Written by Ria Ann Sam, Edited by Meghana Sree
With 15 wins in a row, and Max Verstappen with ten wins in a row, Red Bull have certainly been unbeatable this season. They began this streak in the final race of 2022, and while Sergio Perez has won two races this season (Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan), ‘Super Max’ Verstappen has won all other races, leaving many F1 fans bored of the repetitive winner and predictability.
Whilst some fans argue that the Mercedes domination of the past seven or so years were also boring, one could also argue that at least there was some competition with other drivers, and that it was not just one Mercedes driver 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 who stepped in for Daniel Ricciardo) out-qualified Verstappen by less than half a second, despite Singapore only being his third ever Formula 1 race. The Kiwi would then go on to finish the race in ninth, gaining two points for AlphaTauri. He took over for Ricciardo who had broken his wrist during the practice session during the Dutch Grand Prix. Ricciardo was expected to return after the Japanese Grand Prix, however AlphaTauri have admitted that his return is still “a while away.”
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-Verstappen domination streak was terminated by Carlos Sainz and Ferrari, who’d had a brilliant weekend.
However, the main question being asked at that point was – are we seeing the end of Red Bull’s dominance, or is it just a blip?
The first two practice sessions in Japan suggest that the answer is the latter, as Verstappen managed to lead both sessions; although teammate Perez struggled, placing P11 and P9 respectively. Qualifying saw Verstappen take pole once again, and Perez set to start fifth for Sunday, all suggesting that they were back on track, and that Singapore was simply an anomaly. However, the race would end in disaster for the Mexican.
As soon as the lights went out at Suzuka, Verstappen got off to a brilliant start, managing to defend against the two McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, to lead the race. Meanwhile, Perez lost a few places on the opening lap, and contact with Lewis 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 a possible safety car infringement as he had overtaken cars while going into and coming out of the pitlane under the safety car – he was subsequently given a five-second penalty. Then, contact with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on lap 12 resulted in another 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 Grand Prix. After serving the penalty, he retired again. 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 the retirement of Perez.
Nevertheless, while it was a disastrous weekend for Perez, it was top-notch for Verstappen and the Milton Keynes based team, as they were able to clinch their 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 Red Bull, the whole team worked very hard for their third consecutive win!