With 15 wins in a row – the 10 most recent of which won by Max Verstappen alone – Red Bull have been unbeatable this season. They began this streak in the final race of 2022, and while Sergio Perez has topped the podium twice this season (Saudi Arabia and Baku), ‘Super Max’ had won every other race, leaving many Formula 1 fans bored of the same repetitive winner and predictability.
While some fans argue that the Mercedes domination of the past seven or so years was also boring, you could argue that at least there was some competition with other drivers and that there wasn’t just one Mercedes winning every race by almost 27 seconds.
However, Singapore saw the Red Bull team struggle, with both cars failing to reach the third stage of qualifying, an event not seen since the 2018 Russian Grand Prix when only one Red Bull car managed to get into Q3. This came about after Liam Lawson (the Red Bull junior driver turning out for AlphaTauri) outqualified Verstappen by less than half a second, despite Singapore being his third ever F1 race.
The Kiwi would then go on to finish the race ninth, gaining two points. He took over from Daniel Ricciardo who had broken his wrist during the practice session in the Dutch GP. Ricciardo was expected be back after the Japanese Grand Prix, however Alpha Tauri have admitted that his return is still “a while away”.
While it was a “disastrous weekend” for Perez, it was brilliant for Verstappen and the Milton Keynes based team, as they were able to grab a third Constructors’ title with six races to spare
Despite their poor qualifying positions, both Red Bull drivers managed to make it into the points with Verstappen gaining six positions to finish fifth, and Perez gaining five positions to finish eighth. The Red Bull/Max Verstappen domination streak was at last ended by Carlos Sainz and Ferrari, who had had a brilliant weekend.
However, the main question being asked was: are we seeing the end of Red Bull dominance, or is it just a blip?
The first two practice sessions in Japan one week later suggested that Singapore was indeed just a blip, as Verstappen managed to lead both Friday practices – although teammate Perez struggled, placing P11 and P9.
Qualifying saw Verstappen take pole once again, and Perez secure a start from fifth for Sunday – all suggesting that Red Bull were back on track, and that Singapore was an anomaly. However, the race would end in disaster for the Mexican.
As soon as the lights went out at Suzuka, Max Verstappen got off to a brilliant start, managing to defend against the two McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris and lead the race. Meanwhile, Perez lost a few places on the opening lap, and contact with Hamilton meant that he had to pit for a new front wing, coming out eighteenth.
To add insult to injury, he was under investigation for possible safety car infringement as he had overtaken cars while going into and coming out of the pitlane under the safety car – he was given a five-second penalty. Contact with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on lap 12 resulted in a second five-second penalty, leading the Mexican to retire on lap 15.
However, he came out again on lap 40 to serve his second five-second penalty – a clever move by Red Bull as it meant that said penalty would not carry over to the Qatar GP – however, he then retired again (for real). Until the Japanese Grand Prix, Red Bull had been the only team this season to have a 100% race finish rate, however, this streak ended with Checo Perez’s retirement.
While it was a “disastrous weekend” for Perez, it was brilliant for Verstappen and the Milton Keynes based team, as they were able to grab a third Constructors’ title with six races to spare, proving that Singapore was just a blip. Moreover, Verstappen broke F1 legend Michael Schumacher’s record by winning 13 races in a row from pole.
Congratulations to the whole team at Red Bull who worked very hard to make a third win possible.