Red Bull, so far undefeated in the 2023 season, was expected to hit a speed bump at the challenging Singapore street circuit. The tricky track was predicted to be the primary hurdle on their quest for a historic clean sweep of race wins this year.
During the Friday practice, signs were showing that Red Bull might indeed struggle. Both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, who has been the 2023 season’s standout driver, found themselves lagging in seventh and eighth positions respectively. They had fallen seven-tenths behind Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, with both Red Bull drivers grappling with the balance on their RB19.
Verstappen candidly acknowledged that their practice session performance was even more underwhelming than what they had anticipated, highlighting balance issues as the main problem. “A little bit worse than expected today,” Verstappen admitted. “I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car.”
Moving deeper into their strategy, he shared, “We tried quite a few things in FP2. Some worked, some didn’t but we never really got the car together, so quite a few things to figure out for tonight. Just a few things that we don’t understand, so that’s what we have to look into.”
Verstappen expressed concern over Ferrari‘s impressive pace and the significant gap that existed between them. “Ferrari is very fast, I think we’re just way worse than we expected. We’ll try, of course, to improve but it’s quite a big gap.”
Sergio Perez echoed Verstappen’s sentiments, having struggled to keep the RB19‘s rear end in the right direction. He identified the team’s biggest hurdle in Milwaukee being the extraction of a single-lap pace from their machinery while harbouring fewer worries over their performance for the race as a whole. The challenge is compounded by the reality that overtaking is notoriously tricky on the modified Marina Bay circuit.
Perez remains hopeful, saying, “I think there are some interesting bits going on that we need to figure it out overnight hopefully. We seem to be struggling a little bit with the rear end of the car, especially in FP2, so plenty of things to look at.”
In relation to the key importance of qualifying, he expressed, “Hopefully, we can come up with the best possible set-up because we know qualifying is very important. We did expect the Ferrari to be very strong around here. We’re just too far away, so hopefully tomorrow we are able to close the gap a bit more. But it’s quite a challenge. Over a race distance we’re looking good, but that doesn’t count for much round here. We need to find the balance to be quick over one lap.”