Max Verstappen said yesterday he thinks he is “quite a long shot” to retain his Formula One world championship at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, even though it is mathematically possible.
Red Bull driver Verstappen, who will celebrate his 25th birthday today, is running away with the title battle but must win Sunday’s race and then depend on his closest rivals faltering, or the fight will move on to Japan the following week.
“I don’t really think about the championship,” said the dominant Dutchman, who has won 11 of 16 races in 2022 and the last five in a row. “It’s quite a long shot and I just want to enjoy the weekend and of course try to win it,” he told reporters. “I need a lot of luck for it to happen here so I don’t really count on it.”
Verstappen admitted he knew the scenario required for him to secure back-to-back championships.
“I need to win and Checo (Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez) needs to finish fourth or lower and (Ferrari’s) Charles (Leclerc) eighth or lower.
“So I mean it’s a bit unrealistic for it to happen, so I don’t really think about it,” he said.
Verstappen said he was more concerned about the single-lap pace of the Red Bull at Singapore, where qualifying in pole position is crucial on a track where it is almost impossible to overtake. “We really need to focus over one lap. This year we’ve never really been incredible over one lap,” he said. We’ve always been good in the race but around here we know that one-lap performance is very important.” Verstappen has never won Singapore’s spectacular night race, which is returning to the calendar for the first time since 2019 because of Covid.
The nature of the city centre circuit and Singapore’s tropical heat and humidity means it is the most demanding venue on the calendar, both physically and mentally.
Every running of the Singapore Grand Prix has featured a safety car and the race requires huge powers of concentration.
There are no long straights to give drivers a breather and concrete walls line the bumpy tarmac ready to punish the slightest error.
“We haven’t been to Singapore for a while so it will be interesting to see how the track has evolved,” said Verstappen, who has a 116-point lead over Leclerc following his victory at the Italian Grand Prix three weeks ago.
He is 125 clear of third-placed Perez.
He needs to extend his lead to 138 points by Sunday’s chequered flag to secure the earliest championship win since Michael Schumacher won in 2002 with six GPs remaining.
Verstappen needs two more wins to equal the single-season mark of 13 jointly held by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).
“It will be nice if we get it,” said Verstappen. “But for me personally it’s not something.
“It’s nice what we’ve done the last few races but I don’t think about it any more.
“I’m just focusing on what we have to do here,” Verstappen said yesterday.
General view of the Mercedes crew and car in the pit lane ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix yesterday. (Reuters)