Max Verstappen says Red Bull’s performance during Friday at the Singapore Grand Prix has been “worse than expected.”
Red Bull has romped to victory at every round this year, prompting repeated talk it could become the first team ever to go an entire Formula 1 season unbeaten.
However, both drivers and Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner warned ahead of the race weekend that the technical nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit would not play to the strengths of its RB19 car.
While Ferrari secured a 1-2 in both Friday sessions, Verstappen could only wound up eighth in FP2, 0.7s adrift of Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen insists Red Bull struggled more than anticipated on the opening day of running, adding that the team has a lot of work to rectify its troubles overnight.
“A little bit worse than expected today,” Verstappen lamented. “Just struggling a lot with the balance of the car.
“We tried quite a few things in FP2 – some worked, some didn’t – never really got the car together, so there’s quite a few things to figure out for tonight basically.”
When asked if he was confident Red Bull could be back in the hunt for pole position tomorrow, the Dutchman replied: “I will try to of course improve but it’s quite a big gap.”
Pressed on if he was surprised by Ferrari’s table-topping pace in both sessions, Verstappen added: “Ferrari is very fast, I just think we are way worse than we expected.”
Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19 leaves the pits. 15.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Practice Day
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez, winner of the event last year, wound up one position ahead of Verstappen, having also been classified seventh in the first practice hour.
The Mexican racer echoed his team-mate’s comments, disclosing that he was particularly struggling with rear-end instability through the many twists and turns that make up the revised Marina Bay track.
With overtaking notoriously difficult in Singapore, Perez asserts Red Bull must ensure it unlocks a solution to its issues overnight in order to secure a good qualifying spot for Sunday’s race.
“I think there are some interesting bits going on that we need to figure out overnight hopefully,” Perez said.
“We seem to be struggling quite a bit with the rear end of the car, especially in FP2.
“So plenty of things to look at and hopefully we can come up with he best possible set-up, because we know that qualifying is very important.”
“We did expect the Ferrari to be very strong around here, we are just too far away,” he continued. “Hopefully tomorrow we are able to close the gap a bit more, but I do expect quite a challenge.”
Although traffic was a problem in the early stages of FP2, Perez is not expecting it to provide another obstacle to overcome come qualifying tomorrow.
“I think come Q3 it should all be very straightforward, but I don’t think we are relying anything on that,” he admitted.
“I think the main thing is to make sure that we are able to improve the balance that at the moment we are far off.”
Red Bull will have its first opportunity to secure the Constructors’ Championship this weekend but must secure a 1-2 finish on Sunday to have any chance of doing so.