Only a spectacular race to catch up and serious mistakes by the competition can help Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen to win the title at the Singapore Grand Prix early on after a bitter tank breakdown. On Sunday (2 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker), the Dutchman only starts from eighth place on the grid in the Grand Prix, which gives the 25-year-old the first chance to win the World Cup again. Main competitor Charles Leclerc secured a razor-thin pole position on Saturday and is allowed to start from the front for the ninth time this season.
“I am very happy with today's result. We had some problems, but recovered well from them," said Ferrari's Monegasse Leclerc: "If we do everything right, we can win here." A victory for the 24-year-old will probably only take the World Cup decision by a week postpone, Verstappen's lead is already too big six World Championship races before the end of the season.
In fact, everything was looking like a better result for Verstappen until he suddenly turned into the pits on his last fast lap. The team radio could be heard: "Box, Max. Box, Box, Box, Box." Verstappen barked into the helmet microphone: "Why? what the fuck why What the fuck! What the fuck! What the fuck are you saying? Incredible dude. I can not believe it. What the fuck is that?
The reason for this was not enough fuel in the tank. In a discussion at Red Bull, they "overlooked that we only refueled for five laps, which is why we had to stop the last lap," said motorsport consultant Helmut Marko. Verstappen was therefore "incredibly frustrated": "Something like that shouldn't happen, I'm not happy at all. You learn from it, but that's not acceptable.” In the race, it will now be “very difficult” due to a lack of overtaking opportunities.
Leclerc landed in the Red Bull in 1:49.412 minutes, just 0.022 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez. Third-placed record world champion Lewis Hamilton was also close to his first pole position of the season, just 0.054 seconds behind. "I put so much pressure and was so close," said Hamilton, who was cheered the loudest by the fans in the stands: "It was difficult to get the perfect lap. But I'm grateful to be on the second row." Leclerc was also satisfied after mixed training sessions: "We thought we wouldn't get pole, but then it was enough. We had some problems but recovered well from them.”
The five-time Singapore winner Sebastian Vettel drove his Aston Martin under floodlights in 14th place at night. The 35-year-old Hesse had won the last event in 2019, in the past two years the Grand Prix was canceled due to the corona pandemic been. For Vettel, it will be the last World Championship race on one of his favorite tracks before he retires in November. Compatriot Mick Schumacher, who is still fighting for a contract for the coming season, had to settle for 13th place in the Haas racing car in the Far East. For championship points, the 23-year-old has to improve significantly.
After a three-year break from the pandemic, Formula 1 is back in Singapore. Max Verstappen can already secure the world title in the famous night race - but a lot would have to fit for that. Meanwhile, Mick Schumacher is fighting for a new contract.
It had rained heavily in Singapore on Saturday afternoon, so it was not possible to drive in the first half hour of the final practice session. Even in the hunt for times three hours later, there were still some clearly wet spots on the asphalt. In the end, however, it was so dry that it was possible to drive with fast tyres.
If Verstappen wins on Sunday, he can complete his successful title defense early on and become world champion for the second time. However, he has to keep his main competitor Leclerc and his stable rival Sergio Perez at a distance. Before the 17th of 22 rounds of the season, Verstappen leads Leclerc with 116 points. After the Grand Prix, he would need a lead of 138 points to make the decision. Otherwise, the decision will be postponed to next week in Japan.