Singapore:  Championship leader Max Verstappen could not hide his disappointment at finishing seventh in the Singapore Grand Prix after a white-knuckle drive in wet-dry conditions that saw him twice have to claw his way back into the top 10. The Dutchman blew out the candles on his 25th birthday cake on Friday and had been hoping to celebrate retaining his world championship two days later.
But after being under-fuelled in qualifying, the Red Bull driver started only eighth on the grid.
And after a poor start he was never in with a shout of the win that could have clinched the title had his rivals Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez faltered. Instead his teammate Perez drove a near-perfect race to lead every lap and hold off a challenge from Ferrari’s Leclerc whose teammate Carlos Sainz was third.
“It’s better than eighth but it’s not what I’m here for, not with a car like that,” lamented Verstappen. “It was just incredibly messy.”
Verstappen got a terrible start to lose five places on the first lap and found himself out of the points in 13th.
“I dropped the clutch and (had) anti-stall, so I need to analyse why that happened,” he explained. “From there onwards, I tried to pass a few people. Some worked but then you get stuck in a little bit of a train.”
After several safety car and virtual safety car periods on the treacherous track, Verstappen cut through the field to fifth before pitting for slick tyres as the surface dried out.
But at the next safety car restart Verstappen locked up trying to overtake Lando Norris and had to seek refuge in an escape road.
“We were in fifth and tried to go to fourth by passing Lando,” said Verstappen.
“But as soon as I got alongside him, I braked, not even late, but I bottomed out. “As soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and that was it, I just went straight on.”
Verstappen was forced to pit again to change his badly flat-spotted tyres and emerged in last place.
“I put new tyres on and had to come from last back into the points,” he said.
“It is not where we want to be. It’s just really frustrating.”
Verstappen scored six points to see his world championship lead cut to 104 points over Leclerc with five races remaining. Perez is two points further behind.
If Verstappen, who has won 11 of 17 races this season, can extend his lead to 112 points at next Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix he will be crowned back-to-back world champion with four races to spare. 
The Dutchman blew out the candles on his 25th birthday cake on Friday and had been hoping to celebrate retaining his world championship two days later.
But after being under-fuelled in qualifying, the Red Bull driver started only eighth on the grid.
And after a poor start he was never in with a shout of the win that could have clinched the title had his rivals Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez faltered. Instead his teammate Perez drove a near-perfect race to lead every lap and hold off a challenge from Ferrari’s Leclerc whose teammate Carlos Sainz was third.
“It’s better than eighth but it’s not what I’m here for, not with a car like that,” lamented Verstappen. “It was just incredibly messy.”
Verstappen got a terrible start to lose five places on the first lap and found himself out of the points in 13th.
“I dropped the clutch and (had) anti-stall, so I need to analyse why that happened,” he explained. “From there onwards, I tried to pass a few people. Some worked but then you get stuck in a little bit of a train.”
After several safety car and virtual safety car periods on the treacherous track, Verstappen cut through the field to fifth before pitting for slick tyres as the surface dried out.
But at the next safety car restart Verstappen locked up trying to overtake Lando Norris and had to seek refuge in an escape road.
“We were in fifth and tried to go to fourth by passing Lando,” said Verstappen.
“But as soon as I got alongside him, I braked, not even late, but I bottomed out. “As soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and that was it, I just went straight on.”
Verstappen was forced to pit again to change his badly flat-spotted tyres and emerged in last place.
“I put new tyres on and had to come from last back into the points,” he said.
“It is not where we want to be. It’s just really frustrating.”
Verstappen scored six points to see his world championship lead cut to 104 points over Leclerc with five races remaining. Perez is two points further behind.
If Verstappen, who has won 11 of 17 races this season, can extend his lead to 112 points at next Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix he will be crowned back-to-back world champion with four races to spare.