‘You can forget about that’ – Max Verstappen rules out another win in Singapore

By Sports Desk September 16, 2023

Max Verstappen said he can forget about extending his record winning streak after qualifying only 11th for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

On a wild night under the 1600 bulbs that light up the Marina Bay Circuit, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll also walked away from a staggering 110mph shunt, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz pipped the Mercedes of George Russell to land his second pole position in as many races. Charles Leclerc will start third ahead of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton.

But it was the demise of Red Bull – the unbeaten tour de force of this most one-sided of seasons – that left those here in shock and awe. Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez also failed to reach Q3. He will line up in 13th for Sunday’s 62-lap race.

Verstappen warned earlier this week that the Red Bull machinery which has carried him to a record 10 consecutive victories would not be suited to this unique 3.07-mile high-downforce circuit.

Yet, nobody could have foreseen him being sent for an early bath along with Perez in the other car. Verstappen was straight on the radio to express his dismay.

“I don’t know if you saw that, but that was just f***** shocking,” he said. “Absolutely shocking experience.”

Verstappen’s Red Bull team, without a defeat in the 14 rounds so far, now face an improbable task of making history by becoming Formula One’s first ‘Invincibles’.

“You can forget about that (a victory),” said Verstappen. “I don’t want it to sound too dramatic but it has been a tough weekend, and it is a long, long time since it has been like this in qualifying.”

Verstappen last started this far back in Saudi Arabia when a driveshaft failure consigned him to 15th at the second round in March. He finished runner-up to Perez.

But the streets of Singapore, unlike those in Jeddah, are strenuous to overtake on. Indeed, eight of the last 13 races here have been won from pole.

“You cannot pass here,” added Verstappen. “You need to be one and a half, to two or three seconds faster than the car in front which we are not. It will be a very tough and long afternoon.

“On other tracks you can start last and win, but not in Singapore. I want to win, but when it is not possible you have to accept that.

“I knew there would be a day that I wouldn’t win. I had a really good run up until now.

“And I would always take a season where we are winning as much as we have, and have one really bad weekend, over the other way round when you are not fighting for the championship. I am confident the car will be fast again in Suzuka next weekend.”

Red Bull’s sudden malaise cleared the way for Sainz to capture another pole, a fortnight after he secured top spot in qualifying in Monza.

However, Russell ran the Spaniard close, finishing just 0.072 seconds back, and the Englishman believes he has a strong chance of landing Mercedes’ first win of the campaign and the second of his career.

The Silver Arrows have also followed a unqiue strategy this weekend that leaves Russell with an extra set of medium tyres which could provide him with the tactical edge over Sainz.

“George has a really good shot at winning and I really hope he does,” said team-mate Hamilton, who qualified half-a-second back on disappointing evening for the seven-time world champion.

“I hope he gets a good start and gets ahead of the Ferraris. That would be amazing for him and for the team.

“For me, I will see what I can do. If I get further up then great. I changed the car last night and I don’t know what is going on with it. It is the hardest car I have ever driven to get right.”

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    The Dutchman, 26, saw off Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 0.322 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit to take top spot, after he earlier raced from fourth to first in the 19-lap sprint race.

    Remarkably, since Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 world championship in Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull driver has won 37 of the 48 races staged, and he is firmly on course to wrap up his fourth title in as many seasons.

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    Verstappen struggled for speed in the early stages of Saturday’s sprint race but he caught, and overtook, Lewis Hamilton on the ninth lap and then pulled out an eye-watering two seconds on the Mercedes driver in just one lap. He took the chequered flag 13 sec clear.

    Fernando Alonso was the closest non-Red Bull finisher to Verstappen in qualifying but the Spaniard was almost half-a-second back.

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    Mercedes, behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Norris’ McLaren in the constructors’ standings, are a team far removed from the one which dominated the sport.

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    “Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

    Hamilton last suffered such a lowly grid spot when he crashed out of qualifying in Brazil in 2017.

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