Singapore GP: Epic F1 race returns as Max Verstappen gets title chance, Mercedes target first win
Max Verstappen has a chance to seal the earliest title finish since 2002 this weekend in Singapore, but are Ferrari and Mercedes back in the hunt in returning night race? Watch whole weekend live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday's race at 1pm
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 26/09/22 9:56pm
One of Formula 1's most spectacular races makes its much-anticipated return this weekend with big title ramifications, as Max Verstappen looks to wrap up the 2022 drivers' crown at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The night race at Marina Bay, extremely demanding due to the heat and street circuit layout, is the first since 2019 after two years off the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and its return is all live on Sky Sports F1.
Qualifying is live on Saturday at 2pm, with Sunday's race at 1pm.
Verstappen will garner much of the attention, with a scintillating run of form having given the Red Bull driver the opportunity to seal his second title in as many years, and the earliest coronation in two decades.
To do so, Verstappen must outscore Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by 22 points, team-mate Sergio Perez by nine, and Mercedes' George Russell by six.
That means the Dutchman needs to win his sixth race in a row, and then rely on misfortune for others, to wrap up the defence of the championship.
Verstappen's aim, Mercedes' hope as Singapore returns
While Ferrari and Leclerc were fast starters and credible title challengers early on this season, a mixture of team and driver blunders, and phenomenal pace from Red Bull and Verstappen, has seen the reigning champion take control of the 2022 campaign. And the numbers are already incredible.
Verstappen is on a career-best streak of five straight victories and in fact has won 11 of the 16 races - which eclipses his total from last season's title triumph and gives him a great chance of an F1 record.
Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) hold the record for most wins in a single season with 13, meaning Verstappen can beat them by winning half of this year's remaining races.
His first chance comes in Singapore.
"I need a bit of luck for that!" admitted Verstappen to Sky Sports F1.
Admittedly, Verstappen has never won under the lights of Singapore and the track could also suit Ferrari, as well as Mercedes, more than the last of the European races.
"I don't think about it," added Verstappen. "I want to go to Singapore and try to win that race as well. We are having a great season, so we should really try and appreciate it and enjoy the moment."
Ferrari and Mercedes, by their own admission, are starting to turn their attention to 2023 and a crucial off-season as they look to match Red Bull's car, although the latter are still desperate for that first victory of the year.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton looked particularly fast in Silverstone, Hungary and the Netherlands, and Singapore is a similarly high-downforce circuit, with 23 corners surrounded by tight, narrow walls. It is a long, gruelling race - but Mercedes are more confident than usual.
"On the simulations it says it should be one of our better tracks," said team boss Toto Wolff. "But I'm trying to stay on the careful side with any predictions."
Russell, meanwhile, stated: "I think, on paper, Singapore should suit our car - but when we look back at the street circuits of Monaco and Azerbaijan, our car doesn't fare too well over the bumps.
"So, we're not too sure how it will fall out. But we need to keep on pushing, keep on improving the car and I'm pleased that we've got a clear direction we need to go now."
How Verstappen can win the title in Singapore
Verstappen is 116 points clear of his previously close title rival Leclerc, while his team-mate Perez is nine points further back. Russell is the only other driver in mathematical contention for the title.
There will be five races remaining after Singapore and a maximum of 138 points available - 26 for a race win with a fastest lap and eight extra for the Sprint race at the penultimate Brazilian GP.
That means Verstappen can win the title in Singapore if...
- He wins the race with a fastest lap (26 points) and Leclerc finishes eighth (4 points) or lower and Perez finishes fourth (12 points) or lower
- He wins the race without a fastest lap (25 points) and Leclerc finishes ninth (2 points) or lower and Perez finishes fourth or lower without a fastest lap (12 points) or fifth with a fastest lap (11 points)
The F1 drivers' title has only ever been won with five races remaining on two previous occasions.
Michael Schumacher holds the record, clinching his fifth crown with six races left in the 2002 season, while Nigel Mansell won his championship a decade earlier with five rounds still to go.
Verstappen has a chance to join Mansell, although a coronation at the Japanese GP the following week appears more likely - and only two drivers (Schumacher, 2001 & 2004, Sebastian Vettel, 2011) have won the championship with four races remaining.
Sky Sports F1's live Singapore GP schedule
Thursday, September 29
12pm: Drivers' Press Conference
Friday, September 30
10.30am: Singapore GP Practice One (session starts 11am)
1.45pm: Singapore GP Practice Two (session starts 2pm)
3.15pm: Singapore GP: The F1 Show
Saturday, October 1
9.35am: W Series Qualifying
10.45am: Singapore GP Practice Three (session starts 11am)
1pm: Singapore GP Qualifying Build-up
2pm: SINGAPORE GP QUALIFYING
3.45pm: Ted's Qualifying Notebook
Sunday, October 2
9.35am: W Series Race
11.30am: Singapore GP Build-up: Grand Prix Sunday
1pm: THE SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX
3pm: Singapore GP Reaction: Chequered Flag
4pm: Ted's Notebook
5pm: Singapore GP Highlights