Lewis Hamilton has declared he "feels for the fans" after Max Verstappen's dominance of the F1 championship battle this season.

The Red Bull ace tops the standings by a whopping 116 points heading into Sunday's race at Singapore, where he can clinch the crown if a series of permutations are met.

It is unlikely that Singapore will be the race where Verstappen wins the title, with a more likely scenario seeing him crowned champion the following week in Japan.

Either way, a second title in a row for Verstappen is inevitable and Hamilton has declared it is "never great" when the battle is concluded prematurely.

"I definitely feel for the fans because for everyone and even for us, last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody. So, it's never great when the season finishes early," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Even when I've experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico. For you as the one individual, it's great but for the actual sport it's not spectacular.

"I'm really grateful to have had 2008 right down to the last 17 seconds, and obviously last year, pretty much the same thing. Let's hope for the future, it's a bit better."

Williams have confirmed that Alex Albon will be back behind the wheel at this week's Singapore Grand Prix after recovering from appendicitis.

Albon spent a night in intensive care earlier this month after suffering respiratory failure due to post-operative anaesthetic complications, forcing him to miss the Italian Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old was replaced by Formula One debutant Nyck de Vries, who finished ninth at Monza.

Albon is now targeting a return to action in Singapore, but he is aware of just how tough it will be to ease himself back in on one of the calendar's most demanding tracks.

"Firstly, I'd just like to thank everyone for all their messages and support over the Italian Grand Prix weekend," he said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"My preparation has been a little different than normal but I'm feeling good and I've done everything possible to get ready for one of the most physical races on the calendar.

"I am not underestimating how big of a challenge this is going to be, but I am looking forward to hitting the track on Friday and getting back driving.

"It's a great street circuit and the closest race to home for me in Thailand, so I'm really excited to be here and to see the fans that have turned out."

Albon is 19th in the drivers' championship with four points after 16 races.

De Vries is on two points from one race, while fellow Williams driver Nicholas Latifi – who is leaving at the end of the campaign – is without a point.

Lewis Hamilton is adamant it will not be the "end of the world" if Mercedes fail to a win a race during the 2022 Formula One season.

A sequence of eight-consecutive constructors' championship titles looks set to come to an end this year, with Mercedes sitting 139 points behind Red Bull.

Hamilton is also on course for an unprecedented experience in F1, having never gone a season without a race victory during his time on the grid.

Mercedes' fall from grace has been one of the major stories in the 2022 season, but Hamilton has played down the significance of not topping the podium in the campaign.

"I do not look at it as a dry spell. I feel this year has been a year of growth," he said ahead of Sunday's race in Singapore.

"It has been a good experience for all. There are six races [left] so there's six opportunities and we will try to get a win, but if we do not do well, I do not think it is the end of the world."

Mercedes' focus for the remainder of the season is to assure their second-place finish in the constructors' championship ahead of Ferrari, with six races left before the end of the season.

"We just need to understand the car," Hamilton added. "Our goal is a second placing. Hopefully, in the next six races, we will do well."

Max Verstappen's coronation as Formula One world champion is imminent and could be marked as early as Singapore.

On the back of five victories in a row, Verstappen has opened a whopping 116-point gap at the top of the standings with six races remaining in 2022.

Verstappen will be crowned as champion if he wins under the lights in Singapore alongside clinching the fastest lap but would need Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to finish eighth or lower and team-mate Sergio Perez to finish fourth or lower.

Given the sequence of requirements for Verstappen to win on Sunday, the following week's race in Japan stands as the most likely to see the Red Bull ace secure his title, but individual records are also up for grabs.

A victory would also mark Verstappen's 12th of the season, putting him behind only Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel (both 13) for the most wins in a single season.

Qualifying will likely be vital to any hopes of another Verstappen win, with 66.7 per cent of race winners in Singapore starting from pole - Vettel being the last to win in 2019 when not starting from the front.

Mathematically, three drivers are still able to usurp Verstappen from his throne, George Russell also within distance alongside Leclerc and Perez, but the dominance of Red Bull this season makes any late turnover nigh-on impossible.

Hamilton's history

With six races remaining in 2022, Lewis Hamilton is without a victory this season and it could see the British driver fail to win a race in a campaign for the first time.

Mercedes have strong history in Singapore, however, securing more wins at the circuit than any other team (four), though Red Bull and Ferrari (both three) could equal that tally this weekend.

Spare seats

Alfa Romeo's new deal for Zhou Guanyu leaves three remaining seats on the grid for 2023, with Williams, Haas and Alpine yet to fill their quota for next year.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo are the two on the grid that could be on the move, with Ricciardo set to leave McLaren and Gasly heavily linked with Alpine, which would result in a seat up for grabs at AlphaTauri.

