Max Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore | Racing News

SINGAPORE: Domination of Red Bull Max Verstappen can clinch a second world championship when the Singapore Grand Prix returns this weekend after a three-year absence due to Covid.
The flying Dutchman has a mathematical chance of sealing back-to-back world titles under the lights around the spectacular and demanding Marina Bay street circuit.
To do that, the 24-year-old needs to win the race – something he’s never done in Singapore – and needs his closest rivals to falter badly.
If that doesn’t happen, the championship fight will move on to the Japanese Grand Prix a week later. It looks like a case of when, not if.
“You need a bit of luck for that too,” Verstappen told Sky Sports of retaining his crown in Singapore.
“I do not think about it.”
Verstappen opened a 116-point lead in the drivers’ standings over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after his victory at the Italian Grand Prix. He is 125 points ahead of 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 to go – the first championship win since Michael Schumacher’s 2002 win 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 equal the mark of 13 in a single season jointly held by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).
“I want to go to Singapore and try to win this race as well,” Verstappen said.
“We’re having a great season so we should really try to enjoy it and enjoy the moment.”
To claim the title this weekend, he must win the race with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth – depending on who claims the extra point for fastest lap – and Perez outside the podium places.
Everything will depend on Saturday night’s qualification for a Grand Prix which has been won seven times from pole position in its last 11 races.
Night racing around the narrow track offers few overtaking opportunities and the sweltering heat and humidity provide a test of endurance and reliability as much as driving ability.
Singapore’s weather always carries the threat of rain-induced chaos, as happened in 2017, when Vettel and Verstappen started in the front row only to crash before the first corner.
Red Bull also look certain to wrap up the Constructors’ Championship – although they won’t do so in Singapore – but the race for second place is still on, with Mercedes banking on a late-season revival to overtake Ferrari.
The constant George Russell is still in mathematical contention for the drivers’ crown in his first Mercedes season, although a Verstappen win would end his hopes.
But the Silver Arrows are pushing hard 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 was cautious about the pair’s chances of ending the team’s winning drought in 2022.
“Singapore could be interesting,” Russell said.
“But historically it’s a circuit where Mercedes has struggled a bit.”
Ferrari were buoyed by Leclerc’s second-place finish at their home race at Monza two weeks ago and can attack Singapore with more confidence.
“I think we have taken a step ahead,” said team principal Mattia Binotto.
Carlos Sainz raced through the field to finish fourth for Ferrari in Italy, with his charge for a podium place scuttled only by a late safety car.
“It’s also clear if you look at the other cars behind us, we’ve got a head start,” Binotto said.
It will be Singapore’s first Grand Prix since the pandemic and there are signs the city-state is relishing the comeback.
Authorities have not released exact figures, but ticket sales have already topped 2019, they say.

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