Christian Horner has warned rivals that Red Bull’s Singapore GP defeat was “pretty much circuit-specific”, and Max Verstappen’s emphatic P1 in Friday’s first practice in Japan backed up his claims.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris finished 1-2 in the Singapore Grand Prix, but it is fair to say that Red Bull lost the race on a weekend in which they couldn’t maximise the RB19’s strengths and got lost in the set-up trying to find a solution.
It marked the team’s first defeat of the season, bringing an end to their record-breaking 15-race streak that began last year in Abu Dhabi, with Verstappen fifth across the line while his teammate Sergio Perez was P8.
But if there was any doubt about Red Bull losing the plot, Verstappen answered that in the opening practice hour in Japan with an indomitable P1 as he led from start to finish.
Crossing the line six-tenths of a second up on Singapore winner Sainz, Horner was asked about his team’s resurgence in Japan.
“It’s still early days, but certainly Max laid down a statement of intent with his first flying lap of the weekend. We should hopefully have a strong car here this weekend.”
Pressed as to whether he was worried about a recurrence of the team’s Singapore troubles, he said: “Not so far. But I think that was pretty much circuit-specific. And I think we started to understand some of the issues that we had last weekend.
“Obviously, the analysis is still ongoing with that but hopefully this circuit is a little more conventional that’s focused more on the strengths of the car rather than the weaknesses.
“We expected it [Singapore] to be probably our biggest challenge of the season, I don’t think we expected it to be such a big challenge as it proved to be.
“We ended up in a window with the car set-up-wise that was suboptimal. I think we recovered it to a degree for the grand prix.
“But I think, unfortunately, when you get into a situation like that the Safety Car came out at just the wrong time for us, and the VSC almost even worse, so I think without that, actually we’d have been in that group fighting for a podium at the end of the race, but it wasn’t to be.
“The others did a great job, better than us, so we brush ourselves down and go again here.”
Like rival team bosses before him, Horner accepted there’s no “silver bullet” in F1 that makes for a perfect car in all situations.
“I think, again, there’s never a silver bullet with any of these things. It’s a combination of your interaction with aerodynamics, how the mechanical set-up interacts obviously with the tyres and the layout of the circuit. It’s a combination of how you run the combination of your set-up.
“I think we would be probably a little different to where we where we started and yeah, I think there’s a lot of lessons that we’ve taken out.”
But while the Singapore loss was Red Bull’s first of the season, Horner admits Red Bull’s winning streak wasn’t always easy to maintain. Especially at F1’s street circuits.
Those 90′ corners negate the RB19’s strengths with Horner conceding that has been the team’s weak spot this season.
“Certainly if you look at a race like Monaco, Fernando’s lap was phenomenal, so in Monaco there were already signs that street circuits were a challenge,” he said. “Azerbaijan was more of a challenge.
“There have been short corner circuits that have posed some issues for us but we’re starting to understand that.
“That’s something we have to address.
“It’s about finding balance. Circuit to circuit different cars different circuit so having one that fits the whole envelope is tricky.”