Emerson Fittipaldi packed the praise on Red Bull and their World Champion Max Verstappen, the Formula 1 legend admitted that he believed Ferrari would do the business this year.
But the 2022 F1 World Championship is all about Verstappen and his team, so much so that ahead of the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix, with six races still remaining in the title race, Verstappen could seal the deal this weekend if the stars align for him but not for others.
It’s a long shot which will become more likely by the next race after Singapore in Japan, nevertheless such is his form, and Ferrari tending to be in disarray on Sundays, that Fittipaldi would not be surprised if it happens this weekend under the lights of Marina Bay Circuit.
The Brazilian double-F1 World Champion told VegasInsider: “Yes. He can seal the championship this weekend. He has the mathematical chance but as we know, anything can happen in racing. It is difficult to predict but he has the form and mathematical chance. He is the favorite again.”
“To clinch the championship this weekend would be great. Well deserved for him. The whole year he’s been driving hard, driving extremely well.”
“Red Bull is having a great year again and they’re getting results. A lot of work, a lot of commitment, a lot of talent. He can seal his second World Championship.”
Fittipaldi: I was 90-percent sure that Ferrari were going to win
While Red Bull gathered from their early mishaps, Ferrari started to lose the grip on things around the time of Imola at which point Verstappen gathered a head of steam that never really subsided; key moment was his stunning 10th on the grid to victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix which sent everyone into the holidays knowing what was coming.
Then he went even better when the season resumed from 14th on the grid, plus surviving a spin meant he was almost unbeatable and, in fact, has not been beaten since the French Grand Prix and aims to make it six in a row this Sunday in Singapore.
Fittipaldi continued: “Red Bull have had a great racing strategy. Verstappen has driven really well. I think all the circumstances they prevailed against the odds at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year, I expected Ferrari to win. I predicted Ferrari was going to win.
“I was 90-percent sure that Ferrari were going to win because they showed so much more potential to win the championship and then Red Bull were getting there, improving, working hard and now the championship is in favour of Red Bull now and Verstappen, for sure.”
With the big trophies heading to Max and Red Bull, the ‘no-one-really-cares’ battle for second place does mean more prize money for either Mercedes or Ferrari; the reds ahead by 35 points which means anything can happen between now and the end of the season.
It will be very hard for Mercedes to finish ahead of Ferrari
As for the duel for second place in the championship, Fittipaldi said: “I think Mercedes have showed a lot of improvement. But Ferraris are still extremely fast and extremely competitive. To beat Leclerc, it will be very difficult because the Ferraris are very fast and very competitive. They have two great drivers in Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
“Mathematically, Mercedes have a chance but I think it will be very hard for them to finish ahead of Ferrari in the championship. I think Ferrari is going to finish ahead,” predicted Fittipaldi.
As for Mercedes, the reigning F1 world champions’ incredible run of eight titles in succession is now over, Red Bull are going to nab it this time, as they missed out last year as their rivals have been nowhere this year.
The Mercedes W13 has been an unlucky number for them, the car hardly looks the freshest of a breed of great and dominant F1 cars built by the team over the past decade. With George Russell and Lewis Hamilton more than capable, their car – which they clearly do not understand – has let them down
Lewis took more time to adapt to the new rules
Fittipaldi spoke about the Merc situation: “I think Mercedes were so behind Ferrari in the beginning of the year. They had a lot of difficulties in adjusting to the rules for the new car. Remember the car was porpoising a lot. It was difficult to drive. It didn’t have enough grip, the car. Enough power.
“I think it’ll be great to see how [Lewis and George] do against each other. I could see at the beginning of the season, Lewis took more time to adapt to the new rules but recently he has improved his performance and adapted. The Mercedes car is better now. He reversed the situation.”
As for who will rule the roost when the car is competitive and capable of winning again, Emmo ventured cautiously: “It will be tough between both. Lewis has always been extremely talented and is a great champion. And George Russell, trying to be there. He’s the challenger. It’ll be great to watch.”
“Good question. Difficult to answer, but good question,” acknowledged Fittipaldi.
While his “Ferrari to be champions” prediction bombed, the veteran of 149 Grand Prix starts and winner of 14 of those is bold enough to see the Reds beating the Silver Arrows. time will tell if the Champ needs to take his crystal ball in for a service.