Analysis: Why Red Bull believe Verstappen could have been “right in the game”

Formula 1

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Red Bull went into the Singapore Grand Prix mystified by their poor showing in qualifying which left both their drivers outside the top ten.

But during the race they began to unpick the puzzle of the RB19’s apparent incompatibility with the Marina Bay street circuit. As the night wore on the car’s performance improved relative to its rivals and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was left wondering what might have been had the cards fallen in their favour.

“We understood a lot more in the race and the pace of the car came much more back to what we expected,” he explained. “Coming here we expected to have closer competition but I think it took us a bit by surprise just how far out we were on Friday.

“We were just not in the right operating window for the car, particularly over a single lap. When you’re not there then the tyres feel horrible, everything just doesn’t work. So, I think we got a very good steer in the race.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2023
Red Bull weren’t able to pit during a Safety Car period
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both started the race on hard compound tyres. With drivers ahead of them on softer rubber, Red Bull were hoping a Safety Car appearance would help them save time during the inevitable pit stop. That all hinged on the Safety Car appearing at the right moment, but unfortunately for Red Bull, it did not.

“Unfortunately, in the race, by starting on the hard we took, if you like, a strategic gamble, and the best way of that race paying us off is if you get an early Safety Car or a Safety Car sort of later into the race. Now, the lap that the safety car came out in was probably strategically the worst possible lap for the strategy that we were on because it gave the cars ahead of us a free stop.”

Virtually the entire field took the opportunity to pit on lap 20 during the Safety Car, but Verstappan and Perez stayed out. That moved them up to 2nd and 4th places respectively, but within half a dozen laps of the restart several of their fresh tired rivals had passed and the pair were back in sixth and seventh.

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“Whilst giving us track position, it made us take the restart with tyres that are very hard to heat up again, having done well over 20 laps. So then Max was obviously picked off by the guys that had the free stop.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Singapore, 2023
Leclerc’s pace dropped off badly at the end
Red Bull’s hopes another Safety Car period would allow them to change tyres with minimal time loss were dashed and the pair had to change tyres during green flag running. “We were another 23 seconds behind with that,” said Horner.

Having seen his drivers fall to 15th and 17th with 21 laps to go, Horner was encouraged by the progress they made after switching to the medium tyre compound. Verstappen even reeled in Charles Leclerc ailing Ferrari and needed only one more lap to pass him when the chequered flag dropped.

“All considered, the recovery that we had and the pace that we had, particularly in the latter part of the race to be 0.2s behind Charles at the finish line was a strong race.”

At the front of the field Carlos Sainz Jnr was keen to contain the threat of quicker drivers behind such as George Russell, and deprive him of an opportunity to attack through an early pit stop. He kept the pace so low that after Zhou Guanyu pitted on lap two he lapped seven tenths of a second quicker than the leaders shortly afterwards.

Given the relatively slow pace at which the race was run, Horner believes Verstappen could have finished even higher up had the Safety Car periods not landed quite so inconveniently for them. This was not foreseen by their strategy simulations ahead of the race as their pace turned out to be better than expected.

“Our pre-race simulations were saying about P7,” Horner explained. “But that’s in a standard race.

“I think ironically enough, if we’d had a standard race, the strategy that we had with Carlos holding the front up because of the deg on those hard tyres, Max would have definitely come into play with the pace that he had at the end of the race.

“When you look at the distance, the delta that he was off the leaders by the end of it, if you take away that the delta for the free stop suddenly bang, he’s right in the game.”

