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Singapore GP: year-old Verstappen can start F1 title party early | Racing News

SINGAPORE: Max Verstappen could celebrate more than his 25th birthday this weekend at the floodlit Singapore Grand Prix as the Dutch driver has a first chance at his second Formula One title.
The Red Bull racer, whose birthday is on Friday, is 116 points away from Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc and 125 ahead of Mexican teammate Sergio Perez after 16 of the 22 races this season.
Defending champion Verstappen, however, plays it cool.
“It’s a challenging track, the humidity is tough on the body and it’s very difficult to get a perfect lap because of the tight corners and how close the walls are,” he said.
“I’m not really thinking about the championship, I just want to have a positive weekend at the track and look at it race by race, there is no rush.”
There are five rounds after Singapore, with a maximum of 138 points.
Verstappen must score at least 22 points more than Leclerc and 13 more than Perez on Sunday, meaning he must win and Leclerc finish below eighth to decide the title.
Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz are also in math battle en route to Sunday’s race, but only just.
Verstappen was 46 points behind Leclerc after the first three races of the season, but then walked away with the championship when the Monegask’s challenge imploded.
He has won 11 of 16 races, finishing only once off the podium and heading to Singapore, a race he has yet to win and where Red Bull hasn’t triumphed since 2013, with a string of five consecutive wins.
Ferrari was dominant the last time Formula 1 visited the city-state in 2019, with the race absent for two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leclerc finished frustrated second behind teammate Sebastian Vettel in 2019 and will be fired to take his fourth win of the year.
Mercedes will also be eyeing their chances of a first win of the season after making huge strides in performance since March, with their car particularly strong on tight and twisty tracks like Singapore.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamiltonwho has never finished a season without a win, and team-mate George Russell will also be wary of the bumpy surface, while safety cars and possible rain could throw any predictions out the window.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, will set a record with his 350th start, one more than 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen managed.
This year’s race will be the first of a new seven-year deal agreed with Formula 1 this year, keeping Singapore on the calendar until at least 2028.
Held in the heart of the city against a backdrop of glittering skyscrapers, the race has established itself as one of the most glamorous and popular sports.
A crowd of approximately 268,000 visitors was in attendance all weekend in 2019, and organizers expect a sold-out crowd this year.

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