Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says it has a much “clearer understanding” of the “setup problem” that hampered its competitiveness in Singapore.
Red Bull had won the last 15 races in a row dating back to the end of last year, but the team’s attempts to become the first side to go an entire Formula 1 season unbeaten came to an abrupt end on Sunday evening.
The Austrian outfit had struggled profusely throughout practice at the Marina Bay Circuit, with both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez failing to progress to Q3 in qualifying.
Any attempts to utilise the stronger race pace of the RB19 to haul itself back into contention at the front were dented by two Safety Car periods working unfavourably against the team’s strategy to start on the more durable Hard tyre with its two cars.
Expanding on Red Bull’s troubling Singapore weekend, Horner said: “I think, firstly, we understood a lot more in the race and the pace of the car came much more back to what we expected.
“We knew coming here we expected to have closer competition, but it took us a bit by surprise how just how far out we were on Friday. We were just not in the right operating window for the car, particularly over a single lap. When you are not there, the tyres feel horrible, everything just doesn’t work.
“So I think we got a very good steer in the race, we saw, particularly in the latter stint, that Max’s pace was very strong.
“Unfortunately, in the race, by starting on the Hard, we took a strategic gamble and the best way of that race paying us off was if we had an early Safety Car or if you get a Safety Car later on into the race, but the lap that the Safety Car came out on was strategically the worst possible lap for the strategy that we were on because it gave the lead cars, the cars ahead of us, a free stop at the same time giving us track position but making us take the restart with tyres that were very hard to heat up again having done over 20 laps.
“So then Max was picked off by the guys that had the free stop and then we had to take a pit stop that was in normal racing conditions, which then dropped you another 23 seconds behind.
“With that all considered, the recovery that we had, and the pace that we had, particularly in the latter stages of the race to be 0.2s behind Charles [Leclerc, Ferrari] at the finish line, was a strong race.”
Asked if Red Bull had gotten a better grasp of why it experienced such a regression in performance, Horner replied: “I think we have got a much clearer understanding, which is primarily a setup problem.”
Pressed on the reasons for its unexpected slump, Horner cited how Mercedes traditionally encountered more issues in Singapore at the height of its dominance.
“I think the technology involved is so high, and the competition is so high,” he explained. “Occasionally, to have a car that’s competitive across every single venue, in every condition, on every compound of tyre, is a hell of a challenge.
“I think we saw it even with the Mercedes eras of domination that sometimes they come here and struggle. Maybe it’s unique to this circuit that has its differences to others.”
However, the Red Bull chief has ruled out that the new Technical Directive clamping down on the use of flexi-wings and floors to aid aerodynamic performance from this weekend was responsible.
“It’s all engineering stuff. There’s no silver bullets in this business,” he expressed.
“I know all of you would love to blame the TD, but unfortunately we can’t even blame that because it has not changed a single component on our car. So I think circuit characteristics are different here and we haven’t optimised the car in the right window to extract the most.”
Red Bull’s demise enabled Ferrari to seize the victory – but Horner is adamant it will only be revealed next weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix whether the chasing pack have truly eradicated the gap at the top.
“Let’s see if it’s circuit-specific,” he said of Ferrari’s pace in Singapore. “If suddenly Ferrari are first and second in Japan next weekend then we will see if there is a significant jump.
“We’ve seen form move around so much, the one consistent was ourselves and we were the one that found ourselves slightly out of shape. While we recovered in the race, the Safety Car killed it for us but that’s the way it is.”