The lone remaining driver other than Max Verstappen in Formula 1 world championship contention is Sergio Perez, and he can be eliminated in Qatar.
The 2023 Formula 1 world championship battle is all over but the formalities at this point, and in this Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix at Lusail International Circuit, those also have a great chance to be signed, sealed, and delivered as well.
In the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, two of the three drivers who still mathematically had a chance to beat two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen to this year’s title were eliminated.
The eliminations of those two drivers, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, left Red Bull’s Sergio Perez as the only driver still mathematically eligible to stop Verstappen from winning a third straight world championship.
Now Sergio Perez is facing elimination from 2023 Formula 1 world championship contention in the Qatar Grand Prix.
Following his own retirement and his teammate’s win in Japan, Perez is set to enter this 57-lap race around the 16-turn, 3.343-mile (5.381-kilometer) road course in Lusail, Al Daayen, Qatar sitting 177 points behind Verstappen in the driver standings, and there are 180 points still on the table for each driver.
Race wins pay 25 points, and there are six races remaining on this year’s 22-race calendar. The driver who records the fastest lap in each race scores an additional point, provided he finishes in the top 10, so 156 points are available in the Grands Prix themselves.
The other 24 points come from the sprint races, as eight points go to the winner. In addition to this weekend’s sprint race, two more are scheduled before the end of the season ahead of the United States Grand Prix and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
With 34 points on offer this weekend, there will be 146 points on the table once it concludes. Given the fact that Verstappen has already secured the tiebreaker over Perez due to having more wins (13-2), Perez must remain within 145 points of his teammate following the Qatar Grand Prix to remain eligible to win the title.
This means he must outscore the 25-year-old Dutchman by 32 points over the course of the weekend, something he has never done in a single weekend before. He has beaten him twice in 16 races this season, but he only outscored him by a combined 15 points during those weekends.
Verstappen has a good chance to clinch his third world championship in a row in Saturday’s sprint race, which would be unconventional to say the least. By scoring three points with a sixth place finish in this event, he will clinch the title no matter what else happens throughout the rest of the season.
Verstappen would tie Michael Schumacher’s 2002 record of clinching the championship with six races remaining if he is able to secure it before the Qatar Grand Prix itself, though Schumacher did it after race 11 of a 17-race schedule and without sprint races. The points format was also much different 21 years ago than it is today.
Tune in to ESPNEWS at 1:25 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 7 for the live broadcast of the sprint race from Lusail International Circuit, and tune in to ESPN2 at 12:55 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 8 for the live broadcast of the Qatar Grand Prix. If you have not yet started a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!