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Title celebrations on hold for Mad Max after Singapore stumble

Title celebrations on hold for Mad Max after Singapore stumble

FORMULA ONE: What goes around comes around. Max Verstappen might do well to reflect on that maxim after turning in his worst performance of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix last Sunday (Oct 2) and squandering his first chance to seal the drivers championship.

By Michael Lamonato

Thursday 6 October 2022, 10:00AM

A dejected Max Verstappen leaves the circuit after last Sunday’s (Oct 2) Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

A dejected Max Verstappen leaves the circuit after last Sunday’s (Oct 2) Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

Formula 1’s weekend in Marina Bay was chaotic and unpredictable. Typically hot and humid conditions welcomed the drivers on Friday, but Saturday was almost completely washed out by torrential rain, sweeping away with it the chance for anyone to build any kind of rhythm around a track that demands confidence in the face of the risk of a serious crash.

It didn’t seem to trouble Verstappen, who was out to extend his unbroken run of victories to six.

He powered through his lack of practice time to make himself favourite to take pole on the still-damp track on Saturday night, but just as he was set to post what would have been the session’s quickest time, he was called into pit lane by his team to end the session.

The Dutchman’s car had been underfuelled. He didn’t have enough to complete the lap and provide a sample to the regulator after the session.

It left him eighth on the grid while title challenger Charles Leclerc took pole.

“It is incredibly frustrating and it shouldn’t happen,” Verstappen told British TV, blasting his team. “Even when you underfuel it or don’t plan to do those six laps then at least you track that throughout the session to know you aren’t going to make it. We should’ve seen that way earlier.

“It is never acceptable. Of course you learn from it, but this is really bad. It shouldn’t happen.”

It was indeed a clumsy error, but it was a relatively ungracious throwing under the bus of a team that’s set to power him to an easy second title.

Sometimes karma is unforgiving.

Verstappen’s weekend went from bad to worse form the moment the lights went out. A botched start - his car went into anti-stall - dropped him down to 12th in what Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko said was a case of the Dutchman having his car in the wrong engine mode.

He embarked on a typically feisty fightback, but he undid his own good work in a hasty attempt to pass Lando Norris immediately after a late safety car intervention, when his tyres were too cold. The lack of pressure meant he bottomed out over a bump and locked up, sending him into the run-off zone and badly damaging his tyres.

He was forced to pit a second time, which sent him to the back of the pack and forced him to fight back up the order all over again, eventually rescuing seventh.

It was a strangely scrappy weekend for a driver who’s been the benchmark for so much of this season. It was his equal worst finish of the year, but his other seventh place at Silverstone came through car damage, making this comfortably his least convincing race - and it was largely down to pure impetuousness made more surprising by the prize on offer, albeit claiming the title in Singapore was always a long shot.

What goes around comes around - not that Verstappen seemed to see it that way.

“I think we all know that it already kicked off yesterday and that’s why we put ourselves in that position,” Verstappen said of his race, pinning the blame on his poor qualifying result. “Then it can either go brilliantly today or it can go like we had today.

“After yesterday we cannot ask for miracles.”

Maybe it’s the single-mindedness needed to crush the competition in the way he’s done this year, or perhaps it’s just the unfamiliarity of the struggle after such a relatively smooth-running season. Either way, some in the team must be wondering why one mistake on Saturday seemed to count for more than several on Sunday.

But this weekend it’s likely to pale into insignificance anyway, with a second chance to sew up the title at the Japanese Grand Prix.

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