Formula One will increase the number of sprint qualifying races from three to six for the 2023 season.

The shortened format, introduced to F1 in 2021, sees teams and drivers take part in traditional qualification sessions on Friday, before an additional 100km race on Saturday sets the grid for Sunday's grand prix.

This year's calendar saw sprints at Imola and the Red Bull Ring, with the final event to take place at Interlagos.

From next year however, half-a-dozen race weekends will pull double duty following a rubber-stamped proposal.

"I am pleased that we can confirm six sprints from 2023 onwards," F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.

"The feedback from the fans, teams, promoters and partners has been very positive, and we all want to ensure its success in the future."

World champion Max Verstappen qualified top and won both sprint races earlier this season, though he only converted the feat at Imola into a race win, with Charles Leclerc victorious in Austria.

The F1 season continues this weekend in Singapore.

A first MotoGP in Kazakhstan will be staged next year after a five-year deal was agreed.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the new Sokol International Racetrack will stage the race from 2023.

The circuit is just outside Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty and will be the 74th venue to host a race in the premier class.

A MotoGP statement said: "The region will be a new pitstop for MotoGP as the sport continues to expand around the world, engaging with new markets and fanbases.

"Kazakhstan will also become the 30th country to host a motorcycle Grand Prix since 1949, a perfect landmark number to celebrate the ever-expanding history of the world's first motorsport World Championship, and Sokol International Racetrack will be the 74th venue to host a premier class Grand Prix."

Zhou Guanyu has kept his Alfa Romeo seat for the 2023 Formula One season.

The 23-year-old made history when he became the first full-time Formula One driver from China this season and scored a point on his debut in Bahrain.

Zhou has gone on to pick up a further five points in his maiden campaign and he will remain Valtteri Bottas' team-mate next year.

"I am looking forward to continuing working with Zhou," Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur said on Tuesday.

"From day one with the team, at the Abu Dhabi test last year, he has impressed me with his approach to work and this is always a very positive trait. We knew he was quick, but the way he adapted to Formula One in such a short time has been one of the best surprises of our season.

"He is a very nice guy, everyone in the team likes both his personality and attitude. He has had the humility to ask questions and learn, from the engineers as well as Valtteri, and the intelligence to apply all the information he got to improve race after race.

"He will have this experience to draw on next season, and I am sure he will make another step forward as we continue to grow our team."

Zhou expressed his gratitude for the faith Alfa Romeo have put in him.

He said: "I am happy and grateful to Alfa Romeo F1 Team for the opportunity to be part of the team for another season.

"Making it to Formula One was a dream come true and the feeling of competing for the first time in a race will live with me forever: the team has been incredibly supportive, welcoming me from day one and helping me adapt to the most complex series in motorsport.

"There is more that I want to achieve in this sport and with the team, and the hard work we have put together since the start of the year is just the first step towards where we want to be next season.

"There is still a lot to learn, a lot to develop but I am confident in our work: I am looking forward to the next chapter of our story together."

Francesco Bagnaia apologised to his team after a last-lap crash at the Grand Prix of Japan struck a blow to his MotoGP title hopes.

The Italian was going all out to try and pass championship leader Fabio Quartararo in Motegi on Sunday, but found himself in the gravel following a costly mistake.

Quartararo finished eighth, extending his lead over Bagnaia to 18 points with four rounds to go following a race that was won by Jack Miller.

Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi revealed Bagnaia was quick to hold his hands up for his error.

"He has already said that he's sorry for the mistake he made," Tardozzi told BT Sport.

"He was not able to accelerate out of the corner like the other Ducatis. We need to know why. His front tyre overheated so he could not brake hard.

"When it cooled down he was able to recover and gain something on the brakes."

Tardozzi says Bagnaia needed to think of the bigger picture.

"Yes. The goal was obvious." he added.

"You start the year trying to win as many races as possible. But at a certain point you have to think about the championship.

"You look to [the other] contender. Since Aragon, we look to Fabio every week. Losing two points is better than losing eight points."

Fellow title contender Aleix Espargaro also endured a nightmare, starting from the pits rather than sixth place as he had to change his bike before the start due to a technical issue and finished way back in 16th.

Espargaro said: "They made a mistake, and they didn't remove the fuel-saving map which doesn't allow you to go over 4-5,000 RPM or more than 100k per hour.

"I tried everything, but it was not working."

He added: "I changed bikes in the pits, but the second bike had the soft rear tyre [instead of the medium] and I can't ride with that tyre.

