Verstappen 'would have liked' sterner title challenge from Ferrari

Max Verstappen suggested he would have liked to see Ferrari take the Formula One title fight to the wire ahead of his first opportunity to seal consecutive championships.

Verstappen could retain the drivers' championship at Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, although it appears an unlikely prospect as he requires both Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc to post poor finishes.

Nevertheless, it appears to be a matter of time before Verstappen clinches his second crown, with Ferrari's issues with reliability and strategy costing Leclerc the chance to compete.

Verstappen holds a 119-point lead over Leclerc at the top of the standings after winning each of the last five races, and the Dutchman says he would have relished a closer battle.

"I mean, [there are] two sides. Yes, in one way, I would have liked them to still be in the fight," he said on Thursday.

"But from my side, of course it's also nice to win it in a more calm way.

"I think what is good to see is that they are very competitive this year compared to the last few years, and I think that's what F1 needed."

Meanwhile, Verstappen is not getting carried away by the prospect of wrapping up the title in Singapore, and has revealed he would prefer to seal the deal at next week's Japanese Grand Prix.

"It's a bit unrealistic for it to happen. So I don't really think about it," Verstappen added. "It's quite a long shot. I just want to enjoy the weekend, and of course, try to win it.

"I think Japan is nicer. I'm really excited to go back there, It's been a while. It's an amazing track and for me, anyway, it has quite special memories.

"The first time I drove an F1 car was there in FP1, and I will always remember that. And besides that, it is kind of a home GP with [Red Bull engine provider] Honda.

"I think [it will be] my first proper opportunity to win the title. So yeah, of course, I'm looking forward to Singapore right now. But I'm also very excited for next weekend."