Verstappen targets 'perfect weekend' in Japan as he chases title after Singapore jolt

Max Verstappen wants to seal the Formula One drivers' title in style with "a perfect weekend" at the Japanese Grand Prix, and he says Red Bull need that.

The reigning champion trailed in seventh last week in Singapore after what he described as "a very messy weekend" and "a prime example of how you don't want a weekend to go".

He had previously won five straight races and recorded 11 victories in 2022, but Verstappen struggled on a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Still, his lead over second-placed Charles Leclerc in the championship is a commanding 104 points, and that means Verstappen has an opportunity to wrap up the title with four races to spare. Only Michael Schumacher in 2002 (six races to spare) and Nigel Mansell in 1995 (five) have been crowned champion sooner in a season.

Verstappen said Red Bull's close relationship with engine builder Honda, a Japanese firm, would make winning the title this weekend "a little bit extra special".

The Japan race was scrubbed from last year's calendar because of the COVID-19 situation, which Verstappen said was "a shame".

"So that's why we're really looking forward to being back here and then we'll see what happens. We need a perfect weekend, that's for sure," said the 25-year-old.

"It would be very nice if it happens here, but if it doesn't happen here, I will be even more in favour the next race."

Verstappen's second consecutive title is practically a formality at this stage, and if he wins and posts the fastest lap this weekend then he is assured of being champion.

Twelve F1 champions have been crowned after results in the Japanese Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel in 2011 the most recent driver to clinch the title at Suzuka.

Verstappen is trying to brush off the importance of the race, saying on Formula1.com: "It doesn't really change anything; you want to have a good weekend and try to maximise everything you can, and of course I need a perfect weekend to be able to clinch the title here but, to be honest, I'm not really thinking about it too much."