Singapore Grand Prix: F1 fears as exciting new era turns into predictable Max Verstappen and Red Bull run-in

Singapore Grand Prix: F1 fears as exciting new era turns into predictable Max Verstappen and Red Bull run-in

Few people are better versed at knowing what it’s like at the head of a procession to the Formula 1 world title than Lewis Hamilton.

A season which offered so much promise in its early races has turned into the most predictable of marches to a successful title defence for Max Verstappen.

In all likelihood, he won’t wrap up the drivers’ championship in Singapore this weekend but the fact it is mathematically possible with five races still to go after this one shows his level of dominance.

Verstappen would need to win, snatch the fastest lap of the race, Charles Leclerc finish ninth or worse and teammate Sergio Perez fifth or lower to ensure the title under the lights in Marina Bay on Sunday.

On paper, it seems an unlikely turn of events but Hamilton had sympathy for the sport’s global audience in a season where the rulebook had been ripped up to encourage closer racing and bunch up the field. Hamilton’s seventh title in 2020 is the only time he’s come close to Verstappen’s level of dominance in the standings.

 (Getty Images,)
(Getty Images,)

And the Briton said: “I feel for the fans. It’s never great when the season finishes early, even when I’ve experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico. For you as the one individual, it’s great but, for the actual sport, it’s not spectacular. Let’s hope for the future that it’s a bit better.”

Despite the one-sided nature of it all, fans don’t appear to being put off just yet. A sell-out of 81,000 is expected for each of the three days of the Singapore race weekend.

But there will be fears among the Formula 1 hierarchy that a grand new era for the sport has turned into one of dominance for Verstappen and Red Bull which shows no signs of abating going into 2023 and beyond.

It has been night and day in contrast to the preceding season when Verstappen and Hamilton took it to the final moments of a thrilling campaign.

Partly, the potential drama has been undone by Ferrari dropping the ball. In the early races, they were the clear frontrunners but have been undone by reliability issues, some head-scratching decisions from the pitwall not to mention driver errors from both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Even in his dominant pomp, Hamilton said he always preferred a tougher challenge. Of whether he would have preferred the Ferrari challenge to have remained, Verstappen said: “I mean there are two sides. Yes, in one way I would have liked them to still be in the fight.

“But from my side of course it’s also nice to win it in a more calm way. But I think what is good to see already is that they are very competitive to the last few years and I think that’s what F1 needed.”

For Verstappen’s part, there are no plans to put champagne on ice this weekend such is the unlikely nature of him wrapping up the title.

“It’s a bit unrealistic for it to happen so I don’t really think about it,” he said. “It’s quite a long shot and I just want to enjoy the weekend and of course try to win it.”

On the basis of the preceding races, that at least seems a likely outcome.