Verstappen: 'Everything went against us in the race'

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 17.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
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By Max Verstappen's own admission, Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix turned out to be 'possibly the worst-case scenario' for the Red Bull team, with the championship leader struggling to finish in a distant fifth place.

It's a shockingly abrupt end to Verstappen's record ten-race winning streak, and means that the team has lost the chance of sweeping the whole of the season, which no team has ever managed before in the history of F1.

The weekend hadn't started well for Verstappen and his team mate Sergio Perez who both struggled in Friday practice. Even so, most people expected them to bounce back on Saturday, and even accused them of 'sandbagging'.

But after both drivers missed the final cut in qualifying, they were left starting today's race from outside the top ten. The team responded by putting them on hard tyres for the opening stint, while their rivals were on mediums.

Whether that strategy could have worked out for them or not we'll never know for sure, as an early safety car on lap 20 for Logan Sargeant's accident came at the worst possible moment for Red Bull's strategy.

It allowed those drivers who had started on medium and soft tyres to have a 'free' stop, but it was too early for Verstappen and Perez to change over and they had to suffer on their older tyres for another 20 laps.

"We were very unlucky," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. "The safety car could not have come at a worse time and that killed any chance for us to get into contention. It was a shame. But there are also a lot of positives."

“I think everything went against us in the race with the Safety Car,” Verstappen told media in the paddock at Marina Bay Street Circuit after the end of the race. "It was possibly the worst-case scenario.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 17.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"With the strategy today it was really important to not make any mistakes, otherwise you’re on the backfoot and you don’t win.”

"I really think that if the safety cars had worked out a little bit more in our favour, I would actually be fighting with the guys [at the front] because that last stint was quite decent, I was able to have some fun catching up on the mediums.

"But still, we were unlucky during the race with all the safety cars going against us," he said, with a subsequent Virtual Safety Car for Esteban Ocon's retirement also not helping their cause.

“I think we did the best we could today. We had good pace and we were just unfortunate with the timing of the safety car. If it weren’t for that, I really think that we would have been in a good place to fight up front.

“Clearly we learnt quite a bit from today and maybe what we did wrong yesterday," he said, with the poor qualifying and adverse grid positions clearly at the heart of their issues in the race.

"I cannot go into details," he said when asked if Red Bull now knew why they had struggled so badly in Singapore this weekend. "The problem is we can only show next year, when we come back, if it’s better or not.”

While looking better on Sunday, Verstappen said the underlying issues were “still there a bit, but to a lesser extent” in the race.

"Normally our car is always better in the race and I think you could see that again today in the race, especially on the medium at the end I think we had good pace."

Despite the poor result, Verstappen insisted that he was not dismayed by the end of his race-winning streak. In fact he sounded almost relieved to have that particular monkey off his back moving into the final seven races of 2023.

“I knew that this day would come, so for me it’s absolutely fine,” he said. "[To keep winning] everything needs to be perfect.

“Everyone is always saying, ‘Oh, look at how dominant they are, look how easy it is’. But it’s not easy. It’s a lot of details that you always need to get right, and clearly this weekend we didn’t get a few things right."

While Verstappen was able to battle his way back to fifth by the chequered flag, Perez only managed to finish in eighth having started from 13th on the grid.

"It was not a great day for us, it was as tough as we expected it to be. We struggled all race and nothing really worked. The safety cars came at the wrong time and it was similar with the VSC. It was just not our day."

All eyes will be back on the team next week in Japan to see whether they bounce back to their dominant best, or whether Singapore reflects a genuine longer term tipping point in the balance of power in the championship.

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