Singapore, Rome, London (15/9 – 18)
Max Verstappen faces a tough weekend ahead, in his attempt to extend his Formula 1 record string of wins, as the premiere class of motor racing takes over the streets of Singapore. Nevertheless, the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver looks unstoppable in this Formula 1 season. Last time out was the 3 September Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where the reigning double world champion broke the record of consecutive wins in one season.
Monza saw Verstappen surpassing the previous record of nine consecutive wins, set by Sebastian Vettel, his Red Bull Team predecessor, in the 2013 season. The Dutch driver now holds the record, with 10 consecutive Grand Prix wins in Miami, Monaco, Spain, Canada, Austria, Great Britain, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.
A win in Singapore would extend that record to Verstappen’s 11th straight victory. Still, there are storm clouds for the 25-year-old: Max Verstappen has never won the Singapore Grand Prix in his Formula 1 career. Marina Bay is one of seven tracks where Verstappen has not won in his career: his best result in that street circuit was a Second Place in 2018.
Last year, the Singapore GP was the race that interrupted Verstappen’s winning sequence, extending from the France GP to the Mexico City event. Already crowned World Champion by that time, Verstappen only managed to finish 7th at Marina Bay.
The fact is, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the toughest physical and mental tests Formula 1 drivers are put through in the entire season. Located just 150 miles from the equator, its heat and humidity, coupled with a bumpy, twisty street circuit, make it a very hard task for racing drivers.
Verstappen himself admitted that the Singapore GP is undoubtedly be more competitive than the ten previous races that he has won. The supreme advantage displayed by Red Bull’s RB19 at more conventional dedicated racing circuits will be notably absent in Singapore.
The champion conceded that Singapore’s “high-downforce” layout would favor Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin to get closer. “I think the street circuits are a little bit tougher for our car. I still think we can do a good job, but it will be very tight,” Verstappen said.
Another ominous factor is the number of serious risks faced in racing incidents at Marina Bay. So Verstappen expects a strong possibility that safety cars will interrupt the race pace, changing the situation in a short moment.
“Of course, naturally, I want to try and continue that streak, but I know that there will be a day that it will stop,” he said. “Normally, at street circuits, such as Singapore, there’s always a bit more of a risk, a bit more chaos, but we’re here to win and we’ll try to do that. The key is adapting, as every single session can be different.”
Lewis Hamilton arguably is the strongest candidate to stop Verstappen’s winning run in Marina Bay. The Mercedes driver won the Singapore GP in 2009, 2014, 2017, and 2018. Moreover, the track layout, which will suit cars benefiting from their high downforce package, injects fresh optimism to troubled Mercedes.
“There is a reason to think that the car will work better and that is because Singapore is a maximum downforce circuit,” explained Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin. “At high downforce tracks like at Barcelona, Budapest and even Zandvoort, the car was working well, and drivers were able to turn in a strong performance.”