The top three drivers from the Singapore Grand Prix believe that Red Bull’s slump will prove to be an anomaly in 2023 rather than a sign of the team starting to drop away.
Red Bull had won every round heading into Singapore, setting a new all-time Formula 1 record for consecutive wins and sparking repeated talk it could go the year unbeaten.
Despite expecting the tight and twisty nature of the Marina Bay Circuit to conspire against the strengths of its RB19 car, Red Bull was still stunned to suffer a double Q2 exit.
The Austrian outfit’s bleak hopes of maintaining its winning run came to an end when two Safety Car periods conspired against the team’s alternate strategy.
The absence of Red Bull at the sharp end prompted a tense battle between four drivers from three separate teams, with Carlos Sainz emerging victorious after 62 laps.
However, the Ferrari racer admits he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Red Bull goes on to win the remaining seven races of the year.
“I think Singapore gave us the chance and we just did well,” he continued. “But I still think 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 reckons that the close competition at the front in Singapore showcased how exciting the season could have been with the chasing pack closer to Red Bull in race trim.
“I just think 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,” Sainz added.
“I think the racing this year would be incredible, and it would be eight drivers fighting for wins, a bit like we saw today with four or five guys out there fighting for a win around a street track. So it just shows the potential F1 has to create an incredible show.
“But it’s true that if Red Bull have nailed the car this year and they were doing such an amazing job they deserve to win everything that they’re winning.
“So yeah, obviously dreaming a bit about what F1 could be if we would all catch up a bit on them and in this second half of the season and next year.”
Lando Norris matched his best result by hanging onto second place, a position he achieved when classified runner-up twice to Verstappen during his 10-race record streak.
“If Red Bull weren’t here, I would have had two race wins already!”
The podium (L to R): Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren, second; Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari, race winner; Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Ferrari Team Principal; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, third. 17.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Race Day.
Norris, though, has echoed his ex-team-mate’s comments regarding Red Bull, citing there would have been many more races as entertaining as Singapore without the reigning World Champions in the mix.
The Briton also revealed that he enjoyed a joke with Verstappen about the poor handling of his RB19 car during qualifying.
“I think it’s great, I think that often if you didn’t have the best team there, the best team always seems to kind-of dominate and take away the show from the rest of it,” he said. “But often if you took away Mercedes a few years ago, when you take away Red Bull now, the battles for the rest of the positions I think would have been incredible: many different winners every race or every season.
“And even for us this year, if we could compete a bit more against Red Bull, Mercedes would have won, Ferrari would have won, we potentially could have won in Silverstone and Budapest.
“So yeah, I have dreamed a little bit but I’m sure, like Carlos said, they’re [Red Bull] going to be back on track next weekend.
“I don’t know what they struggled with this weekend but when I watched his onboard yesterday, I kind of laughed because I’ve never seen a car that bad before. But yeah, Max also laughed about it. So, we’ll see next weekend. I think they’ll probably be back at the top.”
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was even more pessimistic when addressing Red Bull’s sudden downturn, expressing his belief that the Milton-Keynes-based squad has turned its attention to next year’s car earlier than the competition amid its comprehensive advantage in both championships.
“I wasn’t really watching much of others this weekend, so I don’t really know why they’re off pace-wise,” Hamilton admitted. But I think it’s great to see that others are… McLarens have picked up huge amount of pace, it’s great to see that Ferrari have really stepped it up and I think it’s a positive.
“I think, probably if you think about it, they haven’t been developing. Obviously McLaren brought an upgrade here. Others are bringing upgrades, they’re working on next year’s car. They have less wind tunnel time so then they’re probably using some of this year’s on to next year’s.
“They would have definitely migrated before us. So no, I think it’s just one of those things. They are so clear ahead that maybe they’re developing their car less and we are still pushing to develop our current one. But time will tell.”
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