Treacherous Singapore may just thwart Verstappen

Henry

Max Verstappen faces a challenging test when he tries to achieve an eleventh consecutive victory through the unpredictable streets of Singapore on Sunday.

The Red Bull racer’s third world championship title is already in the bag, so to speak, but the Dutchman has never crossed the finish line first in Singapore.

In addition to the tropical storms, fierce humidity and concrete barriers, safety cars and red flags will probably play a big role in this race. Rain is already forecast for the weekend.

Verstappen started in eighth place in Singapore last year and was even in last place at one stage. Thanks to several safety cars and virtual safety cars, he finally finished in seventh place.

At the time, Verstappen said after the race that his races were “very sloppy”.

However, his team-mate, Sergio Perez, kept his head and passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc shortly after the start and raced across the finish line first.

This year, Verstappen is 145 points ahead of Perez in the battle for the championship title and he can already take that title even before the season ends.

Mercedes is second in the manufacturers’ standings, but well behind Red Bull, who have led the way so far.

Mercedes’ team boss, Toto Wolff, believes that Red Bull will win all 22 races of the season.

“I think they have to screw it up for themselves,” Wolff said after Verstappen’s tenth consecutive win at Monza.

‘Some of the hardest’

Should Red Bull win all 22 races, this manufacturer will break Mercedes’ record, which was set in 2016 after Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton won 19 out of the 21 races together. Red Bull has won 14 of this year’s races so far.

However, Red Bull’s team boss, Christian Horner, warns that this week’s race could put a dent in their perfect season.

“It is a street track and one of the most difficult races on the calendar. We saw last year how dire the conditions can be,” he said.

“We will just do our best to maintain the momentum.

“Someday someone else is going to win. It’s just a matter of when. We just need to make sure that the ‘when’ is as far away as possible.

“I think every weekend that passes, there are more expectations to maintain this fantastic streak.”

Does Mercedes stand a chance?

The rounds at Singapore are expected to go by much faster than previous years, as there is construction work near the city center where the race usually takes place. This means that four 90˚ turns at the end of the race have been completely removed.

There are now 19 laps instead of the usual 22, which will make each lap nearly eight seconds faster than usual.

Teams believe this will bring a new element of uncertainty, as there is less time to decide whether a pit stop is necessary to put on new tires when safety cars will surely appear during the race.

Wolff believes Mercedes has the best chance of stopping Red Bull’s momentum in Singapore where the racers’ position is more important than speed.

“It is important to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes.”