Horner: “Max would’ve definitely come into play” for victory in F1 Singapore GP in a “standard race”

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In a surprising turn of events, Red Bull Racing faced its toughest challenge of the Formula 1 season at the Singapore Grand Prix, leaving fans and experts alike wondering what went wrong. The team, which had dominated the entire season until this point, saw Max Verstappen finish 5th, and Sergio Perez in 8th place. Carlos Sainz of Ferrari secured a triumphant victory.

“I think, firstly, we understood a lot more in the race, and the pace of the car came back much more to what we expected,” Horner said, opening the discussion on what went wrong during the weekend.

“We knew coming here, we expected to have closer competition. But I think it took us by surprise just how far out we were on Friday, and I think we were just not in the right operating window for the car, particularly over a single lap,” explained the Brit.

“When you’re not there, then the tyres feel horrible, everything just doesn’t work.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

Horner’s words shed light on the importance of finding the perfect car setup in Formula 1. The team’s struggles on Friday were likely a result of failing to find that optimal setup, causing tyre issues and an overall poor performance.

“I think we got a very good steer in the race,” he pointed out. “We saw particularly in the latter stint that Max’s pace – it was very very strong.”

Despite the challenges, Verstappen’s performance during the race was a silver lining for the team.

“Unfortunately in the race, by starting on the hard, we took a strategic gamble. The best way for that paying off is if you get an early Safety Car or a Safety Car later into the race.

“The lap that the Safety Car came out was strategically the worst possible lap for the strategy that we were on, because it gave the cars ahead of us a free stop.

“While 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.

“Then obviously Max had was picked off by the guys that have had the free stop. We had to take a pit stop under normal racing conditions, which then drops you another 23 seconds behind,” Horner added, revealing how things didn’t fall their way.

The 49-year-old did not forget to reflect on the impressive streak that the team had managed to maintain until this point.

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

“At some point we were going to get beaten. 15 in a row is an unbelievable record. We’ve only been beaten once prior to tonight since last July,” said Horner. The Singapore Grand Prix marked a rare stumble in their otherwise impeccable journey.

When asked about understanding what went wrong and if they would be much stronger if another race was held in Singapore next week, Horner is certain they would have.

“We have a much clearer understanding, which is primarily setup. We’ve got a much clearer picture of what we would do differently.”

Asked to specify what the exact cause was, Horner kept his cards close to his chest.

“No, it is all engineering stuff. There is no silver bullets in this business.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

He also didn’t forget to congratulate former Red Bull junior Carlos Sainz on his performance by saying: “I have to congratulate Ferrari, and particularly Carlos who drove a particularly strong race and deserved to win.”

With Sainz managing his pace massively at the front on the hard tyres, Horner believes Verstappen could have had a shot at the victory if the Safety Car hadn’t appeared when it did.

“Ironically enough, if we 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’ve definitely come into play with the pace that he had at the end of the race.

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

In spite of a tough weekend by their extraordinary 2023 standards, Red Bull can clinch the Constructors’ Championship at Suzuka on Sunday, something Horner wanted to point out.

“We have narrowed in on both championships, which we have a chance of winning the Constructors’ Championship in Japan next weekend.”