Despite their setback in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton was full of rare praise for the Red Bull team and expects Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez “who are doing an amazing job” to bounce back at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
But things have changed dramatically in the wake of the RBR Marina Bay no-show last Sunday. Hamilton was asked by reporters during today’s F1 drivers’ press conference at Suzuka if he expected the Red Bulls to bounce back in Japan.
At first, Hamilton was not so sure and replied: “I have no clue. I would think that, if they’re not 30 seconds ahead, like they have done in the past then something’s up! But no, I think that as Checo said, it was obviously a difficult weekend.”
Hamilton referencing Sergio Perez sitting beside him in the FIA-hosted press conference, admitted that his Red Bull team got their sums wrong in Singapore: “Obviously, it’s something that we will keep internally, but there’s some good indications that we probably approach the weekend with the wrong set-up.”
Lewis: I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had
Then he waxed lyrical about the reigning F1 World Champs: “Their car [Red Bull RB19] should be phenomenal here. They’ve been phenomenal all year long. They’ve aced pretty much every circuit. And I mean, it’s going to be great to watch that car in general.
“Normally, you would come here and it’s beautiful to watch the laps that they do because the team, as a whole and the drivers are doing an amazing job with the package they have. So, it’ll be interesting to see how the weekend goes. I hope that we are closer and I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had in the past,” added Hamilton who finished third in Singapore last Sunday.
The consensus among many F1 pundits was that Mercedes had the better race car at Marina Bay and hence in the end there were two of them in the top four – in P2 and P4 – angling for victory, but Hamilton disagreed: “I don’t know whether that’s really the case.
“I think Carlos was managing at the front, and I think he was… we were relatively close, I would say, at the front. But what a great race it was. Just to have us all that close up front. And I think this weekend, I don’t anticipate having the performance we had in the last race.
“But we’ve worked very hard to continue to try and push the envelope that we have. So, I’m hoping that we’re not terribly far off this weekend,” added Hamilton, a five-time winner of the Japanese Grand Prix, only F1 legend Michael Schumacher has won more, he bagged six wins here during his illustrious career.
While Red Bull (as well as Verstappen ) are sure to claim both 2023 F1 world titles, if it happens at Suzuka on Sunday depends on Mercedes, if they outscore Red Bull in the race, the title decider will move on to Qatar when both are likely to be wrapped up.