SINGAPORE — With a staggering 12 wins out of 14 Formula One races so far this season - and on a record-breaking 10-race winning streak - it comes as no surprise that Max Verstappen was the centre of attention wherever he went in Singapore on Thursday (14 September).
Whether the Red Bull Racing driver was participating in a content project with Singapore Tourism Board at Jewel Changi Airport in the afternoon, or strolling into the press room for the F1 media conference in the evening, the 25-year-old Dutchman was the inevitable star after his exploits this F1 season.
As he prepares to try and extend his race winning streak to 11 at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, Verstappen insists that nothing has changed from the last race in terms of his desire, even though he now holds the race-winning record.
"Every single race weekend, it's basically the same amount of pressure I put on myself, to try and get the best result. So nothing really changes," he said at the media conference.
"We've always had high performance levels as a team in the past seasons, but we just didn't have that good a car until this year. Everything really came together this season, we understood the new regulations really well. And when you have the good people in every single position of the team, you can achieve something like what you're witnessing right now."
Gunning for his first win in Singapore
Nevertheless, Verstappen will have his hands full trying to extend his streak at the Marina Bay street circuit. For one, he has never won in Singapore, and could finish only in seventh place after a chaotic, rain-delayed race last season.
With its narrow track, numerous turns and punishing humidity, the Singapore Grand Prix is widely regarded among the drivers as the toughest race on the F1 calendar. One mistake or miscalculation, and the drivers run the risk of hitting the walls erected for the street race.
Nonetheless, Verstappen is relishing the challenge of winning his first Singapore race, and believes that the ability to adapt is key to success.
"It's going to be a big challenge because we're just not as competitive on a street circuit, compared to other race tracks. I still think that we can do a good job, and it will be a very tight race," he said.
"But it's also about adapting to each different race. I mean, if you keep forcing your way of driving a car in every race, it's not going to work. Adaptability is key in Formula One - every single race weekend, every single session can be different. And that's what I try to do."
Dominance should be inspiring: Verstappen
This year's Singapore Grand Prix will see quicker lap times, as the circuit has removed four sharp turns near The Float@Marina Bay - which is being redeveloped into the NS Square. That stretch has now been straightened, and drivers are excited at the prospect of having another stretch available for overtaking.
But with Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez winning all the races so far this season, it is in effect becoming a race for second spot in the constructors' standings, especially among three teams: Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Red Bulls dominance in the past two seasons has led to criticism from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. The Austrian said during the Italian Grand Prix two weekends ago that he wants the F1 authorities to clamp down on Red Bull's dominance, in the same way they have clamped down on Mercedes' dominance when his team won seven successive constructors' titles from 2014 to 2020.
Wolff's comments earned a rebuke from Verstappen, who said, "I think it's important to just focus on your team. That's what we did when Mercedes were dominating, and we knew we had to work harder to try to get to that level.
"I think you should be able to appreciate a dominant team, and be inspired by the team. We are happy we have reached this level, we are enjoying the moment, and honestly that's all I can say about it."
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.