Verstappen: I need a lot of luck for it to happen here

ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 03: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Circuit Zandvoort on September 03, 2022 in Zandvoort, Netherlands. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen said he would need a lot of luck to wrap up a second successive Formula 1 title at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, but believes he can realistically seal it at next week’s race in Japan.

The Dutchman, who turns 25 on Friday, is 116 points clear of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc and 125 ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

He will be crowned champion in Singapore if he can leave with at least a 138-point margin to his closest challenger, with only five races left after Sunday’s floodlit Marina Bay spectacular.

But he will have to chalk up a sixth consecutive win on Sunday and need other results to go his way to secure the earliest end to a title battle since Michael Schumacher won his fifth championship with six races to spare in 2002.

“It’s quite a long shot,” Verstappen told reporters at the Marina Bay track. “It’s a bit unrealistic for it to happen, so I don’t really think about it. I need a lot of luck for it to happen here.”

The Singapore race is the first of a back-to-back on consecutive weekends with the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Both events have returned this season after being left off the schedule for two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Max: It’s been a really special season and I’m enjoying it a lot

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 02:  Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Scuderia Toro Rosso attends a seat fitting ahead of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit on October 2, 2014 in Suzuka, Japan.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Verstappen

Wrapping up the championship title in Japan would be special for Verstappen who has had fond memories from when he made his Formula 1 weekend debut at the Suzuka track as a 17-year-old in Friday’s opening practice session in 2014.

It is also the home race for power unit supplier Honda, who have officially pulled out of the sport but continue to assemble and supply engines to Red Bull.

“For me anyway it has quite special memories,” said Verstappen. “The first time I drove an F1 car there in FP1, I will always remember.

“Besides that it is kind of a home Grand Prix with Honda and also I think my first proper opportunity to win the title. Of course, I’m looking forward to Singapore right now but I’m also very excited (for Japan).”

Looking back on the past 16 races, Verstappen has reason to be patient and content: “It’s been a really special season and I’m enjoying it a lot, but I [will] probably enjoy it more after the season, looking back at it.

“What we’ve been doing as a team in general, after the difficulties we had in the beginning of the year, to then turn it around, really work on the car… the car was heavily overweight, so making sure that it’s in a competitive window now is great,” added Max. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle)