Can anyone beat Red Bull this weekend? ‘Lewis can provide something special here’

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Can anyone beat Red Bull this weekend?  'Lewis can provide something special here'

In the Weekend Warm-Up, the F1TV analyst panel expressed their surprise at the way in which Red Bull Racing is dealing with Sergio Pérez. The Mexican is regularly under a lot of pressure, and that pressure is only increasing due to Helmut Marko’s comments in the media.

In the preview of the Singapore Grand Prix, Verstappen is first discussed, who won the previous ten Grands Prix. “Verstappen arrives here as the man to beat, but he has never won here,” says Will Buxton. Besides the Singapore Grand Prix, the races in Qatar and Las Vegas are the only other circuits where Verstappen has never won, although the Dutchman has only raced in Qatar once and never in Las Vegas. Verstappen therefore still has the chance to win for the first time at all these circuits this season. Buxton then adds that even Antonio Giovinazzi led more laps in Singapore than Verstappen, who only led the field for three laps in Singapore.

Verstappen had little luck in Singapore

Yet colleague Lawrence Barretto believes that Singapore is not one of Verstappen’s weaker circuits. In fact, the Dutchman himself has no weak circuits, Barretto concludes. “Last year he had a mega qualifying here, until those last few corners.” Verstappen was by far the fastest on his penultimate lap, but took off the gas on the team’s advice to create space for the final lap on the drying circuit. That lap was also fast, but Verstappen did not have enough fuel to complete the lap. In 2017 he was involved in a starting incident, and in 2015, before Toro Rosso, Verstappen did not move.

Verstappen already indicated that victory this weekend will not be that easy. “Red Bull is trying to temper expectations a bit, but when they do, they still remain favourites,” Barretto added. “There is a big gap behind them, so I think they are still the team to beat and Max is the driver to beat. Checo (Pérez, ed.) said earlier that he feels more comfortable in the car, so maybe he can push Max better, but I think there is still a gap between the two drivers.’

Pérez under a lot of pressure

Buxton then also mentions that Pérez is having a tough season, and that he was hit hard by Helmut Marko recently. “They were completely inappropriate comments, I think we can all agree on that,” shared commentator Alex Brundle, the son of former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle. ‘They ask Checo to build trust. I don’t understand why they distract Checo with these kinds of unnecessary comments, and why they prevent him from performing optimally.’

Barretto does see signs of recovery. ‘He must have known this when he signed, but it’s one thing to know this and quite another to actually experience it in that pressure cooker. The pressure on his shoulders is enormous, and we saw that earlier this year with his problems in qualifying. It’s encouraging that he says he feels better in the car. If he wants to fight for his future, he will have to push Max much harder.’

Who could possibly benefit from a weaker Red Bull weekend?

The chances of the teams behind Red Bull are then discussed, with Charles Leclerc soon being mentioned. The Monegasque took pole position in the last two editions of the Singapore Grand Prix, and was also fastest in the last four qualifying sessions in Baku, also a street circuit. In any case, the Ferraris often do better on Saturdays than on Sundays, so you have to pay attention to the competition in qualifying.

Nevertheless, Leclerc can expect the necessary competition, including from Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, believes Brundle: ‘This is a circuit that Lewis (Hamilton, ed.) likes. His 2018 pole lap was absolutely iconic. The circuit should suit Mercedes. They are sensitive to drag, and therefore have a hard time on a circuit like Monza or Spa-Francorchamps, but they seem to have a lot of mechanical grip. That, plus Lewis’ strength here should make for something special. According to our simulations they should be best of the rest, or neck and neck with McLaren, so they are definitely in the running.” McLaren will be happy that there are more corners this weekend than in Monza. ‘It is a car that does well when you need a lot of downforce. As long as they make sure the car can handle the bumps, it will be fine. Both drivers are completely ready for the race weekend and can’t wait.’

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