Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says he is most wary of Sprint Races potentially catching his side out in the remaining rounds of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Red Bull has dominated the current season, winning all but one of the 16 races to be held to this point to wrap up the Constructors’ Championship with six rounds to spare.
The Austrian outfit’s hopes of becoming the first-ever team to go an entire campaign unbeaten, however, were ended in Singapore.
Despite Red Bull emphatically returning to form at Suzuka last weekend, Horner predicts that the Sprint format has the potential to deny the reigning champions top spot for only a second time this year.
The revised format will appear at three of the remaining six rounds. Red Bull’s only defeat across the second half of last year came during a Sprint weekend in Brazil when the team made an incorrect set-up choice.
Asked if he anticipates any circuits troubling Red Bull like Singapore did, Horner said: “Honestly, I don’t know. It’s impossible to predict. Obviously Brazil was a struggle for us last year.
“We’ve got a lot of Sprint Races coming up now, almost every other race is a Sprint Race. And you get one session to sort your car out, and that can put huge pressure that if you don’t get quite in the right window, after that P1, if you have a bit of rain or compromised session, that can make it very tricky. That could be an interesting factor from the next race.”
Max Verstappen is increasingly likely to secure the Drivers’ Championship at the next round in Qatar, requiring only a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s Sprint to retain the title.
Meanwhile, team-mate Sergio Perez will be bidding to rebound from a disastrous weekend in Japan that saw him trail Verstappen throughout and retire after picking up damage on two occasions.
But the Mexican still retains a 33-point buffer in second place, and Horner is confident that Perez will bounce back to ensure Red Bull lock out the top two positions in the championship for the first time in its history.
“He’s got at least a one race weekend sort of [points] ‘buffer’ to Lewis and greater than that to Fernando [Alonso] behind him,” Horner assessed.
“It’s something that we’ve never achieved; we’ve never finished first and second with any of our drivers in the world championship so it would be a big thing for us to achieve.
“He came close last year, it would be his best-ever result, and he’s got the best car that he’s ever had to be able to try and achieve that result.
“Japan was frustrating and difficult for him, but he’ll bounce back. I’m sure there’s enough races with the six grands prix remaining for him still to achieve some great results between now and the end of the season.”