"I knew it from the beginning. The bike was just pushing the front. I was also very nervous and making a lot of mistakes, so I decided to stay out on track just to wait for a red flag or whatever. But it didn't arrive."

Marc Marquez savoured his first pole position for three years at the Grand Prix of Japan but is realistic about his chances of winning the race on Sunday.

Marquez only returned following a three-month absence in the last round at Aragon after undergoing a fourth operation on his right arm.

The Repsol Honda rider was back in business on a wet Saturday in Motegi, where there was a 90-minute delay to the schedule due to heavy rain before the Spaniard clocked a fastest lap of one minute, 55.214 seconds to take his first pole for 1,071 days.

Johann Zarco took second place behind the six-time MotoGP champion, with Brad Binder securing third for a race that is forecast to be run in drier conditions.

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo could only qualify in ninth, with Aleix Espargaro the best placed of the title contenders in sixth and Francesco Bagnaia back in 12th.

Marquez was thrilled to finally put himself at the front of the grid and hopes his exploits can give his team a lift, but knows it will be a different story come race day.

He said: "I'm really happy to be back in pole position. It's only pole position, it's in wet, but in the situation we are in right now with team right now, it's really good news for us.

"We need the small achievements, we need the motivations. I'm happy, it was the time to do it. I feel like in FP2 the lap time was coming and if it's wet in the afternoon I have a big chance.

"That's what I did, I tried to attack and I did a good lap, I didn't exaggerate but it was enough to be on pole position. Tomorrow will be a different story, but today we must be happy."

Enea Bastianini's hopes of stepping up a title challenge were rocked by a crash in Q1. He is set to start 15th.

 

PROVISIONAL GRID

1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) – 1:55.214
2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.208s
3. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +0.323s
4. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia) +0.406s
5. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +0.472s
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.557s
7. Jack Miller (Ducati) +0.570s
8. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +0.681s
9. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +1.112s
10. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) +1.140s

The FIA has confirmed that IndyCar driver Colton Herta will not be granted an F1 Super Licence.

The 22-year-old American, the youngest ever driver to win an IndyCar Series race, had been eyed by Red Bull to join their development process and potentially earn a drive with AlphaTauri next season.

However, Herta was eight points short of the 40-point total necessary to qualify for a Super Licence and Red Bull had lobbied for an exemption, arguing the FIA undervalued the experience of racing in IndyCar.

Red Bull's request had irritated rival teams, including Ferrari and Mercedes, but the FIA have brought an end to the matter by confirming an exemption would not be granted.

"The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence," the statement read.

"The FIA continuously reviews its regulations and procedures, including with respect to Super Licence eligibility, with the main factors being considered with respect to this topic being safety, experience and performance in the context of the pathway."

Herta has long been touted for a future in F1 as the motorsport looks to capitalise on a growing popularity in the United States, building upon the success of Netflix's Drive To Survive series.

Miami has been added to the F1 calendar alongside Austin and Las Vegas, and joins the schedule next year as the third race in the USA, while North America also sees races in Canada and Mexico.

Williams have confirmed they will part company with Nicholas Latifi at the end of the 2022 Formula One campaign.

Latifi was widely expected to leave Williams upon the expiration of his contract this year, with the team reportedly considering a full-time seat for Nyck de Vries, who recently deputised for them at Monza.

The Canadian failed to pick up any points during his first campaign with Williams in 2020, first doing so with a seventh-placed finish at last year's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lafiti, whose crash at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix led to a highly contentious finish to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen's title fight, has failed to finish higher than 12th in any race this term.

Williams chief executive and team principal Jost Capito said: "On behalf of the whole team, I would like to say an enormous thank you to Nicholas for his three years of hard work with Williams. 

"He is a great team player who has a great attitude towards his colleagues and work and is well liked and respected throughout the business. 

"Our time together is now coming to an end, but I know he will put full effort in to maximise what we can do together for the remainder of this season. We wish him all the very best of luck for his future, both in and out of the cockpit."

Latifi, meanwhile, said he had enjoyed his spell with the team despite their lack of success, adding: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Williams Racing – all the people back at the factory and those I work with trackside – for the last three years. 

"My initial F1 debut was postponed due to the pandemic but we eventually got going in Austria and, although we have not achieved the results together we hoped we would, it's still been a fantastic journey. 

"Getting those first points in Hungary last year was a moment I'll never forget, and I will move onto the next chapter of my career with special memories of my time with this dedicated team."

Williams confirmed last month that Alex Albon had signed a multi-year agreement to continue representing the team, and Friday's statement said their full 2023 line-up would be announced "in due course".

