SINGAPORE: Runaway Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen conceded on Thursday that his win streak was under threat at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix where his car is "not as competitive".
The Red Bulls have been unstoppable in 2023, winning all 14 races, with flying Dutchman Verstappen taking the chequered flag 12 times.
He said he would spare no effort to extend his record of consecutive wins to 11, but conceded the nature of Singapore's high downforce layout would enable Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin to get closer.
"We are not as competitive here as other tracks, street circuits are a bit tougher for our car," said Verstappen, who could wrap up a third world title in a row as early as the Japanese Grand Prix next week.
"It will be very tight. The key (at Singapore) is adapting as every single session can be different," he added, as he guns for a maiden victory on the Marina Bay track.
Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez won in wild conditions a year ago, when the race start was delayed by more than an hour because of a huge tropical storm that soaked the track.
The Mexican will make his 250th Grand Prix start on Sunday, becoming just the 11th driver in history to hit that milestone, and knows that qualifying will be crucial on a track where overtaking is near impossible.
"This one, we know if Saturday goes well, it can go really well," Perez told reporters. "There is nothing in the middle in Singapore -- it's either a strong result or really painful."
Ferrari and Mercedes are scenting a chance to end Red Bull's season-long dominance.
Carlos Sainz was third behind Verstappen and Perez at Monza a fortnight ago.
'WE SEEM TO STRUGGLE'
"I feel more at one with the car since the beginning of the season, it's just been putting the weekend together," said the Spaniard.
"As to who we are racing against this weekend, I have no idea -- could be Aston Martin, could be Mercedes, could be McLaren. Red Bull will be one step ahead."
His Ferrari team-mate, Charles Leclerc, said: "It's difficult to know what will happen. Low downforce we seem to be strong, high downforce we seem to struggle more.
"But there are quite a lot of inconsistencies between the teams on high downforce tracks. And it's a city track so the driver can make a difference."
The Singapore lap times will be quicker this year because of construction work near the city-centre circuit which has meant the removal of four 90-degree corners towards the end of the lap.
The total number of corners has dropped from 22 to 19 and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton thinks it could help the Mercedes cause.
"I'm just trying to prepare as best I can and see how that new section works. It should bring us closer together, less corners for Red Bull to get ahead," he joked.
Verstappen says he feels no extra pressure after winning a record 10th Grand Prix in a row in Monza.
"No, I never really looked at the number eight, nine, 10. I just always want to do the best I can," he said.
"Naturally every single weekend it's basically the same amount of pressure you put on yourself to try and get the best result out of it. So, nothing really changes." -- AFP