Lewis Hamilton says ‘something’s up’ at Red Bull – if Max Verstappen struggles in Japan

Lewis Hamilton says ‘something’s up’ at Red Bull – if Max Verstappen struggles in Japan

Lewis Hamilton expects Red Bull to return to their imperious form of 2023 this weekend in Japan, insisting “something’s up” if that doesn’t prove to be the case.

Red Bull had won 14 from 14 races prior to last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix but struggled in the twists and turns of the city-state, with both cars failing to qualify for Q3 and Max Verstappen finishing only fifth in Sunday’s race.

However, a return to a more traditional track at Suzuka this weekend is expected to coincide with business as usual for Christian Horner’s team.

Max Verstappen cannot secure his third-straight world title in Japan this weekend but is the favourite once again, with seven-time world champion Hamilton expecting Red Bull to be back on top by some margin.

“I would think that if they’re [Red Bull] not 30 seconds ahead, like they have done in the past, then something’s up,” Hamilton said.

“It was obviously a difficult weekend the last one but their car should be phenomenal here. They’ve been phenomenal all year long, their pace at pretty much every circuit.

“It’s going to be great to watch that car in general. Normally, you’d come here and it’s beautiful to watch the laps that they do because the whole team 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 we’ll be closer and I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had in the past.”

Lewis Hamilton expects Red Bull to be back on top form this weekend in Japan (Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton expects Red Bull to be back on top form this weekend in Japan (Getty Images)

Verstappen secured his second world title in Japan last year after a chaotic, wet race in Japan.

The Dutchman, who has a 151-point lead in the drivers’ championship, emphasised he wasn’t overly bothered at his own record-breaking win-streak of 10 coming to an end in Singapore.

“I have no emotion,” Verstappen said. “We stopped winning for one race. S*** happens! We won 10 in a row before that.

“Of course, I would have liked to win there as well. But I also know that there is always going to be a day where you have done that weekend where then you’re not winning or things go wrong. And yeah, unfortunately, it was that weekend.

“We just move on and try again.”