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Ben Hunt: Max Verstappen’s rivals may have faltered… but he has been BRILLIANT on relentless charge to second F1 title

, Ben Hunt: Max Verstappen’s rivals may have faltered… but he has been BRILLIANT on relentless charge to second F1 title

MAX VERSTAPPEN can wrap up the Formula One title this weekend at the Singapore Grand Prix – and there would still be five races to go, plus a sprint race in Brazil.

Sure, last year’s title was decided under a cloud in Abu Dhabi – the outcome we know was botched by the former race director, Michael Masi.

Max Verstappen can win the F1 Championship in Singapore this weekend

But there is no disputing Verstappen’s second title, for there have been moments of brilliance and skill, while Red Bull have been faultless.

To use a football analogy. If Verstappen’s win in Abu Dhabi was F1’s equivalent to the ‘Hand of God’ goal – when Diego Maradona punched the ball past Peter Shilton in the 1986 World Cup quarter finals, then this year is surely like Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’ – his second goal where he dribbled past six England players, including Terry Butcher twice, before firing past Shilton for a second.

Verstappen can win the title if he outscores Charles Leclerc by 22 points, Sergio Perez by 13 and George Russell by six in Singapore.

If he were to do it there, it would be the earliest coronation in 20 years, and the second earliest in F1 history.

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The biggest question is perhaps how has he managed to do so, in this new era with F1 cars supposed to be capable of racing much closer together.

The answer is four-fold. Firstly, his rivals have all faltered, especially Ferrari who built the quickest car.

Don’t agree? Well, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have taken 10 poles between them on the Saturday qualifying sessions when cars run at their top speeds.

Verstappen ‘only’ has four and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez has just one. Mercedes’s George Russell also has one.

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Secondly, Lewis Hamilton – the only driver able to match Verstappen for talent – has not been in the running.

It is increasingly looking like the Brit will end the season winless for the first time in his 16-year F1 career and the forensic examination into this season will require time to establish what has gone wrong.

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Thirdly, and fourthly, Red Bull and Verstappen have both been excellent. Consistency, decision-making and hardly making any mistakes have been the key to the team’s success this year.

While the moaning about Abu Dhabi continues (and it definitely does on Twitter), there can be no debate about the outcome of this year’s championship, Verstappen has been brilliant.


Silverstone review

British GP bosses have apologised for the ticketing fiasco for the 2023 race.

Fans were faced with surge pricing when the new ticketing system went online, as prices increased with demand.

Tickets shifted so quickly as the same volume that took five months to sell last year were sold in just two days.

Silverstone managing director, Stuart Pringle, has promised “a root and branch review” but that is no comfort for those fans who look set to miss out.


Big step for Asia

Singapore’s return to the F1 schedule marks a crucial step for the sport in Asia.

The night race at the Marina Bay Circuit is the first in Asia since the Covid-19 pandemic.

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And I am expecting plenty of business activity in the paddock while teams will be updating liveries and sponsors as the weekend progresses.


Quartararo concern

Could Fabio Quartararo be having a wobble?

The MotoGP champ has seen his advantage in the title race sliced to just 18 points.

Perhaps more worrying for his Yamaha team is his comment that he says he’s “not enjoying riding a bike in a race for a long time”.

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