Of course, Max Verstappen knows that after an almost perfect season so far, he no longer has to stress himself. "Of course it would be nice to become world champion in Singapore, but I don't want to think too much about the world title," said the Formula 1 dominator before his chance for the title in Asia.
If the Red Bull star from the Netherlands wins on Sunday (2 p.m. / Sky) in the sweaty night on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and also fails the competition, the earliest title win in the racing series in 20 years is perfect. The five remaining runs would only be the freestyle.
Verstappen: "I don't feel any pressure"
"I let it all come to me, I don't feel any pressure," said Verstappen. Eleven victories in 16 races and the knowledge of his strong car ensure composure. The world champion won five times in a row, increasing the gap to world championship pursuer Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari to 116 points. If the 25-year-old is 138 points ahead after the Sauna Grand Prix in extremely high humidity and temperatures of around 30 degrees, the World Cup crown can no longer be taken away from him. However, a win for him is a must, otherwise the decision will be postponed to next Sunday in Suzuka, Japan.
That Verstappen still fails is considered impossible. "What he did was very impressive. He had a difficult start and then quickly turned it around," said Mick Schumacher about Verstappen's year to date. At the beginning Ferrari was even stronger, Charles Leclerc initially took the lead in the overall classification. "We had problems in the first races and the team had to react very quickly," said Verstappen, adding with satisfaction: "We did it." Red Bull got "the maximum" from most races, while Ferrari in particular made many mistakes and was unable to take advantage of the initially strongest car.
"I think it's part of this team's recipe for success that we always ask ourselves the question, even when we're successful: What can we do better?" said Verstappen. He didn't want to look ahead to the coming season, all concentration was on an optimal race in Singapore. However, competitor Esteban Ocon praised: "He's better than ever this year." That's why Verstappen is deservedly at the top with so much distance.
However, the ambitious driver has never won on the spectacular street circuit not far from the equator. In the past two years, the Grand Prix has been canceled due to the corona pandemic, Sebastian Vettel won for Ferrari at the last event in 2019, but should not have a chance this year.
Verstappen was strong again at the start on Friday, but surprisingly had to admit defeat in the first practice session, 0.084 seconds behind, record world champion Lewis Hamilton. Main competitor Leclerc initially had problems with the brakes, but was still third. The Red Bull, on the other hand, once again ran as if on rails between the narrow concrete walls as darkness set in.
You could often get that impression this year anyway: Verstappen seemed more solid than when he won the number one title last year. It was only in the very last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi that he made his childhood dream come true and dethroned Hamilton. The Brit would have liked to fight Verstappen again, but for the first time after years of dominance he had no chance in his Mercedes and is only sixth in the World Championship.
Hamilton wants "more excitement"
For the future, the 37-year-old wishes for more excitement. Because an early title win for Verstappen is bad for Formula 1 as a whole. "It's never great when a season is over so quickly," said the Silver Arrow star: "It's great for you as this one person, but for the sport it's not a good thing."
Despite the upcoming title drive, things could still get uncomfortable for Verstappen in the coming weeks. According to a media report, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel's racing team Aston Martin exceeded the prescribed cost limits last season. As the trade magazine "Auto, Motor und Sport" reported, this was the result of a cost cap review by the world motorsport association Fia. Neither team has commented on the rumors so far. In the coming week, the Fia is to make the results of the review public, after which penalties may also apply.