While Red Bull were very much off-form in Friday practice ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz does not expect that to last.
Runaway Championship leader Max Verstappen had tipped the Marina Bay Street Circuit not to be the the strongest of tracks for Red Bull, with the opening two practice sessions of the race weekend supporting that theory.
By the end of FP2 Verstappen found himself over seven-tenths adrift of Sainz in P1, Ferrari having claimed a one-two finish in both sessions.
Carlos Sainz expects Red Bull to rebound
Now, it never is wise to put total faith in the results of Friday practice, though the extent of Red Bull’s struggles has raised serious discussions over whether their undefeated F1 2023 run could end in Singapore.
Sainz is not so sure about that, as he expects Red Bull to be in the fight for pole and once more have the strongest car come race day.
Asked if he felt Red Bull are in as much trouble as Friday suggested, Sainz told the Formula 1 website: “No, I don’t believe it.
“When you look at the long-run pace, they looked like the strongest car. Once they sort out the one-lap pace they’ll be there fighting for pole.
“Hopefully we will be in that fight, but it also looks like Aston [Martin], McLaren, Mercedes should also be in that fight. So, I think we are on for an exciting day tomorrow and hopefully we can get the best out of it.”
That being said, Sainz admitted that it did take him somewhat by surprise as Ferrari started the race weekend in such fine form.
“Yeah, a little,” he said when asked if the mighty performance in the SF-23 surprised him. “But at the same time, you always need to arrive to Singapore very open-minded.
“You’ve seen in the past very weird performance swings at this track, because it’s a very particular track, and so far, it looks like it’s suiting our car well and it’s going well. We hit the ground running in FP1 and just fine-tuned the set-up a bit for FP2 to be a bit quicker.
“It looks good, but I do believe the track is going to change tomorrow, it’s going to ramp up the grip a lot and it’s all about who finds the perfect set-up for tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc also opting for caution
Sainz’s Ferrari team-mate Leclerc also had not anticipated the team coming flying out of the blocks with such pace, though he is not getting “carried away” as he believes that come qualifying day on Saturday, rivals will start to show their true ability.
“Yes, we’re surprised, but we’re not getting carried away either,” Leclerc declared. “It’s only Friday and we expect the other teams to show more of their true potential tomorrow, so we cannot get carried away.
“But it is true that we did not expect this kind of performance, on a Friday at least, and it’s a good start. But now we need to focus on ourselves and reproduce just the same tomorrow.”
If Ferrari are able to maintain this form, then it would propel them right back into the hunt for that P2 spot in the Constructors’ Championship, the gap to Mercedes currently holding that position standing at 45 points.