The 2023 Formula One season has been a Red Bull Racing spectacle, with the team securing victory in every race. However, the Singapore Grand Prix weekend brought an unexpected twist to the narrative. For the first time since the 2018 Russian Grand Prix, Red Bull failed to get one of its cars into Q3, and the team couldn’t clinch a podium finish despite their competitive pace in the race. The sudden change of form left fans and pundits wondering if this could be attributed to the new FIA directives that came into force that weekend. Let’s dive into the details and unravel what might have caused Red Bull’s surprising struggles.
New FIA Directives: TD18 and TD39 The weekend in Singapore coincided with the implementation of two new FIA directives. The first, TD18, aimed to tighten the rules surrounding flexible wings, specifically addressing the tricks employed by teams to conceal moveable mechanisms and clever designs, especially those revolving around the nose of the car. The second directive, an updated version of TD39, was initially introduced during the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix to combat the phenomenon known as porpoising. The revised wording of TD39 targeted potential loopholes regarding the flexibility of the floor around the skid block holes.
Red Bull’s Response to the Directives Despite the coincidence of these directives coming into effect during the weekend of Red Bull’s struggles, the team was quick to dismiss any correlation. Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team boss, asserted that the team had made “zero” changes to their car as a result of the new FIA stance. When pressed for clarification, Horner firmly stated that no modifications had been made to any of the car’s components. Instead, he pointed to issues with the car’s setup and Friday practice as the primary culprits for their poor qualifying performance.
Setup and Simulation Errors Horner explained that Red Bull misjudged their car’s setup and operating window right from the start of the weekend. The team found themselves unexpectedly out of their comfort zone, which negatively impacted their performance in single-lap qualifying runs. This setup misjudgment caused the tires to feel uncomfortable, leading to a poor showing in qualifying. Horner attributed this miscalculation to pre-weekend simulation runs, which failed to consider changes in track conditions, especially after recent resurfacing work.
Complications with New Floor Updates Adding to Red Bull’s challenges was the introduction of a new floor update before the race weekend. Uncertainty regarding the effects of this update led the team to remove it for qualifying, further complicating their preparations.
Useful Lessons for the Future Despite the disappointment of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, Red Bull saw it as a valuable learning experience for the future. Horner acknowledged that the team had exposed weaknesses in their car due to the setup issues. These insights could guide their development efforts for the upcoming RB20 car, helping them address certain vulnerabilities and ensure a more competitive performance.
Conclusion While the introduction of new FIA directives may have raised eyebrows, Red Bull Racing has made it clear that their difficulties in Singapore were not a direct result of these changes. Instead, the team attributed their struggles to setup issues, simulation errors, and complications with new floor updates. As the 2023 Formula One season progresses, Red Bull will aim to bounce back from this setback, armed with valuable lessons learned in Singapore and a determination to maintain their dominance in the championship.