Singapore Grand Prix: Red Bull pace ‘worse than expected’ says Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen said Red Bull were “worse than we expected” after he ended Friday practice at the Singapore Grand Prix with eighth fastest time.

Both Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez, who was seventh, were fighting a lack of rear grip as Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc to a Ferrari one-two.

Verstappen said balance was an issue and he “never got the car together”.

He added: “[There’s] just a few things that we don’t understand. I will try to improve but it is quite a big gap.”

Sainz was 0.018 seconds quicker than his team-mate, with Mercedes driver George Russell third, 0.235secs off the pace, ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris’ McLaren, which has a major aerodynamic upgrade this weekend.

Verstappen was more than 0.7secs off the pace on his one-lap qualifying simulation run.

Russell said Ferrari were in the strongest position for qualifying, not least because of his belief that they ran their engines in a lower power mode than their rivals.

“Ferrari are looking favourites at the moment,” Russell said, “and I don’t think they were maximum power unit either and the fight is on for the second row probably but we never know what’s going to happen.”

But Sainz said he expected Red Bull to be in the fight for pole on Saturday.

“When you look at their long-run pace, they looked the strongest car,” Sainz said.

“Once they sort out the one-lap pace, they will be there and in the fight for pole but Mercedes and McLaren and Aston should also be in that fight so I think we are in for quite an exciting day.”

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Perez was marginally the fastest driver over the race-simulation runs later in the session, but only by 0.03secs on average over his run from Alonso.

Then followed, in order, the Mercedes and the Ferraris and Verstappen.

Runaway championship leader Verstappen, who is on a record-breaking run of 10 consecutive wins, said before the track action started that he expected Singapore to be one of the tracks on which Red Bull would struggle more than normal and so far that is proving an accurate assessment.

Verstappen had a rear snap at Turn 13, the exit of the Anderson Bridge, while Perez complained over the radio that he felt like he was going to crash on every corner entry.

Team principal Christian Horner said between the Friday sessions: “This track is going to be one of the toughest of the season for us. The characteristics don’t play naturally to the strengths of the car and we are going to have to play right at the top of our game to keep this winning run going.

“High speed has been strong for us and combined [braking and turning corner] entries, whereas 90-degree corners have been more of a challenge for us. But we can still be there.”

Red Bull were assessing a new floor, Verstappen running it in the first session and Perez in the second.

The first session, held in daylight at this night race, was interrupted briefly three times when monitor lizards – a large local reptile – ventured on to the track.

One appeared to be run over by Alonso. Aston Martin accepted that television pictures suggested the Spaniard had hit a lizard but said there were no signs of it on his car.

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