Max Verstappen describes the Singapore Grand Prix as a wake-up call for Red Bull after expecting to be a serious threat for victory.
While Spa and Monza were not expected to suit the RB15, the Marina Bay street circuit was a venue the team was targeting as a potential win, having taken pole position in Hungary and threatened Mercedes. However, Verstappen was unable to seriously challenge Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying in Singapore and despite beating the championship leader to a podium, he says the weekend did not match expectations.
“Not good enough,” Verstappen said. “We came here to win and clearly didn’t. (Qualifying) I think was worse than (the race) but I would say it’s a little wake-up call. From Austria onwards, it’s maybe our worst race in terms of performance, where we expected to be really good.
“I have a few ideas why it went wrong so we will analyze all of them and see if we can already be better in Sochi. The layout is not that amazing for us but you can clearly see if the car is working through corners or not. I think here, clearly, in too many corners the car was not working like I wanted it to. We’ll go home and see what we can do better.”
Although Verstappen remained in the mix at the front throughout the race, he says he didn’t have the car to try and make an overtaking moves but was able to hold position courtesy of the slow pace being dictated by Charles Leclerc early on.
“I think in the race I could follow, a bit. I was not in a position to attack but at least I could follow the cars ahead of me around — they never really pulled away. Of course initially it was all about tire management anyway, so I was driving really slowly.
“I think we pitted at the right time — undercut Lewis, that was very positive — and from there onwards it was just about staying alert with the safety car restarts as well. But I think we managed everything quite well and I think for us after the difficulties we had in qualifying it was still good to be on the podium.”
Once ahead of Hamilton through strategy, Verstappen says he only came under real pressure in the final four laps as his tires started to degrade but he felt comfortable keeping the Mercedes at bay.
“He was pushing hard. My tires were going off a little bit but I think it’s quite normal. His tires were seven or eight laps better than mine and with seven laps to go I didn’t have any problems, so it really started to be with four laps to go and then you could see he was closing in.
“I just had to make sure I had good exits out of some crucial corners where I knew he was going to be quick. We managed to do that. I guess the people in the garage were a bit more nervous. I was just focusing on getting good exits.”