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“Max Verstappen just came too soon for us” says Toto Wolff ahead of the Singapore GP

Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, claimed Max Verstappen’s emergence occurred too soon for Mercedes, as the Dutchman is set to go wheel-to-wheel with the Silver Arrows for victory in Singapore.

Verstappen was first approached by Mercedes in 2014 but opted to sign with Red Bull, a year before making his F1 debut with Toro Rosso to then be given a promotion to Red Bull in 2016.

However, the Silver Arrows then made another approach to the Dutchman at the end of 2016 following Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

But, their hopes were dampened as the 21-year-old then signed a long term deal with his current team, causing Wolff to believe Verstappen emerged too soon and before Mercedes entered their domination period.

“At the time, we had no facilities, no structure for juniors. The focus was still on Mercedes winning races and championships as a team, it was still very fresh for us.

“Of course, we want ‘the next Max’. A few are already coming through our training programme.

“But the only real Max Verstappen just came too soon for us” Wolff said.

And following Ferrari’s domination at the two pervious races, due to the tight circuit that Marina Bay is, then Formula One is potentially set for a Hamilton vs Verstappen showdown under the lights.

The last time these two battled out for victory was in Hungary when a strategic masterclass from Mercedes gifted Hamilton victory, as he overtook Verstappen with just 4 laps to go despite the Dutchman starting on pole.

Despite falling short to Hamilton in their last battle, Verstappen still stood on the podium and went onto Instagram with pride, but can he go one better in their next battle? https://www.instagram.com/p/B0v3TrpIBzw/

If Singapore is anything like Hungary, then F1 fans are in for a treat this weekend.

The two occupied the front row in 2018 following Hamilton’s sensational pole lap, but Red Bull look in better condition to challenge them for victory this time around.

But what about their team-mates, Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon?

For Bottas, Singapore isn’t one of his favoured tracks with P3 his best finish and only podium at Marina Bay, therefore is unlikely to challenge his world champion team-mate, who has four wins here.

Meanwhile, Albon is entering just his third race for Red Bull and first at Singapore in F1, which may make a challenge against Verstappen too difficult, due to the Dutchman’s pace at this circuit.

Will Verstappen claim ‘revenge’ for Hungary in the humid climate of Singapore, or will Hamilton claim his fifth victory at the track? It looks to be a Mercedes vs Red Bull showdown this time and what a weekend it should be.

What about Ferrari?

Ferrari arrive at Singapore in a rich vein of form for the first time in 2019, not only did they claim their first victory this year in Belgium but then backed it up with another in Monza.

Both wins being provided by their ‘golden boy’, Charles Leclerc.

Yet despite such form, they very much arrive this weekend as ‘underdogs’ for victory due to the tight corners and lack of reliance for straight line speed in Singapore.

If either Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel finish on the podium this weekend, then that should be considered a ‘successful’ race for the Scuderia.

But, will Formula One start to see a change in power within the Ferrari garage this weekend?

Despite Vettel being the world champion within Ferrari, Leclerc is arguably the better driver at this current moment and unless the German quickly turns around his form, then the gap between the two will only increase.

Can the four-time world champion re-gain authority over his younger team-mate? It will be a tough ask for Vettel as Leclerc just keeps putting in faultless drives.

What now for Nico Hulkenberg?

In this latter half of the season, Hulkenberg more than anybody, is driving for his future within the sport.

During the summer break, Renault announced that they will be signing Mercedes reserve driver, Esteban Ocon, for the 2020 season to partner Daniel Ricciardo which now currently leaves Hulkenberg without a race seat for next year.

The obvious option for Hulkenberg was Haas, due to an uncertainty on Romain Grosjean’s future, but the team have just recently announced that they will be keeping their driving lineup for 2020.

So that now shuts the door for the German to join Haas.

Despite being such a well-respected racer amongst the grid who has shown plenty of ability during his time within the sport, these next few races now prove pivotal for Hulkenberg.

Williams have just announced that Robert Kubica will be leaving, so there lies potentially the only F1 option for Hulkenberg next year.

The German will need to produce solid performances in these next few races, otherwise he could be without a spot in 2020.

But, Hulkenberg hasn’t proved to be too strong in Singapore during recent years with P9 his best finish around Marina Bay, yet could that change due to current situation?

Only time will tell.

 

Edward Hardy

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