until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Was Red Bull's defeat a blip or a trend starting? Our verdict

7 min read

Will the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix be Red Bull's equivalent of McLaren's 1988 Italian GP - the one race it lost in an otherwise invincible season?

Or was last weekend's defeat potentially the start of a trend and the rest of the season will become more unpredictable?

Here's what our writers reckon:


Ben Anderson

Everyone of course will be keeping a careful eye on Red Bull at Suzuka, to see if everything really does get back to business as usual (as that team internally expects) or whether the sort of set-up compromises RB19 was forced into in Singapore manifest elsewhere.

Principally, this concerns ride height. Red Bull wasn’t alone in being unable to run its car as low to the ground as it wanted/needed to in Singapore. Valtteri Bottas revealed Alfa Romeo encountered a similar problem and had to raise its car to avoid excessively wearing the legality plank underneath.

With Suzuka being such a high-speed, high-downforce, long-duration-cornered circuit, you would expect Red Bull anyway to return to proper competitiveness. The car is built for that kind of classic F1 track - but it will be important to notice whether RB19 looks relatively less competitive on a circuit where it should theoretically crush the opposition.

We might have to wait until Austin next month - very bumpy, lots of kerb-riding and with lots of steep elevation change through the first part of the lap - to get a better read on whether Red Bull’s Singapore problems were actually track-specific, or related to something more fundamental in terms of how low the car can run now and how far that might compromise RB19’s ideal performance window.

Interlagos is another circuit with some elevation change and nasty bumps, so another venue where Red Bull might be more vulnerable again - if the Singapore issues return.

Las Vegas is obviously a new challenge for everyone, and although it’s a street circuit it looks to be at the faster end of that spectrum (like Jeddah) so perhaps will anyway be better suited to the RB19 than Marina Bay was.

Places like Qatar and Abu Dhabi, Mexico also to a large extent, just look too fast/billiard smooth to present anything like a similar problem to Singapore for Red Bull.

So, whether Red Bull’s engineering team simply messed up Singapore, or have been further compromised by recent FIA clampdowns, it’s very likely that the remaining circuits on the 2023 calendar will mask those issues anyway even if they do prevail to some extent.


Edd Straw

Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit is an outlier on the F1 calendar thanks to the configuration and conditions, and the set-up challenge was made more awkward by track changes for 2023.

Red Bull’s slump in performance can be explained by the combination of this, the confounding factor of a floor upgrade that made getting to the bottom of its struggles trickier and the fact the track was always going to be one of the tougher ones given the characteristics of the RB19.

Therefore, the most likely outcome is that this was a one-off and Red Bull will be back in business at Suzuka, with no need to blame the bodywork flexibility technical directive or any of the other rules clarifications in place for derailing it.

F1 is tricky, with the car’s performance the sum of countless engineering and design decisions that can sometimes be hard to nail down in the time available. The car was certainly out of its window, as its troubles in qualifying showed.

However, we can’t be definitive based on only one data set. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so while there’s no reason to suspect the technical directive was the cause we can’t take it completely off the table. But Suzuka will reveal all.

Chances are it will reveal that Singapore was a blip in Red Bull’s all-conquering season. If not, then things will get very interesting and could point to something more far-reaching going on.


Glenn Freeman

This was just Red Bull doing an extreme impersonation of those weekends where Mercedes would come to Singapore at its peak and find things more difficult, although it never struggled as much as Red Bull did last weekend.

Sometimes Mercedes was so dominant over a season that its reduced advantage in Singapore didn't harm it. Other times, it needed startline capitulations from its rivals (2017) or majestic driving from Lewis Hamilton (2018) to claim wins that looked unlikely during the weekend. But neither of those things could have saved Red Bull this time.

Max Verstappen's pace on Sunday wasn't too bad - he was just undone by track position owing to the qualifying disaster and then a badly-timed safety car period.

A car that good doesn't become an average one overnight, even if people are hoping the recent technical directive might have had that impact. But it seems unlikely something like that could have such a dramatic effect.

From a neutral's perspective, it would be great fun if some of the chasing pack can fight Verstappen occasionally between now and the end of the year. Once the championship is sealed, and with the chance to go unbeaten taken away, plus Red Bull's focus surely being on 2024 now, perhaps it could happen a couple of times over the final races.

But my expectation is we'll get back to conventional tracks and the Verstappen/Red Bull combination will be restored to the front where it has belonged all season.


Gary Anderson

When backs are to the wall, that’s when you see the strength in any team. By its own standards Red Bull had a fairly lacklustre Singapore weekend but it still came out of it with meaningful points so all was not lost even though it was by no means the end result it wanted.

Now heading to Suzuka this weekend Red Bull has the opportunity to put it all behind it and simply put it down to a glitch in its 2023 season domination. And this weekend is when we will really know if it was just a glitch.

If you had to pick a circuit that would suit the pre-Singapore Red Bull with Verstappen driving it, then Suzuka is that circuit.

If Verstappen and Red Bull are not on pole there and running away with the race then there is more to it than just fitting the wrong front springs.

Let’s be a little ‘flexible’ about the Singapore weekend result and allow Red Bull to recover in Japan. Did someone just say 'Technical Directive 18'?


Scott Mitchell-Malm

Red Bull, its rivals, fans and everyone watching will be following Suzuka with bated breath to see if this really was a one-off or not.

You can guarantee even those in the paddock who suspect it had nothing to do with the reinforced technical director regarding flexing floors and plank legality still have some doubts (or should that be hope?) that it might well be.

One race isn't a good sample set for any kind of analysis or conclusion. Especially as what happened in Singapore could easily just be an ultra-extreme manifestation of what we’ve seen all year: that some cars really can rival the RB19 in qualifying.

After all, Verstappen was quick in the race. He just had nowhere to go until it was too late. Given we've seen the Red Bull be vulnerable on Saturdays before then make up for it with a much bigger Sunday advantage, there is an argument that Singapore did just fit that pattern - only in a more muted way.

But why was it muted? That's what we'll start to find out in Japan. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see other non-Red Bull pole positions before the end of 2023.

This was possible before the sudden theories of the RB19 being gently compromised for the final phase of the season, and it will be possible even if that proves to be totally wide of the mark.

Red Bull can be beaten to pole in normal circumstances so not qualifying fastest in Japan might not offer much evidence either way. But it is clearly a track that the Red Bull should do better on, making it an obvious test of whether Singapore was a one-off.

Based on the limited available evidence at the moment I'd still bank on a Verstappen/Red Bull win. But that position will be swiftly revised if new evidence emerges of a genuine, sustained impact on the pecking order.


Rob Hansford

If we're being honest, nobody really expects that Red Bull has suddenly lost a huge amount of its competitiveness overnight.

Red Bull always knew that Singapore was going to be a challenge for its car given the way it generates its downforce through the floor, and so it would be no surprise to see Verstappen immediately topping the timesheet when running gets underway in Japan this weekend.

But while last weekend might have been a blip for the reigning champion, it does at least provide a glimmer of hope for its rivals.

Singapore showed that Red Bull isn't invincible, it does have a weakness.

Yes, it might be the smallest of weaknesses, but it's still there, and now the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren have tangible evidence that Red Bull can be beaten.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks