Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2023

“Shocking”: How Verstappen suffered another dire Singapore qualifying session

Formula 1

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Having suffered a major blow in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix 12 months ago, Max Verstappen surely did not expect to go through an even worse experience this year.

Particularly as he has dominated the 2023 season so far. He arrived in Singapore having established a new record by winning all of the previous ten races.

But at the track where he qualified only eighth last year after having to abort his final run due to a miscalculation by his team, a litany of problems left him 11th on the grid this weekend. And he should be grateful to come away with as much as that, having collected no grid penalties for any of the three infringements he was investigated for after the chequered flag fell on qualifying.

Red Bull did not appear to be at their sharpest during practice but Verstappen nonetheless ended final practise inside the top four and within 2/10 of a second of the quickest time. It did not appear as though alarm bells were ringing, and that impression remained throughout much of Q1.

But at the end of that session it started to become clear how much trouble Red Bull were in. Astonishingly, neither Verstappen nor his team mate Sergio Perez made it beyond Q2. As usual, Verstappen did not disguise his growing frustration in his radio exchanges with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.


First run

Verstappen’s first effort in Q1, running on the soft tyres, was a 1’32.862, a whisker under three tenths of a second slower than his team mate managed. During his two cool-down laps between runs Lambiase gave him pointers on where he could find the lost time, and he duly produced a lap almost half a second quicker.

LambiaseWe’ll have a double slow please, Max. Okay, so initial laps Norris 32.5, Checo 32.5, yourself 32.8, Sainz 32.9, Leclerc 32.5.
LambiaseLosses to Checo five, seven, nine, 13, 14.
LambiaseI think we can target plus three to plus four opening this second push lap, Max, keeping the double slow. Initial balance feedback?
VerstappenYeah, it’s pretty similar to before for me.
LambiaseOkay, understood.
VerstappenYeah, let’s try the tyres [unclear].
LambiaseInitial feedback Max I would say is maybe you open the lap a little bit cool on tyres.
LambiaseTyres look fine, Max. I think you’ve built yourself some margin there to create a gap.
LambiaseOkay box Max, keep up the pace on the way in, please.
LambiaseKeep up the pace on the way in, please, Max, thank you. Thoughts on flap, Max?
VerstappenIt’s okay.
LambiaseOkay understood.

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Queue in the pits

The first hint of trouble for Verstappen came as he dawdled at the pit lane exit before beginning his final flying run. George Russell and Charles Leclerc behind him were not impressed at the Red Bull sitting stationary for the best part of 15 seconds. The stewards considered whether Verstappen had impeded them, and chose to issue him a reprimand.

LambiaseEverything okay, Max? Looks like…
VerstappenYeah just a little…
LambiaseYeah okay, that looks okay now, mate.
VerstappenA lot of cars ahead.
LambiaseUnderstood, Max. You’ve got margin at the moment on the tyres, they’re in a better place already.

Queue on the track

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2023
Verstappen was unable to beat Perez’s best time

Verstappen had taken his time leaving the pits in an effort to avoid catching traffic at the end of the lap before beginning a flying run. He was not successful, as almost half the field congregated at the final chicane and got in each other’s way.

Lambiase kept Verstappen aware of how long he could afford to wait before starting his lap, and also warned him of the approaching Logan Sargeant. Verstappen made room for the Williams, and the stewards later declared themselves satisfied he had not impeded his rival.

VerstappenCan you keep me up to date, please, with the cars?
LambiaseYes. It’s six cars to go and you’ve got Russell and co. all behind you.
LambiaseFocus on the tyre management, Max. Don’t get into those silly games will you, thanks. I don’t understand where they expect you to go. Tyres in a much better window, by the way.
LambiaseOkay you need to get ready to go, now, Max.
VerstappenMate there’s so many fucking cars!
LambiaseSo Sergeant is coming through, okay. That’s 24 seconds to green. Then Alex is coming through as well. Okay we need to get going onw, Max. Should be fine. Get going now. Okay need to go-

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Turn 14 error

Following that disrupted start, Verstappen’s final lap did not go well. Lambiase urged him not to abandon it, but when Verstappen locked up at turn 14 Verstappen exclaimed in frustration and backed off.

