Even as his 10-race Formula 1 winning streak came to an end, Max Verstappen emerged as the big winner in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit.
For the first time since Sunday, April 30, two-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen did not win a Grand Prix, bringing an end to a record-breaking 10-race winning streak in this past Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit.
A poor qualifying effort at the 19-turn, 3.07-mile (4.941-kilometer) temporary street circuit in Marina Bay, Singapore, which has historically been one of the Red Bull driver’s worst tracks, left him with a sixth row starting position for Sunday’s 62-lap race.
He managed to finish in fifth place after an alternate tire strategy saw him run as high as second and as low as 15th throughout the eventful night.
The race, which was won by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr., ended not only Verstappen’s 10-race winning streak but his 15-race streak of top two finishes, which had dated back to late last season. It also ended his chance to finish on the podium in every race on this year’s 22- race schedule like Michael Schumacher did back in 2002.
Verstappen did extend his points lead, due to teammate Sergio Perez finishing three places behind him, inching him closer to clinching a third consecutive world championship.
But even ignoring that important fact, the Singapore Grand Prix demonstrated a reality of the 2023 Formula 1 season that has largely been ignored.
In turn, it made Verstappen arguably the biggest winner of anybody throughout the weekend, even as he experienced by far his worst race of the season.
Many have classified the 2023 season as “boring”, considering the dominance of Red Bull and specifically Verstappen. Red Bull won each of the season’s first 14 races, with Verstappen taking the checkered flag in 12 of those events. His only other two finishes were runner-up efforts behind Perez.
Generally speaking, Verstappen wins have seemed inevitable, regardless of his starting position and regardless of the type of track.
In some ways, Verstappen’s dominance has been seen as “easy” in an RB19 that has been head and shoulders above every other car on the grid. It has been almost like he is playing F1 2023 on rookie mode and unlocking every achievement he possibly can over the course of the eight-and-a-half-month season. Nobody has been in his league.
There is little doubt that Red Bull have had the best car in 2023, and there is little doubt that their car was nowhere near where it usually is in Singapore.
But what Singapore proved is just how competitive Formula 1 still is, even amid a season in which the Dutch and Austrian national anthems have become their own “broken record”.
Aside from Red Bull, Formula 1 has three front-running teams at the moment. McLaren’s recent resurgence has seen them join the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes, while Aston Martin have sort of disappeared from this discussion amid their decline over the last few months.
And we saw four drivers from those three teams fighting for the win in the closing laps of the Singapore Grand Prix, creating what was without a doubt the most unpredictable and breathtaking race of the season.
I have been saying all year that the 2023 season will go down as underrated, simply because the battle going on 30 seconds behind Verstappen on any given weekend isn’t getting nearly enough attention.
While many have attributed the 25-year-old Dutchman’s success to the strength of the RB19, even Perez has been mixing it up with drivers from rival teams far more often than he has been battling it out with his teammate. The battle has really been more of a battle for second best driver rather than second best team.
Now that Max Verstappen finally had a weekend to forget, Formula 1 fans finally got to see that.
While the fact that he is indeed human may come as a disappointment to some in his passionate Orange Army fanbase, Verstappen leaves Singapore as the big winner for one reason: it put his dominance in a little bit of a different perspective.
The fact that a driver has been so good and nearly unbeatable in a series that is still as competitive as it is simply cannot be understated.
Now, is Formula 1 as competitive as a series such as IndyCar? Of course not, but even IndyCar has only had two championship-winning teams over the last 11 years, with only one other team having placed a driver in second place at any point during that span.
While he won every race contested in May, June, July, and August, it’s certainly not as “easy” as he makes it look, and it’s certainly not a given just because of the car he drives, which, quite frankly, had already been evident for quite some time amid Perez’s struggles.
And yes, as he aims to ascend to as high as third place on the all-time wins list by the end of the 2023 season, it opens up the possibility of comparing his dominance to the dominance we’ve seen from other Formula 1 legends during previous eras of the sport.