Despite the bitter pill that was the Singapore Grand Prix for Red Bull, Max Verstappen is confident his team have the momentum to get back on the winning track at the Japanese Grand Prix provided they get everything right.
The final sentence in Verstappen’s RBR preview of the Suzuka weekend is telling: “We need to get everything right this weekend and of course, the target is to win.”
Of course, the target is always to win, however, what is not always the case is that Red Bull “need to get everything right” which suggests something was amiss in Singapore. Was it setup? Flexiwing? Anomaly? What always was the case, namely Red Bull winning every race was not so at Marina Bay.
What went wrong with RBR and their mighty (hitherto all-conquering) RB19 has been the subject of much speculation this week – be it a Singapore thing or more permanent damage – however, it appears that no one will really know until the cars roll out for FP1 at Suzuka, on Friday.
Verstappen also revealed in his preview that their “Singapore Surprise” has served as motivation for Red Bull to bounce back: “Following the race in Singapore, the team is carrying a lot of momentum into Japan.”
As for the old-school track the Red Bull thrives on, Verstappen said: I’m looking forward to racing in Suzuka, it’s always super fun to drive as it has a lot of high-speed corners. I also have very fond memories from the track there, from winning my second Drivers’ Championship, scoring a great Team result [in 2022] finishing 1-2 and even looking back to 2014 when I drove during FP1 for the first time.
“I’m spending a few days in Tokyo ahead of the weekend which should be fun and also help with the jet lag,” added Verstappen, last year’s winner in Japan.
Perez: We need to get back to the victory this weekend
In the sister car, Sergio Perez also endured a forgettable weekend at Marina Bay, which he touched on in his preview ahead of Japan: “Singapore was an unfortunate weekend and a painful one, so I hope we are back on form for Japan and we can be stronger.
“Suzuka is a circuit we all love and I think the car will be back to its best, the problems we had in Singapore should hopefully not continue to affect us.”
Recalling the 2022 race in which he finished second to his teammate, Perez continued: “Last year I had a fun drive in Japan in hard conditions, fighting with Charles [Leclerc] all the way to the final lap and those are the races you love. The first sector is one of the best to drive all season, it’s tricky but great.
“We need to get back to the victory this weekend, that can be the only target for us, I am confident and I look forward to it,” concluded Perez.
While a sliver of pundits precise doom and gloom for Red Bull, most expect it to be business as usual for the World Champs from the moment the Suzuka track goes green for FP1 on Friday.
As has become the norm this season, Verstappen is the outright favourite, at 2/7, to take victory on Sunday, with teammate Perez 11/1 next while Singapore GP winner Carlos Sainz is an 18/1 shot. The bookies have voted!
In the 2023 F1 Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull have more than twice as many points as their second-placed rivals and can win the title this weekend, if they outscore Mercedes by at least one point.
Verstappen also has a chance of sealing a hat-trick of titles but would take a number of factors including having to bag maximum points in Japan and Perez not scoring four points. In other words a very long shot, so Qatar is the likely venue for the crowning. Provided, of course, Singapore was indeed an anomaly…