No last-lap drama this time! Max Verstappen can be crowned F1’s earliest champion in 20 YEARS if cards fall his way in Singapore but he’ll need a favour from Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez to do it … how he can win his second title this weekend
- Singapore is the first chance for Max Verstappen to clinch a second world title
- If Verstappen pulls it off it will be earliest coronation in F1 in the past 20 years
- Michael Schumacher won the title with six races remaining in the 2022 season
- Verstappen needs a favour or two to do it – here are permutations in Singapore
A look through Formula One’s history books tells us that few manage to clinch the world title with much of the season left to spare.
And Verstappen needed every race, hell, every lap last season in his epic battle with Lewis Hamilton to clinch his maiden championship in the Abu Dhabi finale.
There will be no such drama this time around, no such controversy, as he has a chance to walk out of Singapore with the title sewn up with five races left on the calendar.
Max Verstappen has a chance to claim the earliest F1 championship in the last 20 years
To do so he needs disappointing displays from Charles Leclerc (left) and Sergio Perez (right)
Singapore, Japan, United States, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi remain outstanding in the 2022 calendar and such has been his dominance to this point, Verstappen heads to the Marina Bay Circuit for the first time in three years with a shot at glory.
As things stand four drivers mathematically speaking remain in contention for the world title: Verstappen, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ George Russell.
Verstappen holds a 116-point lead over Leclerc, a 125-point lead over Perez and a 132-point lead over Russell.
Michael Schumacher (left) famously clinched his title in 2002 with six races remaining
There is an inevitability that Verstappen will coast his way to world title No 2 but if he can pull it off – albeit against the odds – in Singapore, it would be the earliest finish to a season in 20 years.
Back in 2002, when there were just 17 races compared to the 22 now on the calendar, it was Michael Schumacher making history.
The iconic German driver wrapped his title up that season in July with six races still remaining. To this day it is a record that hasn’t been beaten.
But Verstappen is closer than most and would equal Nigel Mansell’s record of winning with five races remaining after the Brit’s success back in 1992.
To clinch the title it in Singapore, Verstappen:
- Must win the race with a fastest lap (26 points), have Leclerc finish eighth (four points) or lower and team-mate Perez finish fourth (12 points) or lower
- Alternatively, he wins the race without a fastest lap (25 points), Leclerc finishes ninth (two points) or lower and Perez ranks fourth (12 points) or lower without claiming the fastest lap; Perez finishing fifth with a fastest lap (11 points) would be enough for Verstappen’s title depending on Leclerc
Granted, the odds on sealing it this weekend are slim but not beyond the realms of possibility given reliability and strategy woes for Ferrari this season.
Take the first part, Verstappen winning the race, the one bit he can control.
Verstappen finds himself on a career-best winning streak of five consecutive wins right now following his success in Monza and while Red Bull’s car isn’t favoured around the Singapore circuit, nobody is betting against the quality of the Dutchman right now.
Onto Leclerc, a driver who has three DNFs to his record alone this season – coming in Spain, Azerbaijan and France.
It is a marked difference from the last-gasp controversy surrounding Verstappen’s first title – when he beat Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi on the last lap of racing
The Red Bull driver (middle) is cutting a much more relaxed figure as he arrives in Singapore
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 335
2 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 219
3 Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 210
4 George Russell (Mercedes) 203
5 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 187
6 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 168
7 Lando Norris (McLaren) 88
8 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 66
9 Fernando Alonso (Alpine) 59
10 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) 46
11 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 22
12 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 22
13 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) 20
14 Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 19
15 Mick Schumacher (Haas) 12
16 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 11
17 Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) 6
18 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) 5
19 Alex Albon (Williams) 4
20 Nick de Vries (Mercedes) 2
21 Nicholas Latifi (Williams) 0
22 Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) 0
Ferrari have conceded a number of races this season from bungled strategy or reliability issues and Leclerc making it from one flag to another is by no means a guarantee.
What feels more of a guarantee is that if he does reach the finish line, he has never once ended up outside the top six this season when doing so.
He holds too much of a pace advantage over the likes of Alpine, AlphaTauri, McLaren and others in the midfield pack and Verstappen could do with chaos behind him if he can get his nose in front, as it so often manages to do.
‘The car was very overweight,’ he moaned after winning in Monza – not that it held him back.
‘It was overweight in the wrong place of the car as well, so that’s why it was just understeering a lot more and prone to front [brake] locking.
‘I don’t think it will be a problem in Singapore but maybe we encounter different kinds of things.
‘We haven’t been there in a while. It’s normally quite a bumpy track, so we just need to work on the set-up, see how these cars react to the bumps and try to go as fast as possible.’
Qualifying is always important but particularly so in Marina Bay, where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
Leclerc has qualified on pole eight times in 16 races this year and if the Monegasque driver can make it nine poles in 2022, Verstappen’s hopes may already have to roll over to Japan in Suzuka next week.
But an exclusive club awaits, only 16 drivers in the history of the sport have won two or more F1 world championships.
Along with seven-time champions Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, there is five-time victor Juan Manuel Fangio, four-time champions Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel and three-time winners Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
If and when Verstappen clinches the 2022 crown he will join British drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark, as well as Alberto Ascari, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mika Häkkinen and Fernando Alonso as multiple-time F1 champion.
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