The Singapore Grand Prix was a reminder of the excitement Formula 1 can deliver when the playing field is leveled for Red Bull Racing.
Was Team principle Christian Horner correct in his insistence that FIA’s clampdown on flexible bodywork had no impact to the team’s performance this weekend? It appears suspicious that such a dramatic decline in pace should come directly following this rule change. Nevertheless, fans were treated to a rare five-car battle for the lead in Sunday’s thriller, nearer to expectations heading into the season.
Red Bull’s rotten week
It’s fair to say, it was a week to forget for Red Bull, both on and off track. Even before arriving at Marina Bay, the Milton Keynes outfit dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Following Dr. Helmut Marko’s incendiary comments, Red Bull’s Advisor to the Team appeared to blame Sergio Perez’ poor performances on his ethnicity. The FIA were under heavy pressure to act throughout the week, and finally reprimanded the 80-year-old. However, many felt his punishment lacked severity.
Red Bull have been untouchable throughout 2023, but sentiment of this kind threatens to divert attention away from their stellar season.
No flexi-wings, no pace
Christian Horner was staunch in defence of his team’s compliance with F1 rules this weekend. This came following an FIA technical directive ahead of the Singapore to control the flexibility of aerodynamic parts. Horner’s comments were, by and large, echoed by team principles across the paddock.
Many appeared to dismiss the idea that Red Bull could suffer such a sudden decline following a small rule tweak. However, fans can be forgiven for thinking the team have been pegged back judging by their weekend performance.
After both cars failed to make Q3 after electing not to pit under an early safety car, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez found themselves tumbling down the order. Remarkably, Singapore was the first time the Dutchman has been passed on track this season. The true impact of the rule change on Red Bull’s performance won’t be measured until Japan next weekend. Regardless, the Austrian manufacturer can still clinch their second consecutive constructors title at Suzuka.
As the top dogs floundered, the chasing pack wasted no time in capitalising. Following a Virtual Safety Car period, Sunday’s race exploded into life, prompting Mercedes to pit both their cars with fresh tyres. As the pressure piled on Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton charged toward the leaders, with the latter the faster of the pair.
As Russell struggled to make progress behind Lando Norris, Hamilton was vocal on the radio in his attempts to hurry his teammate along. Pressures of the seven-time champion then saw Russell eventually crash on worn tires during the final lap, after clipping a wall. Sainz cruised home to victory ahead of Norris, as Hamilton trundled home to claim a 196th career podium. Mercedes are now approaching their ideal set-up; inevitably, disharmony between the Brit duo could now appear. The relationship may become truly tested if wins become a more frequent possibility.
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