Verstappen faces big test to continue record run
Marina Bay is not one of the 23 circuits where the champion has stood on top of the podium
Formula One leader Max Verstappen will have to win where he has never won before to continue his record run in Singapore this weekend.
Marina Bay is not one of the 23 circuits where Red Bull’s double world champion has stood on top of the podium and past performances give hope to rivals eager to end his domination.
Verstappen is on an unprecedented 10-race winning streak but in 2022 finished seventh on the streets of Singapore, while Mexican teammate Sergio Perez triumphed ahead of the two Ferrari drivers.
“Singapore is probably going to be the most challenging weekend out of the upcoming races as the stakes are heightened on a street circuit and the field is usually very close, not to mention the heat and humidity,” Verstappen said.
“Last year we had a very unlucky weekend, hopefully this year it will go a bit better.”
Perez can celebrate his 250th F1 start on Sunday by reducing Verstappen’s 145-point lead with eight rounds remaining at a circuit where passing is tricky, the walls are unforgiving and safety cars are frequently deployed.
Qualifying is crucial and the weather reports also point to some rain.
Red Bull, winners of every race in 2023, can mathematically clinch the constructors’ crown if they finish one-two and Mercedes fail to score, a scenario that looks unlikely but not impossible.
“It’s a street circuit, it’s one of the toughest on the calendar.
“We saw last year how perilous it can be so we’ll just do our best to keep this momentum running,” team boss Christian Horner said.
“There are so many elements — whether it’s reliability, luck, strategy, a pit stop, pace, weather.
“You’ve got to stay on top of your game. One day we’re going to get beaten, that’s inevitable.
“It’s just a question of when, and obviously we want to make the when as far away as we can.”
The track has been shortened and modified due to ongoing construction work, reduced from 23 corners to 19 with a longer straight that will make a quicker lap and faster race.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was on pole at the previous round in Monza, while teammate Charles Leclerc started on pole in Singapore in 2022 and they could be Red Bull’s closest challengers.
“Like all street circuits, the driver can really make a big difference here,” Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said.
“We have done plenty of preparation work in the simulator and now the key will be for Carlos and Charles to do as many laps as possible in free practise, to extract all the potential from the SF-23.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won four times in Singapore and the team are hopeful of a good result.
“The battle with our nearest competitors is incredibly close,” principal Toto Wolff said.
“It’s hard to predict just how the order will shake out each weekend.
“Nonetheless, we typically perform better on high downforce tracks, so we’re hopeful of a competitive showing.”
Aston Martin will also hope to challenge for the podium places.
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