Carlos Sainz says he is not discounting Red Bull and Max Verstappen from being in contention for victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, despite him starting down the order.

Red Bull has won every single race so far this season, leaving the team only eight wins shy of becoming the first side in Formula 1 history to go undefeated in a year.

However, the reigning World Champions are in danger of losing its record win streak on Sunday, having endured a nightmare qualifying session at the Marina Bay Circuit.

After struggling throughout the three practice sessions, both Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were unable to progress to Q3 in qualifying, leaving the pair 11th and 13th on the grid respectively.

Sainz believes the battle for pole position was not impacted by Red Bull’s absence but is convinced it will have an overriding impact on the eventual outcome of the race.

“My engineer told me the two Red Bulls were out and obviously it was not bad news to have,” Sainz reflected on the moment he found out that both RB19 cars failed to make the cut for Q3.

“Also, more looking into tomorrow than today, as qualifying any way it was always going to be a battle, yes with Max, but also with Lando [Norris], George [Russell] and Charles [Leclerc]. I think we were all very tight since practice. And it was really tight again in quali.

“I thought the battle for pole position was not going to be affected too much but the battle for the win probably. And yeah, it was decent news to receive for sure.”

Despite Verstappen claiming he can “forget” about targeting an 11th consecutive victory and a first in Singapore, Sainz is not ruling out the Dutchman and Red Bull unleashing the devastating race pace they’ve had all year.

However, the Spaniard, who will start from pole for the second consecutive race on Sunday, acknowledges the nature of the Singapore circuit will make it tough for Red Bull to come through the pack.

When asked whether he is concerned by Verstappen for the race, Sainz said: “I don’t think you can ever discount Max and Red Bull. They might turn up tomorrow with a race pace that they’ve had there all season, and still managed somehow to make through the field.

“But, for sure, around here, they have a much more difficult task. And it’s a much better opportunity than Monza, for example.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing, was knocked out in Q2 of qualifying. 16.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Qualifying Day.

Having been denied seizing the first non-Red Bull win of the season last time out in Monza, Sainz is relishing the “great opportunity” Ferrari has this weekend to end the Austrian camp’s unbeaten run.

“I think tomorrow the race is going to be between the top five cars that we’re starting,” he added.

“I think it is true that George has this extra medium tyre, but we could also do a two-stop as the Soft didn’t look too bad.

“Yeah, I think it will be a tough race to manage, a tough race to put together but I think if we nail it, we have a great opportunity. And that’s the target tomorrow, of course.”

Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc, who will start third in the second Ferrari, has agreed with his team-mate’s viewpoint, contending that Verstappen can’t be ruled out.

Pressed on if this is the competition’s greatest opportunity to defeat Red Bull in 2023 yet, Leclerc responded: “Until now, for sure, because they’ve never been as far as where they are starting now – on a street track also.

“But as George and Carlos said, we cannot discard them. So let’s see but it’s the best opportunity since the beginning of the season for sure.”

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