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 Singapore Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

RankNo.DriverCarLap timeGapAverage speed (kph)Lap no.
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.867185.5147
263George RussellMercedes1’36.2730.406184.7246
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.4560.589184.3747
41Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’36.5750.708184.1561
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’37.1081.241183.1461
623Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’37.3421.475182.746
755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’37.6661.799182.0947
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’38.0462.179181.3846
977Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’38.0752.208181.3351
1020Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’38.1072.240181.2748
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1’38.2752.408180.9646
1210Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’38.2772.410180.9646
1381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’38.4922.625180.5646
142Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’38.5312.664180.4945
1540Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’39.0283.161179.5947
1624Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’39.3163.449179.0646
1727Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’39.9234.056177.9850
1831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’39.9304.063177.9633

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

RankNo.DriverTeamComplete stop time (s)Gap to best (s)Stop no.Lap no.
111Sergio PerezRed Bull28.977139
281Oscar PiastriMcLaren29.3690.392120
34Lando NorrisMcLaren29.4850.508120
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari29.4990.522120
51Max VerstappenRed Bull29.6980.721140
631Esteban OconAlpine29.7550.778120
723Alexander AlbonWilliams29.7870.81243
863George RussellMercedes29.9760.999120
924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo30.0321.05512
1063George RussellMercedes30.0391.062244
1123Alexander AlbonWilliams30.1381.161120
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo30.4871.51140
1324Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo30.6371.66220
1414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin30.671.693120
152Logan SargeantWilliams31.0182.041243
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas31.4752.498120
1710Pierre GaslyAlpine31.8022.825120
1840Liam LawsonAlphaTauri32.3483.371120
1944Lewis HamiltonMercedes32.6313.654120
2016Charles LeclercFerrari32.8883.911120
2120Kevin MagnussenHaas33.0784.101243
2244Lewis HamiltonMercedes33.5814.604244
2327Nico HulkenbergHaas35.4976.52120
2414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin52.70823.731244

2023 Singapore Grand Prix

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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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  • 16 comments on “Analysis: Why Red Bull believe Verstappen could have been “right in the game””

    1. Lewis was on fire on that last stint. To claw a 5 second deficit to his team mate on the same tyre life was just epic.
      Super drive.

      1. Max was actually even faster relative to Hamilton on the mediums. From 28 s behind the lead he finished about 4 or 5 seconds off… shame we never got to see him fight the top cars.

        1. I have an opinion
          18th September 2023, 7:36

          X – Doubt.
          Look at MV’s and LH’s lines on the lap times graph, and their positions on the fastest laps table.

        2. Verstappen finished 21 seconds behind the winner, not 5 seconds.

        3. No Max wasn’t, but he was close in laptime while cutting trough the field (5 passes, while Lewis was in clean air)

    2. Sometimes you have the luck of a safetycar and sometimes you don’t…. Nothing lost Max can Win everything again for the rest of the season and next season.

      1. The idea that any team can score a perfect season is laughable. Nobody has ever done it before and nobody will ever do it.

        1. Watch what you’re saying… Maybe next year someone will say “hold my beer”

    3. Interesting to see the fastest car did not win this race.
      The race pace of the Mercedes was blistering but they were unable to collect the win.
      Pure strategic brilliance by Sainz , great work.
      And a pity Lewis pushed Russell so hard and did not even tried to attack Norris when he had his chance .

      1. The fastest cars unable driver finished P5

        1. Kvyat, is that you?

      2. Do you realize Hamilton had less than half a lap to attack Norris?
        It’s hard to believe some things we get to read on the internet.

        1. You can say that again

        2. What, Sir should have been able to pass Lando in a Nissan Micra. Or moonwalking.

    4. Having seen his drivers fall to 15th and 17th with 21 laps to go, Horner was encouraged by the progress they made after switching to the medium tyre compound. Verstappen even reeled in Charles Leclerc

      This was indeed very strong and impressive again from Verstappen. Understandable not highlighted given all the other firework going on at the front but nevertheless impressive once again, especially given the poor drivability of the car.

    5. RB was very unlucky with the first SC and I was surprised the hards never returned to their pre SC pace. If Ocon’s Alpine failed just 3 laps earlier, Verstappen would have gotten the VSC stop, saving him 13s of pitlane time. That would have brought him about 8s behind Sainz in the end.

      If it wasn’t for the last lap yellow (not Russell), Verstappen probably could have passed Leclerc as well.

      This track needs a faster pitlane. 28s makes it a guaranteed onestopper.

    Comments are closed.