Seconds later, Lance Stroll smashed into the barrier at turn 19 and the session was red-flagged, so no other driver could improve their time. That included several drivers ahead of Verstappen who might have beaten his time, but not enough to have put him at risk of failing to reach Q2.

Verstappen[Unclear] the lap.
LambiaseKeep pushing, Max.
VerstappenLocked up again in this shit corner. Fuck’s sake. Shit balance.
LambiaseRed flag.


Stroll’s crash meant there was a significant delay between the end of Q1 and the start of Q2. While other drivers found substantial improvements on the cooling track, Verstappen did not – his first effort was barely a tenth of a second quicker than his fastest time of Q1, even though he set that mark early in the session.

Little was said on the radio besides the usual messages about positioning and traffic. Unfortunately for Verstappen, at the very moment he tried to give some feedback on his car, Lambiase was trying to warn him about Yuki Tsunoda approaching from behind. He got in the AlphaTauri driver’s way, and was fortunate to escape with only a reprimand.

Impeding Tsunoda

VerstappenI do not have bite in the fronts. The car is really bad in low speed.
LambiaseTsunoda behind, timed lap.
VerstappenOkay, well…
LambiaseAlex behind, timed lap.

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Verstappen was able to find more time on his final run in Q2. But remarkably his 1’32.173 was no quicker than his team mate had managed in Q1.

It was enough to temporarily put him into Q3. However to his dismay Liam Lawson pipped him by seven-thousandths of a second. That spelled an early end to Verstappen’s qualifying session.

LambiaseSlow button on please Max, slow button.
VerstappenI don’t understand. Fucking shocking. Absolutely shocking experience.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on ““Shocking”: How Verstappen suffered another dire Singapore qualifying session”

  1. It’s a very unique track in every way.
    Warm and humid (much more than Sao Paulo), night race (cooler tarmac), mechanical grip heavy track. Maybe the gambled with setup. High change of rain tomorrow.

    1. Not really a high chance, but either just track characteristics & or setup mistake unless they also struggle in Suzuka in which case TD45 would more likely be the contributor.

  2. If it was the new TD, like some suggest, then I doubt they’d complain about not understanding things.

  3. The commentators paraphrased Vettel saying that Verstappen is comfortable being uncomfortable.
    I do not think that means what they think it means.

    1. All of this was just sensationalism on overdrive. From last season wax lyrical about how max had changed so much from 2021 now so calm and serene when it was it was never possible to make that claim due a lack of a real threat for the last 12+ months.

      Honestly not surprised that seb chimed in with the same tune either.

  4. Mate there’s so many fucking cars!

    LOL! Guess he isn’t a fan of expanding the grid to 26 cars.

    Also… how lucky he is to be part of RBR/Liberty’s FIA new zero-grid penalty for 2 infractions or more. ;-)

    1. Should we be happy with an expanding grid?
      Even now q1 is often a mess. They will have to adapt the quali to create room for more cars on the tracks.

  5. Max missed q3 by 0.007s with a lap full of mistakes. A clean lap and he would easily have made q3.
    I expect red bull to have the fastest car by some margin on race day, with a straightforward win if drivers can use its potential.

    1. If this was Spa, then perhaps. But it’s Singapore, so I’d be surprised if he gets into the top 6 to be honest.

    2. Max missed q3 by 0.007s with a lap full of mistakes. A clean lap and he would easily have made q3.

      I don’t think the word “easily” is appropriate in that sentence.
      Without the mistakes, Q3 was possible, but even in Q3 he’d have been well down the order.

      The problem is that, contrary to idolising comments, he does make mistakes when under pressure.
      The low number of mistakes in the last season+half is down to a lack of pressure arising from a massively dominant car.
      Where he has made mistakes, he has escaped without any notable consequence.

    3. I think that RBR needs a favourable red flag to get close to the podium…

  6. The swearing bully is back…

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