Max Verstappen was not looking in his best form on Friday in practice for the Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit, and conceded that Red Bull were off the boil so far this weekend.
"A little bit worse than expected today," Verstappen told the media in the paddock after the end of the second session. "I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car.
"We tried quite a few things in FP2," he continued. "Some worked, some didn't. But we never really got the car together. Just a few things that we don't understand, so that's what we have to look into."
Verstappen was third fastest in FP1 behind the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, but slipped to eighth in the evening session under the floodlights.
"I will of course try to improve tomorrow but there's quite a gap," he conceded. "Ferrari is very fast, I think we're just way worse than we expected. We'll try of course to improve, but it's quite a big gap."
Although Verstappen has started well down the order in previous races this season and still managed to win the race, Singapore is not a circuit that makes that particularly feasible.
if Verstappen was only able to qualify on the fourth row of the grid this weekend then is would mean an end to his record run of back-to-back race wins and could delay Red Bull's coronation as constructors champions.
It's not just Verstappen who is struggling to stamp his authority on proceedings this week. His team mate Sergio Perez was seventh in both sessions, somewhat over sixth tenths off the top time in both.
"We seem to be struggling a little bit with the rear end of the car, especially in FP2, so plenty of things to look at," he said, echoing Verstappen's own complaints.
"I think there are some interesting bits going on that we need to figure it out overnight hopefully," he said. . Hopefully, we can come up with the best possible set-up, because we know qualifying is very important."
Perez said that Red Bull had thought Ferrari would be particularly strong this weekend, and the surprise was how far behind they themselves were proving to be so far.
"We did expect the Ferrari to be very strong around here," he said. "We're just too far away. Hopefully tomorrow we are able to close the gap a bit more but it's quite a challenge.
"Over a race distance we're looking good," he insisted. "But that doesn't count for much round here, so we need to find the balance to be quick over one lap."
"All being well we should be able to close the gap a bit more tomorrow," he insisted. "The main thing is to improve the balance, because right now we are too far off.”