Lewis Hamilton has warned he does not expect a repeat of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, where Red Bull were comprehensively beaten for the first time this season. Fellow drivers, including race-winner Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, also cautioned that the team would likely return to winning ways at the next round in Japan this weekend.
Sainz won for Ferrari at the Marina Bay circuit, from McLaren’s Norris and Mercedes’ Hamilton after a dramatic finale that saw the three drivers and Mercedes’ George Russell battling it out over the final ten laps. Red Bull, however, were off the pace all weekend. The team, until Sunday unbeaten in all 14 meetings thus far this season, were in woeful form in Singapore.
World champion Max Verstappen, who had won the ten previous races in a row, only qualified in 11th and finished in fifth, with his car lacking balance and rear grip on the bumpy street circuit. Hamilton welcomed the tight fight with Red Bull out of the mix but did not believe the other teams had genuinely bridged the gap to the leaders yet.
“I think it’s just one of those things,” he said. “They are so clear ahead that maybe they’re developing their car less and we are still pushing to develop our current one but McLaren have picked up a huge amount of pace, it’s great to see that Ferrari have really stepped it up and I think that’s a positive.”
Sainz scored his second career win in Singapore after a determined drive from pole, including holding off the charging Mercedes and Norris at the death. Nonetheless he was unequivocal that when racing returns on a traditional circuit with high-speed characteristics such as Suzuka, Red Bull would dominate once more.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still winning the last few races of the season,” he said. “Singapore gave us the chance and we just did well. But the Red Bull is going to be up there in the remainder of the season and they’re going to be very, very, very, very difficult to beat.
Sainz emphasised, however, that he believed the race demonstrated how close the competition was behind the championship leaders.
“It’s great for F1 if Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Aston would be that two, three-tenths quicker every race, to challenge them in race pace. The racing this year would be incredible and it would be eight drivers fighting for wins, a bit like we saw in Singapore with four or five guys out there fighting for a win around a street track. It just shows the potential F1 has to create an incredible show.”
Norris, who scored his third second place of the season for McLaren at Marina Bay, acknowledged the problems Red Bull had faced but expected they would return to form in Japan.
“I don’t know what they struggled with this weekend but when I watched Max’s onboard from qualifying, I kind of laughed because I’ve never seen a car that bad before,” he said. “But Max also laughed about it. So, we’ll see next weekend. I think they’ll probably be back at the top.”
There was speculation that Red Bull’s downturn in form might be connected to the new rules applied this weekend to prevent bodywork parts, including the front and rear wings, from flexing. However, the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denied this had had any impact on their car.
“It’s not changed a single component on our car,” he said. “It is such a complicated sport. The competition is so high and to have a car that is competitive across every single venue in every condition on every compound of tyre is a hell of a challenge. We saw it even across the Mercedes periods of domination that sometimes they would come here and struggle.”2023-09-18T08:06:00Z dg43tfdfdgfd