Max Verstappen was relegated to a distant participant in the Singapore Grand Prix, with Red Bull struggling for pace throughout the weekend.
Verstappen came home in fifth place, the first time he’s failed to finish on the podium in 2023, having had a nightmare weekend as a lack of pace and bad luck plagued Red Bull throughout.
Having opted for the hard tyre for the race start, any chance of utilising better race pace against their rivals was undone by a badly timed Safety Car that meant Verstappen and Sergio Perez were left exposed when the race resumed.
Max Verstappen bemoans bad luck of Safety Car timing
With the Safety Car appearing at a third race distance, Red Bull opted to stay out on track in a bid to do something different to their rivals – the Safety Car having scuppered the advantageous part of starting the race on the hard compound.
But Verstappen and Perez were powerless to stop their rivals – now shod with much fresher tyres – from overtaking them, all while Red Bull still had to pit. Falling close to the back of the pack when they eventually did stop for the medium tyres, their pace in the final third of the race was such that Verstappen was able to claw back to fifth place and only just missing out on fourth place as Charles Leclerc held on.
“We had some bad luck with the Safety Car as well,” a philosophical Verstappen told Sky F1 afterward, when asked if the race had felt like a recovery from qualifying in 11th place on Saturday.
“Both of them. The first one was at the wrong point.
“And also the second one was at the wrong point for us. So, yeah, a bit of a shame.
“But I had fun in the second stint, I think we were quite fast on that medium compound.”
It was pointed out to him that he was overtaken on track for the first time in 2023, with the Dutch driver shrugging his shoulders about the statistics.
“For me, these stats, I don’t care about that. This is normal,” he said.
“I was on old tyres so there’s not much you can do.”
But, with Red Bull having had a terrible weekend in Singapore, Verstappen believes normal service can resume next weekend in Japan. Asked if he’s more confident for Suzuka, Verstappen was blunt.
“No, I think we will be quick in Suzuka,” he said. Put to him whether his rivals should be worried as a result, he smiled: “It’s not my problem what their worries are.”
Sergio Perez: It was not our day
Sergio Perez, salvaging eighth place in the other RB19, agreed with his teammate’s assessment of the afternoon.
“It was like expected and nothing really worked for us, with the Safety Car timings,” he said.
“It was at the worst time, similar with the VSC. So yeah, it was not our day.
“We went on a different strategy to everyone else. I think that was the best we could do.”