only the second time this season that Red Bull had been defeated.
Verstappen won the title with six races remaining in the season, the greatest margin since 2002 when Michael Schumacher was champion for Ferrari.
His title win enabled him to join a rare club for three-time champions alongside Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart – and an even more elite group of those to have won three in a row, Juan Manuel Fangio, Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
“This has been a fantastic feeling and it has been a fantastic year. We have had some great races and I am super proud of the team job and it is so enjoyable to be a part of this group of people. To win three times is incredible,” added Verstappen.
He said that he had no records in sight as targets, but wanted to continue racing and winning.
“We’ll keep on pushing and doing the best we can.”
Verstappen, who will start Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix from pole position, has an unassailable 184-point lead with six races left in the season.
Piastri said: “I am very happy but that was a stressful race. We did a great job.”
His McLaren team-mate Lando Norris came home third ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and Hamilton with the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sixth and seventh.
Alex Albon of Williams was eighth, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin ninth and Pierre Gasly of Alpine 10th.
After a sweltering day, the sprint race started in warm conditions under floodlights at the Lusail International Circuit, Piastri making an excellent start to pull clear as team-mate Norris was engaged by a cluster of skirmishes behind him.
Norris dropped from second to sixth while Russell went through to second ahead of the two Ferraris with Verstappen fifth before Liam Lawson ran off-track in a cloud of dust, prompting a safety car intervention.
On re-start, a fiery Alonso pressurised Norris in a wheel-to-wheel battle while Piastri ran wide and allowed Russell through to lead. Logan Sargeant then spun off in his Williams to bring another safety car interval.
Piastri had chosen medium compound tyres while Russell, Sainz and Leclerc were all on softs, giving them an early advantage in grip.
Verstappen, in fifth as the safety car led into lap six of the 19-lap race, was comfortable in the knowledge that he was on course to clinch his third title by finishing in the top six.
As lap seven began and the safety car went in, Russell stormed into a 1.4 seconds lead ahead of Piastri, who was fending off attacks from Sainz, hoping that his medium tyres would prove more durable in the closing stages.
Perez and Verstappen then began to show Red Bull’s speed, the Mexican moving up to 10th by passing Pierre Gasly and the Dutchman sweeping past both Ferraris in succession on the straight to take third.
On lap 10, Piastri regained the lead, blasting past Russell on the straight while Norris overtook Leclerc for fifth as Perez was entangled in a collision with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg, the Mexican spinning across the gravel and out of the race.
Perez was unable to score points and effectively ended his last mathematical hopes for the title, as another safety car intervention began, Verstappen being assured of his third crown.
As the racing re-started, on lap 16, it was clear the Dutchman had no intention of taking a third title without a win as he passed Russell down the inside of Turn One to take second and begin his pursuit of Piastri.
Shadab Khan provides an update on his injury
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan suffered an unexpected injury during National T20 Cup match between Rawalpindi and Sialkot in Karachi on Sunday.
The incident took place as Shadab was fielding during the match, having bowled two economical overs. The unfortunate mishap occurred when the ball unexpectedly rose above his foot, resulting in a sudden and painful ankle twist.
The video footage of Shadab being carried off the field piggyback style by a teammate went viral on social media, raising concerns about the severity of the injury.
نیشنل T20 کرکٹر شادب خان انجری کا شکار شاداب کو کندھوں پر اٹھاکر ڈرینسنگ روم منتقل کیا گیا راولپنڈی کی کپتان سیالکوٹ کے خلاف میچ کھیلتے ہوئے پائوں کی انجری کا شکار ہوئے @76Shadabkhan @TheRealPCB #shadabkhan #IslamabadUnited pic.twitter.com/mEnGqmayi2
— KHIZAR AZAM (@KHIZARAZAM) December 3, 2023
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab recounted the incident and explained the severity of the pain that left him incapacitated for a few minutes, making it difficult for him to comprehend the extent of the injury and eventually he had to seek assistance.
“When the ball came above my foot, I had an ankle twist. When the ankle twisted, I couldn’t even comprehend it for 2-3 minutes because the pain was severe. Then I tried to walk to the sidelines. The boundary on the side was a bit short, so I walked out there, but after that, I didn’t have the courage to continue walking. Then there was a guy there, so I thought of somehow making it to the dressing room,” Shadab said.
