F1 returns to Singapore as Verstappen sets eyes on second world title

Red Bull's dominant Max Verstappen can claim a second Formula One world championship when the Singapore Grand Prix returns this weekend after a three-year absence due to COVID-19.

SINGAPORE — Red Bull’s dominant Max Verstappen can claim a second Formula One world championship when the Singapore Grand Prix returns this weekend after a three-year absence due to COVID-19.

The Flying Dutchman has a mathematical chance of winning back-to-back World Championship titles on the spectacular and challenging Marina Bay street circuit.

For that, the 24-year-old must win the race – something he never managed to do in Singapore – and shake his closest rivals hard.

Otherwise, the fight for the championship will resume a week later at the Japanese Grand Prix. Looks like when, not if.

“You also need a bit of luck for that,” Verstappen told Sky Sports in a bid to retain his crown in Singapore.

“I do not think about it.”

After winning the Italian Grand Prix, Verstappen extended a 116-point lead in the drivers’ standings over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. He has a 125-point lead over third-placed Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

He must extend his lead to 138 points by the checkered flag on Sunday to be crowned with five races remaining – the first championship win since Michael Schumacher in 2002 with six GPs remaining.

Monza was Verstappen’s 11th win in 16 races in a potentially record-breaking season.

He needs two more wins to reach the 13-season mark shared by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).

“I want to go to Singapore and try to win this race too,” Verstappen said.

“We’re having a great season so we should really try to enjoy it and enjoy the moment.”

To clinch the title this weekend he must win the race, with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth – depending on who gets the extra point for fastest lap – and Perez outside the podiums.

Everything will depend on Saturday evening’s qualification for a Grand Prix which has been won seven times from pole position in the last eleven rounds.

Night racing on the tight city circuit offers few overtaking opportunities and the sweltering heat and humidity will test endurance, reliability and driving skills.

Singapore’s weather always poses the risk of rain-induced chaos, as happened in 2017 when Vettel and Verstappen started from the front row to crash before the first corner.

MERCEDES CHASE FERRARI

Red Bull also look certain to win the Constructors’ Championship – although they won’t do so in Singapore – but the race for second place is still on as Mercedes bet on a season-ending revival to take the top spots and overtake the leader Ferrari.

The enduring George Russell is mathematically still in contention for the driver’s crown in his debut season at Mercedes, although a Verstappen victory dashed his hopes.

But the Silver Arrows are pushing and are 35 points behind Ferrari, which has suffered from a combination of reliability issues and strategic errors.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has won four times in Singapore, but Russell is wary of the pair’s chances of ending the team’s winning streak in 2022.

“Singapore could be interesting,” Russell said.

“But historically it’s a track where Mercedes struggled a bit.”

Buoyed by Leclerc’s second-place finish in their home race at Monza two weeks ago, Ferrari can attack Singapore with more confidence.

“I think we have taken a step forward,” said team boss Mattia Binotto.

Carlos Sainz stormed through the field to finish fourth for Ferrari in Italy, his podium attempt only thwarted by a late safety car.

“It’s also clear when you look at the other cars behind us that we have a head start,” Binotto said.

It will be Singapore’s first Grand Prix since the pandemic and there are signs the city-state is enjoying racing again.

Authorities have not released exact figures, but ticket sales have already topped 2019, they say.

  • AFP
RosGwen24 News
RosGwen24 News
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