It is possible that you should whisper this for the time being, but there is a grand prix this weekend, and it appears very likely that a Red Bull driver will not win the race for the very first time.
Max Verstappen arrived in Singapore on a streak of 10 consecutive victories that broke a record and was ready for the 14th race of a season in which Red Bull have won every single one of them. However, the driver who is now leading the championship by a significant margin will begin the race in the 11th position, with teammate Sergio Perez starting two positions further down.
Due to the fact that the Dutchman and his Red Bull have been performing at a much higher level on Sundays in 2023 than their competitors, Verstappen would still be the favorite to win on practically any other course.
Since the middle of the previous season, Verstappen has had the speed to work his way back through the field virtually regardless of where he has begun. But passing is far more difficult in Singapore than it is everywhere else, with the exception of Monaco, and Verstappen dismissed the possibility of making it back onto the podium altogether.
“I don’t think so,” was his response. And if that answer causes any skepticism on your part, then think back to last year, when Verstappen was just as dominant as he is now by this point in the season. He started eighth in Singapore, but he could only manage to finish seventh.
Why is Red Bull having so much trouble?
Although Verstappen anticipated that the weekend in Singapore would be challenging, he said on Thursday that he was unprepared for how difficult it would actually be. After the qualifying round, he commented, “I knew it was always going to be difficult to put it on pole, but this I didn’t expect.”
So, where did we go wrong? It would appear that the source of the problem, which is paradoxical, is the Red Bull’s greatest advantage.
The Red Bull is currently the most competitive vehicle in the field and is widely considered to be among the very best of all time. However, it possesses a typical performance spectrum. Its advantage over the rest of the competition in races is significantly greater than the advantage it holds in qualifying.
The utilization pattern of its tires is the root cause of this issue.
Because the vehicle is so kind to its tires, it experiences much less of a phenomenon known as tyre degradation. As a result, it is capable of running at a higher speed for a longer period of time than any other vehicle. Competitors have frequently remarked, with awe and respect, on the car’s “zero deg” performance during races.
The downside to this, however, is that it can be difficult for the Red Bull team to get the most out of their tyres during qualifying, which requires the driver to rapidly bring the tyres up to temperature. As a result, the team’s performance on Saturdays is more comparable to that of the rest of the competition.
It is because of this that Red Bull have won every race so far, but not every qualifying session. Prior to Singapore, Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, as well as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, had all taken pole positions.
The characteristics of the track at Marina Bay have been precisely what Red Bull did not want them to be. The track is a low-abrasion street circuit, and it features low-speed, short-duration bends, which means that the tires have an especially easy time of it, which makes it difficult to get them up to temperature. Because there aren’t any high-speed turns and there aren’t very many straightaways, the car’s greatest assets don’t stand a chance of making up for its shortcomings.
“It’s very, very confusing to have dropped the amount of pace we had,” said Christian Horner, the team principal. “The vehicle does not react to any of the alterations.
“It’s understeer, oversteer, braking issues, it’s like we haven’t managed to get the tyre in the right working window,” the driver said. When you find a gap that large, it usually indicates that the tyre is not functioning properly in its essential ways. We have tried a variety of things with the set-up, and we have also attempted a variety of different preparations, but nothing has worked.
“The car has not been modified in any way. On Friday, we experimented with a new aerodynamic component (a redesigned floor), and we thought that we would stick with it. It is a tried and tested set-up, but for some reason it is not responding well on this track, which is asphalt. Both of the drivers have said that it has been a challenging experience trying to get the tyre into the opening.
“Starting outside of the top 10 on a track that is really difficult to overtake at, we have quite a lot on,” said the driver.
Is it truly impossible for Verstappen to take the checkered flag? If it is dry, then the answer must unquestionably be yes. Things can take a different turn if they are rainy. Even still, it will take something truly extraordinary to prevent Red Bull’s winning streak from coming to an end on Sunday. The race is in its final day.
Who among them will seize their moment of glory?
As soon as Red Bull was taken out of the equation, it was clear that Ferrari would be the team to step up and take advantage of the situation. Sainz has had the upper hand over Leclerc throughout the entire weekend, despite the fact that this is one of Leclerc’s preferred circuits, and the Spaniard took an excellent pole position.
It was his second victory in a straight, and it highlighted the fact that Sainz has found a special sweet spot with the vehicle in recent races. He led Leclerc to a Ferrari front-row lock-out in their home race in Monza, and it was his second victory in a row overall. On Friday, he got to work immediately and never once stopped or glanced back.
Leclerc, on the other hand, has stated that he does not feel at ease with the way the car is behaving at the moment. Therefore, the race car driver who turned in one of the greatest qualifying laps in the history of Singapore to earn pole position in 2019, and began from the front again the previous year, finds himself third on the grid, also behind the Mercedes driver George Russell.
The gap between first, second, and third place was only 0.078 seconds, indicating that this will be an exciting race. Not only is the Mercedes often more efficient with its tires than the Ferrari, but there is also the possibility that Russell has a tactical advantage.
Russell and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who will start fifth because he was never able to get his vehicle to behave the way he wanted the front end to, each have a second pair of brand new medium tyres available for the race.
It’s possible that it won’t make a difference if everything goes according to plan in Singapore. On a typical Sunday in Singapore, teams are required to run two separate compounds despite the fact that the strategy often involves only one stop.
However, Russell commented that the tyre degradation on Friday appeared to be quite severe. Therefore, I believe that a one-stop or a two-stop strategy will be very close to winning, and with our mediums, we will be able to put Ferrari in a difficult situation and attempt to drive them into making a mistake so that we can gain the upper hand. So that’s the kind of thing we want to look for.
We’re the only team that has the option of doing a one-stop or two-stop race, so it definitely offers us a good chance. This coming weekend presents a fantastic opportunity to come away with a win.
Both Sainz and Leclerc gave off the impression that they were not overly concerned. Sainz mentioned that the soft tyres “didn’t look too bad” in the event that they needed to stop twice, and Leclerc mentioned that they had two cars up front, whereas Mercedes just had one, in the event that they needed to play strategy.
As for any potential threat posed by Verstappen, perhaps it was the cumulative impact of being written off in every race so far this year, but all three drivers declined to say unequivocally that he had no chance of winning the race. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Verstappen has been written off for dead in every race.
“I don’t think you can ever discount Max and Red Bull,” Sainz added. “It would be foolish to do so.” They might show up tomorrow with the same race pace that they’ve had all season, and yet they might still find a way to work their way through the competition. But there is no doubt that the task at hand is a great deal more challenging around here.
“I believe the race will be decided by the top five cars [in the order] in which we’re starting.”
Also included in this is Lando Norris, who finished an impressive fourth on the grid while driving the highly upgraded McLaren.
According to Leclerc, “[Red Bull] have never been as far [behind] as where they are starting now, and that includes on a street track.” We are unable to disregard them. However, this is without a doubt the best opportunity that has presented itself since the beginning of the season.