Fortunately, Shadab provided a glimmer of optimism when discussing his current status of his fitness.
“Now the fitness is improving. The injury is not too major. The report has come, but the doctors haven’t told me how much time it will take. As soon as they tell, the rehab will start according to their instructions.” he further added.
Shadab highlighted the proactive approach being taken to ensure effective rehabilitation process ahead of Pakistan’s T20I series against New Zealand in January.
“The injury doesn’t seem too prolonged. The physios will assess it and plan accordingly for the New Zealand series.” he concluded.
Shadab Khan opens up about Babar Azam’s resignation from captaincy
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan, has expressed his perspective on Babar Azam’s recent choice to relinquish the captaincy across all formats of the national cricket team.
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab conveyed his admiration for Babar’s decision and conveyed his heartfelt best wishes.
The leg-spinner also shared positive sentiments regarding the newly appointed T20I captain for the national side, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“Look, everyone has their own decision, and Babar has stepped down. We send him our best wishes. We’ve had a great time with him as the captain for Pakistan. Now, Shaheen has taken on the role, and we’re excited about it. We’ve witnessed his [Shaheen’s] captaincy in the PSL, and it feels great. Let’s see how it goes playing under his captaincy for the first time; it will give an idea of how much fun it is, and I am very excited to play under Shaheen’s captaincy,” Shadab said.
On November 15th, Babar relinquished his captaincy following a meeting with Zaka Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee.
After stepping down, Shan Masood was appointed as the Test captain of the Pakistan Men’s Cricket Team, and Shaheen Shah Afridi was named as the T20I captain by the PCB.
Shaheen’s first task as the T20I captain for the Men in Green side will be leading the team against New Zealand in a five-match T20 series scheduled to take place from January 12 to January 21, 2024.
Pakistan vs New Zealand T20I series schedule:
- January 12: New Zealand vs Pakistan – First T20I in Auckland
- January 14: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Second T20I in Hamilton
- January 17: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Third T20I in Dunedin
- January 19: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fourth T20I in Christchurch
- January 21: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fifth T20I in Christchurch
Messi’s Argentina to face Chile in Copa America
Lionel Messi and Argentina will get the chance to avenge their defeats to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals after being grouped with their old rivals in the draw for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
Reigning Copa America champions Argentina will defend their title in the United States next summer in an expanded 16-team tournament which features 10 South American teams and six qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.
Argentina, winners of last year’s World Cup, will kick off the tournament on June 20 in Atlanta against either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago, who meet in a playoff next year to determine one of two remaining CONCACAF slots.
The Argentines will then face Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 in a repeat of the 2016 Copa America Centenario final held at the same venue.
Argentina, beaten by Chile in Santiago on penalties a year earlier in 2015, also lost the 2016 final on spot-kicks, with Messi blazing his penalty over the bar.
The Argentine captain later announced a short-lived retirement from international football after the defeat, before reversing the move and continuing his career.
The world champions will wrap up their Group A campaign in familiar territory for Inter Miami’ Messi, facing Peru in Miami on June 29 in their final first-round game.
Elsewhere, Mexico were drawn in a Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the United States face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C.
Five-time world champions Brazil, beaten in the 2021 final on home soil by Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, have a potentially tricky group containing Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Next year’s Copa America is being seen as an effective test run for the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said at Thursday’s draw that the tournament would be a “Copa America of the World.”
“The world champion team (Argentina), the only five-time world champion team (Brazil), the first world champion team (Uruguay) will take part, along with the best players in the world, who are Latin Americans,” Dominguez said.
Brazil open their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the futuristic home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, against either Costa Rica or Honduras on June 24.
They face Paraguay in Las Vegas on June 28 before concluding their group play against Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
A total of 14 stadiums will be used for the tournament, most of them large capacity venues that belong to NFL teams.
If Argentina win Group A, they will face the runner-up from Group B in the quarter-finals on July 4 at Houston’s NRG Stadium – where they defeated the United States in the semi-final in 2016.
The Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys will host another quarter-final on July 5, with Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, rounding out the last eight venues.
The semi-finals will take place at East Rutherford on July 9, and in Charlotte on July 10, with the final taking place at Miami on July 14.
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