Lewis Hamilton has cautioned against expecting a repetition of the Singapore Grand Prix, where Red Bull experienced a comprehensive defeat for the first time this season. Fellow drivers, including race-winner Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, have also expressed their belief that the Red Bull team is likely to return to their winning ways in the upcoming race in Japan this weekend.
Sainz secured victory for Ferrari at the Marina Bay circuit, followed by McLaren’s Norris and Mercedes’ Hamilton, after a dramatic finale that witnessed these three drivers, along with Mercedes’ George Russell, battling it out over the final ten laps. In stark contrast, Red Bull struggled throughout the weekend. The team, undefeated in all 14 previous meetings this season until Sunday, performed poorly in Singapore.
Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, who had triumphed in the ten preceding races, qualified only 11th and finished fifth. His car lacked balance and rear grip on the bumpy street circuit. Lewis Hamilton acknowledged the absence of Red Bull in the fierce competition but remained skeptical that other teams had genuinely closed the gap with the leaders.
“I think it’s just one of those things,” he stated. “They are so far ahead that perhaps they’re reducing their car development while we’re still striving to enhance our current one. McLaren has made significant progress, and it’s great to see Ferrari stepping up their game, but I think there’s a long way to go for the other teams.”
Sainz secured his second career win in Singapore with a determined drive from pole position, successfully fending off Mercedes and Norris in the closing stages. Nevertheless, he was unequivocal in his belief that when racing returns to traditional high-speed circuits like Suzuka, Red Bull will regain their dominance.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to win the remaining races of the season,” he asserted. “Singapore gave us an opportunity, and we performed well. However, Red Bull will likely be at the top for the rest of the season, and beating them will be extremely challenging.”
Sainz highlighted that the race showcased the competitiveness among the teams trailing the championship leaders.
Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, and Aston Martin
“It’s fantastic for Formula 1 if Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, and Aston Martin can consistently close the gap by two or three tenths every race, challenging Red Bull in terms of race pace. This year’s competition has the potential to create an incredible spectacle, with eight drivers vying for victory, much like what we witnessed in Singapore, where four or five drivers were in contention for a win on a demanding street circuit. It underscores Formula 1’s potential to deliver thrilling racing.”
Norris, securing his third second-place finish of the season for McLaren in Marina Bay, acknowledged the difficulties Red Bull encountered but anticipated their resurgence in Japan.
“I don’t know what issues they faced this weekend, but when I watched Max’s onboard from qualifying, it was almost comical because I’ve never seen a car struggle that much before,” he remarked. “But even Max found it amusing. So, let’s see what happens next weekend. I think they’ll probably be back at the top.”
There was speculation that Red Bull’s decline in performance might be linked to the new rules implemented over the weekend to prevent flexing of bodywork parts, including front and rear wings. However, Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, dismissed any impact of these changes on their car.
“These rule changes haven’t affected a single component of our car,” he clarified. “Formula 1 is an incredibly complex sport, with intense competition. Creating a car that excels across all venues, under all conditions, and with all tire compounds is an enormous challenge. Even during Mercedes’ dominant periods, there were instances where they faced difficulties at certain circuits.”