When can Max Verstappen clinch, and more storylines for the Singapore Grand Prix

With the European portion of the calendar finished, the Formula 1 world heads to Asia for a pair of races. First up is the Singapore Grand Prix, held on the iconic street circuit at Marina Bay.

While Max Verstappen and Red Bull are running away with both Championships, there are no shortage of storylines as the grid heads to Singapore.

The fights for second

With Red Bull pulling away from the field in the Constructors’ Championship, and Max Verstappen lapping the competition in the Drivers’ — more on his run in a moment — the remaining intrigue can be found in the rest of the field. At the top of the table, while title fights might not be in the cards, interesting fights are shaping up in the respective battles for second place.

With Red Bull pulling away from the field in the Constructors’ Championship, and Max Verstappen lapping the competition in the Drivers’ — more on his run in a moment — the remaining intrigue can be found in the rest of the field. At the top of the table, while title fights might not be in the cards, interesting fights are shaping up in the respective battles for second place.

Constructors’ Championship

Up first is the battle for second in the Constructors’ standings. Mercedes remains in the driver’s seat here, sitting 45 points of the team currently in second. But what looked to be a two-team fight between Mercedes and Aston Martin has turned into a three-team scrap in recent weeks, thanks to Aston Martin hitting a bit of a slump coupled with the P3-P4 finishes from Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc, respectively, at the Italian Grand Prix.

Can Mercedes put some distance between themselves and the other two this weekend? Can Aston Martin rebound? Will Ferrari inch closer to the Silver Arrows?

And just behind those three? McLaren. Can they pull themselves into a proper fight for second in the remaining races, starting in Singapore? That seems unlikely, given how McLaren is currently 158 points behind Mercedes.

But they are just 102 points off Aston Martin’s pace.

Drivers’ Championship

Then there is the battle for second in the Drivers’ standings.

Sergio Pérez may very well go on to finish second in the Drivers’ Championship, an accomplishment that eluded him a season ago. Pérez enters the Singapore Grand Prix with 219 points on the season, 49 points of Fernando Alonso, and 55 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

But given how close the margins are in F1, any struggles from Pérez — as we saw from him earlier in the season — could open the door to a challenge from Alonso and/or Hamilton.

Last year, Pérez scored one of his two wins on the season in Singapore. A repeat effort would go a long way towards locking up second in the Drivers’ Championship, which would be his best finish in his F1 career.

A stumble at Marina Bay, however, and the fight may be on.

Liam Lawson’s third F1 race

Could Liam Lawson be inching closer to a full-time seat with AlphaTauri for 2024?

Following Daniel Ricciardo’s injury at the Dutch Grand Prix — a broken bone that required surgery — Lawson was dropped onto the grid with just one practice session before his first F1 Grand Prix. When teammate Yuki Tsunoda was hit with a penalty, Lawson finished ahead of him.

Then in the Italian Grand Prix Lawson finished just outside the points in P11. Tsunoda, his AT04 having suffered an engine failure on the formation lap, could not even start the race.

Two. races, two examples of Lawson finishing ahead of Tsunoda.

Certainly, those results require some context, as Lawson needed both an engine failure and a penalty to finish ahead of his new teammate. But with AlphaTauri’s lineup for 2024 still unsettled, it is worth wondering if Lawson is inching closer to a full-time spot with the team.

After all, when the team turned to Ricciardo following the sacking of Nyck de Vries, reports emerged that the organization saw the benefits of pairing an experienced driver with an up-and-coming talent. Traditionally, Red Bull’s second team has been a proving ground for their young stable of drivers, but perhaps that view has changed in recent weeks.

Could a Ricciardo-Lawson pairing be in the works for the 2024 campaign?

Ultimately, this might come down to how Red Bull views AlphaTauri going forward. If their second team remains a development-minded outfit, then perhaps a Tsunoda-Lawson pairing makes the most sense.

But if it is success they are after — and the team currently sits dead-last in the Constructors’ standings — then perhaps we see a veteran like Ricciardo paired with an emerging talent.

Either way, continued strong results from Lawson would keep his name firmly in the mix for a seat next season.

Which Alpine shows up this weekend?

Will the real Alpine please stand up?

To say it has been a tumultuous season for the French outfit would be an understatement. There have been incredible highs, such as Esteban Ocon’s shocking podium at Monaco and Pierre Gasly’s third-place finish in the Dutch Grand Prix. But there have been staggering lows, such as a crash between the two drivers near the end of the Australian Grand Prix which knocked them both out of the points, or two weeks ago at Monza when neither had much of anything at the Italian Grand Prix, as they limped through a “very painful afternoon” and both finished outside of the points.

Then of course there is the off-track news, as the team has undergone both management and ownership changes this season.

So which Alpine do we see this weekend? The team that has delivered some of the season’s most-shocking podiums? Or the organization that has endured a number of weekends with no points to show for their efforts?

We’ll know the answer to those questions in a few days.

Can Alexander Albon continue his recent form?

Alex Albon must have enjoyed his time off.

Since returning to the grid from the August shutdown, the Williams driver has notched points in back-to-back races for the first time all season. Albon qualified fourth for the Dutch Grand Prix, holding on in the race itself to finish in eighth, and followed that with a seventh-place finish at Monza, after qualifying in sixth.

As a result, Williams has climbed ahead of Haas and Alfa Romeo in the battle for seventh in the Constructors’ standings, as they now have 21 points in their account for the campaign, ten clear of Haas and 11 clear of Alfa Romeo.

Albon’s recent success has also kicked off speculation about his own future in F1, with the driver linked to teams such as McLaren, Aston Martin, and even Red Bull in what would be a stunning return.

Can Albon keep up his recent form at Marina Bay?

Just how soon can Max Verstappen clinch the title?

It is not a question of if, but when, Max Verstappen clinches his third-straight Drivers’ Championship.

But how quickly can he settle the matter?

While it cannot happen this weekend, Verstappen could put one hand on the trophy with a solid result in Singapore. He enters the week sitting atop the table with 364 points, a number that has already eliminated the bulk of the field from contention.

Only three other drivers are still mathematically alive in the chase for the Drivers’ Championship. With eight races remaining, the maximum points available for a driver are 208, which would require a driver to win each of the remaining races and posting the fastest lap in each race.

Something even Verstappen has not done this season.

Still, if one of Sergio Pérez, Fernando Alonso, or Lewis Hamilton accomplishes that task — while Verstappen fails to secure points of his own down the stretch — that driver would pull off a stunning coup.

Following Singapore, there are a maximum of 182 points available in this “sweep scenario,” meaning that Verstappen would need to be 183 points clear of the competition following this weekend to have secured the title. He cannot get there with respect to Pérez, who has 219 points on the season. Even if Verstappen finishes in first and secures the fastest lap — and Pérez finishes out of the points — Verstappen would be 171 points clear of his teammate.

However, a win in Singapore would eliminate both Hamilton and Alonso, leaving Verstappen with just one remaining threat in Pérez.

In all likelihood, Verstappen puts both hands on the title at the Japanese Grand Prix at the end of the month, in the same event where he wrapped up the title a season ago.

But he’ll need a good result at Marina Bay to keep that possibility alive.

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