Lewis Hamilton is optimistic about the RB19’s potential at Suzuka this weekend. However, he is quick to note that if Red Bull’s typically dominant performance falters once more, it raises questions, according to the Mercedes driver.
Red Bull has been on a winning streak with fourteen consecutive victories, primarily thanks to championship leader Max Verstappen. However, in the recent Singapore Grand Prix, the Milton Keynes-based team surprisingly struggled to stay competitive.
During the weekend in Singapore, both Max Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez faced difficulties in qualifying, failing to make it to the Q3 shootout. On race day, they managed to finish in P5 and P8, far from their usual top-tier positions.
Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, attributed this unexpected underperformance to setup issues. He also rejected speculations that the FIA’s latest technical directives on flexi-wings and deflective floors had any impact on their RB19, emphasizing that they hadn’t made any changes to comply with these directives.
Hamilton believes it will be business as usual for Red Bull once again at Suzuka.
“I would think that if they’re not 30 seconds ahead like they have done in the past then something’s up,” said the Mercedes driver on Thursday.
“It was obviously a difficult weekend, the last one, but that car should be phenomenal here.
“They’ve been phenomenal all year long. They’ve aced pretty much every circuit and it’s going to be great to watch that car in general.
“Normally you would come here and it’s beautiful to watch the laps that they do because the whole team as a whole and the drivers are doing an amazing job with the package they have.
“So it’ll be interesting to see how the weekend goes.
“I hope that we’re closer and I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had in the past.”
Hamilton relished the thrilling three-way duel with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris last weekend. However, he doesn’t anticipate Mercedes to exhibit the same level of strength at Suzuka.
“Carlos was managing at the front and I think we were all relatively close, I would say, at the front. But what a great race it was, just to have us all that close up front,” he said.
“This weekend I don’t anticipate having the performance we had in the last race, but we’ve worked very hard, we’re continuing to try and push in the envelope that we have, so I’m hoping that we’re not terribly far off this weekend.”