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has urged Alpine to sign Daniel Ricciardo to fill their vacant seat for the 2023 Formula One season.

The Australian driver will leave McLaren at the end of the current campaign, with Alpine looking for a partner for Esteban Ocon following Fernando Alonso's decision to move to Aston Martin.

Alpine had intended to promote Oscar Piastri but lost the 21-year-old to McLaren, with F1's Contract Recognition Board ruling in favour of the latter after arguments about Piastri's contracts with both teams emerged.

Ricciardo, who raced for Alpine while they were under the guise of Renault, has been touted for a return and Horner believes he is the perfect fit for the French team.

"They know him from a couple of seasons ago and they were great together," he told the Beyond The Grid podcast.

"During his last season, they were scoring podiums, and I think he's the type of guy that I think you could rebuild him.

"It's obviously been not a great experience for him, for whatever reason, and you've just got to think back to some of the drives that he did for us.

"Some of the wins that he had, the podium, some of the stunning overtakes that he was capable of. That's still in there, I'm sure. He just needs a bit of a reset."

Ricciardo has stated he is ready to accept not being on the grid in 2023 if the right opportunity does not arrive, as he is not willing to take a seat "for the sake of it".

"I've certainly accepted if I'm not to be on the grid next year, I'm OK with that," Ricciardo said.

"I've accepted that I'm not going to do everything, or my team's not going to do everything, just to put me on the grid if it's not right or it doesn't make sense.

"This has been challenging, and if I am on the grid I want to know that it's a place that I can enjoy it and feel like I can thrive, like an environment I feel like I can thrive in. Like I said, I don't want to just jump in a car for the sake of it."

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda will remain with the team for another season after penning an extension through the 2023 Formula One campaign.

The Japanese driver, who joined the Italian outfit at the start of 2021, has spent two years alongside team-mate Pierre Gasly, earning 32 points last term and 43 to date.

He also posted his best race result with fourth place at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, though he has struggled for form this year, with no top-10 finish since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Amid suggestions Colton Herta could have made the move to the team for next year however, AlphaTauri have shown faith in the 22-year-old with a fresh deal.

"I want to say a huge thank you to Red Bull, Honda and Scuderia AlphaTauri for continuing to give me the opportunity to drive in F1," Tsunoda stated

"Having moved to Italy last year, to be closer to the factory, I really feel part of the team and am glad that I get to carry on racing with them in 2023.

"Of course, our 2022 season isn't over yet and we're still pushing hard in the midfield battle, so I’m fully focused on finishing it on a high and then we will look forward to next year."

Tsunoda's renewal locks out AlphaTauri's lineup for next year, with Gasly also retained, as F1 prepares for a record 24-race calendar next season.

The FIA has approved the calendar for the 2023 Formula One season, which will include a record-breaking 24 races.

Las Vegas becomes the third United States Grand Prix on the calendar, after Miami and Austin, and will be the penultimate race of the 2023 season.

Qatar and China both return to the F1 calendar following absences, with the former missing from the 2022 schedule and the latter not hosting a race since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monaco also retains a spot on the calendar amid speculation the iconic race in Monte Carlo could be dropped, but as expected the French Grand Prix has not been included.

The 2023 F1 calendar will avoid a clash with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of the World Motor Sport Council members' efforts to optimise all world championship race calendars.

"The presence of 24 races on the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is further evidence of the growth and appeal of the sport on a global scale," FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said.

"The addition of new venues and the retention of traditional events underlines the FIA's sound stewardship of the sport. I am delighted that we will be able to take Formula One's new era of exciting racing, created by the FIA's 2022 regulations, to a broader fan base in 2023."

The FIA has approved the calendar for the 2023 Formula One season, which will include a record-breaking 24 races.

Las Vegas becomes the third United States Grand Prix on the calendar, after Miami and Austin, and will be the penultimate race of the 2023 season.

Qatar and China both return to the F1 calendar following absences, with the former missing from the 2022 schedule and the latter not hosting a race since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monaco also retains a spot on the calendar amid speculation the iconic race in Monte Carlo could be dropped, but as expected the French Grand Prix has not been included.

The 2023 F1 calendar will avoid a clash with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of the World Motor Sport Council members' efforts to optimise all world championship race calendars.

"The presence of 24 races on the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is further evidence of the growth and appeal of the sport on a global scale," FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said.

"The addition of new venues and the retention of traditional events underlines the FIA's sound stewardship of the sport. I am delighted that we will be able to take Formula One's new era of exciting racing, created by the FIA's 2022 regulations, to a broader fan base in 2023."

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