Will Red Bull dominate again?

Red Bull’s unbeaten streak in F1 2023 finally ended at the Singapore Grand Prix as Max Verstappen only finished fifth

Had the Safety Car timing been kinder, Verstappen could have challenged for the podium at least, but it wasn’t to be.

It’s widely accepted that Red Bull’s downturn in form was due to Singapore’s unique characteristics, rather than the technical directive linked to flexible bodywork.

The FIA issued a new technical directive that came into effect in Singapore, looking to stamp out flexible aerodynamic bodywork amid concerns some teams may have been bending the rules.

With Red Bull suddenly struggling, many were quick to suggest that the aforementioned directive was the reason for the RB19 looking uncompetitive for the first time this year.

Team boss Christian Horner was adamant it had no impact on Red Bull.

“It’s all engineering stuff. There’s no silver bullet in this business,” he said. 

“I know all of you would love to blame the TD, but unfortunately we can’t even blame that, because it’s not changed a single component on our car.”  

Plus, Verstappen dismissed fears that Red Bull’s season will be curtailed by the TD, confident he will be right back at the front at Suzuka this weekend.

“No. I think we will be quick at Suzuka. It’s not my problem what their worries are,” Verstappen added.

Even in Mercedes’ period of dominance, Singapore tended to be a circuit where they struggled relative to the opposition – even in 2014 and 2015, when they won nearly every race.

Perhaps it’s similar for Red Bull given the unique nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, and the fact they expected to struggle ahead of the weekend.

Of course, if Red Bull struggle once again – or at least aren’t as dominant at Suzuka – perhaps there will be even more questions about the technical directive and its impact.

Why McLaren should be second-best

McLaren should fancy their chances of being the second-best team at Suzuka.

High-speed corners are a key strength of this year’s McLaren, with Suzuka renowned for his fast esses. 

McLaren’s latest upgrade package seems to have moved them closer to the front, particularly in low-speed corners which continue to be a key weakness.

Lando Norris feels the new update is a step forward, although the same inherent issues remain.

“So you’re still complaining of the same things and same issues, it’s just you’re probably going a little bit quicker while doing so,” Norris said in Singapore.

“And for sure it had taken a good step forward, which is reassuring for here and the rest of the season. So yes, positive from all of that.”

On paper, Suzuka should suit McLaren, particularly the first sector, while Ferrari have struggled at tracks with longer radius corners and maintaining the aero balance through them.

Regardless, it should be another intriguing battle behind Red Bull.

Aston Martin’s Stroll problem

Lance Stroll’s nightmare season continued in Singapore with an amateur shunt at the end of Q1.

Stroll was 0.3s down on Valtteri Bottas, who was 15th at the time the Canadian crossed the second sector split – so realistically had no chance of making it through to Q2.

The 24-year-old lost control of his car at the final corner, clattering into the barriers in violent fashion.

Stroll was unable to take part in the race after Aston Martin revealed he was still “sore” after the crash.

Teammate Fernando Alonso endured a difficult afternoon as Aston Martin failed to score points for the first time this year.

It means they’ve fallen even further behind Mercedes and Ferrari, while McLaren are fast approaching in the race for fourth.

Given how they started the year, finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship – behind McLaren – would be incredibly disappointing.

While their form has dropped off, the main reason they’re under threat for fourth in the first place is Stroll’s performances.

Stroll has 123 fewer points than his teammate and is set to fall behind the Alpine drivers in the championship.

To make matters worse, team principal Mike Krack is coming up with new and unique ways to defend Stroll, claiming his crash in Q1 was clear evidence of his “commitment” to F1.

While Stroll’s F1 future is secure for now, surely patience among sections of the team is running out, particularly as his lack of form could result in a lower championship finish and less prize money, and then potentially a smaller bonus for team staff.

Last chance for Lawson?

This weekend could be the last time we see Liam Lawson in F1 machinery until 2025.

Lawson has been one of the surprises of the year since stepping in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo at Zandvoort.

The Kimi has been calm, assured and never over awed by the F1 experience.

Lawson picked up AlphaTauri’s best result of the season so far with ninth in Singapore.

But it seems his performances aren’t enough to tempt Helmut Marko and Red Bull into giving him a full-time drive for next year.

If the reports are to be believed, Yuki Tsunoda’s new deal will be announced at Suzuka, while Ricciardo is likely to stay for 2024.

Williams also have a seat available, and given Logan Sargeant’s underperformance, Lawson would be the perfect fit.