Max Verstappen might have looked as cool and collected as ever in the cockpit of the Red Bull in tonight's Qatar Grand Prix, but he admitted that it had been one of the toughest races races he'd ever driven.
Starting from pole, Verstappen ensured he stayed in the lead into turn 1 and after that was able to control proceedings to perfection to secure his 49th GP victory in 180 starts, and his first as a three-time champion.
The only glitch in the entire race was when he suffered a stick front left tyre at his final pit stop, cutting his lead over McLaren's Oscar Piastri to three seconds. But that was still enough to hand him victory.
“I think what made the race was my first stint,” he told the media in parc ferme after the finish. “After that I could just manage my pace, making sure that the tyre was always in a good window.
“But the McLarens were quick again today, I had to push for it," he acknowledged. "It was definitely a tough race out there.”
Asked if it was among the toughest races of his career due to the stifling high humidity at Lusail, Verstappen replied: "One of. In the top five, probably. I am already sweating quite a bit."
Piastri said it was certainly the hardest race he'd experienced in his career to date. Fernando Alonso reported a hot race seat, while George Russell and Lando Norris both kept opening their visors to get cool air inside their helmets.
Worst affected was Logan Sargeant, who was forced to retire on lap 40 after suffering from dehydration. He looked unwell and unsteady on his feet as the Williams crew helped him out of the cockpit.
Today's race was complicated by Pirelli's decision to limit teams to using each set of tyres to just 18 laps after detective worrying signs of structural problems over previous days.
It meant a three stop race everyone bar Russell who was forced to pit at the end of lap 1 after colliding with his team mate Lewis Hamilton, with no one able to run a tyre strategy Hail Mary with an unorthodox tyre call.
Verstappen said he wasn't a fan of stint limits. “I prefer that we can just push as long as we can on a tyre, not forced pit stops," he said.
“We design cars to be good on tyres, but today we couldn’t optimise that fully - and that’s normally our strong point. But we’ll see what we can improve in the future.”