The 2023 Singapore Grand Prix was unique in that it had a dramatic finish as four cars from three Formula 1 teams fought for the podium. And not a Red Bull in sight!
After winning every other race this season, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez weren’t in the podium fight at Marina Bay Street Circuit all weekend. They weren’t even in the top 10 in qualifying after struggling to find the right set-up.
So does this herald a shift to closer racing and a better show? Not just yet, rivals say.
“I still think their record is going to be up there in the remaining of the season and they’re going to be very, very, very, very difficult to beat,” said Singapore winner Carlos Sainz claiming a first victory of the season for Ferrari.
“I just think it’s great for F1 if Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Aston (Martin) would be that two, three-tenths quicker every race to challenge them in race pace. And I think the racing this year would be incredible and it would be eight drivers fighting for wins, a bit like we saw today with four or five guys out there fighting for a win,” enthused Sainz.
Even if Red Bull’s advantage over the rest of the pack has been cut, that isn’t necessarily good news for other teams, warned Mercedes driver and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull could be getting a head start on developing its car for 2024 as other teams try to improve their 2023 cars, he said.
Hamilton: They’re working on next year’s car
“Probably, if you think about it, they haven’t been developing. Obviously McLaren brought an upgrade here, others are bringing upgrades. They’re working on next year’s car,” Hamilton said.
Red Bull forfeited time in the wind tunnel, a crucial piece of equipment to develop aerodynamics, and a paid a $7 million fine after overspending in the 2021 season.
“They have less wind tunnel time, so then they’re probably using some of this year’s on to next year’s. They would have definitely migrated before us,” Hamilton added. “They’re so clear ahead that maybe they’re developing their car less and we are still pushing to develop our current one.”
While Verstappen won 10 F1 races in a row during a run of 15 consecutive Red Bull victories, their success concealed competitive racing elsewhere in the F1 pack, McLaren’s Lando Norris said, suggesting he would have “two race wins already” if not for Verstappen.
“The best team always seems to kind of dominate and take away the show from the rest of it,” he added. “But often if you took away, you know, Mercedes a few years ago, when you take away Red Bull now, the battles for the rest of the positions always, I think, would have been incredible.”