What effect will flexi-wing clampdown have?

Théo Pourchaire: F1’s Next Star?

The FIA is cracking down on flexi-wings via the introduction of a technical directive that comes into effect ahead of this weekend’s race in Singapore. 

TD018 does not target specific teams but is being enforced to ensure teams know exactly where the limit is when it comes to flexibility of bodywork. 

Amid suspicions and concerns that some competitors may have been bending the rules around the illegal use of flexible wing components to aid aerodynamic performance, teams now will face stricter scrutiny and surveillance from F1’s governing body. 

Leading team bosses have already backed the FIA’s intervention, with Mercedes’ Toto Wolff commenting: “If maybe a Red Bull is half a second slower or something, that would be nice, but I don’t think it will be the case.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insisted the TD will not impact the reigning world champions. 

“It’s not something that affects us,” he explained. “We’ve seen a few rubbery nose boxes, shall we say, so we’ll see those get addressed, I guess, in Singapore.”

The TD will likely result in at least one team having to make modifications. But it remains to be seen whether there will be any knock-on consequences on the pecking order.

Can Verstappen’s winning streak be halted? 

Max Verstappen claimed a record-breaking 10th successive victory last time out at Monza to continue Red Bull’s impressive unbeaten streak, but could their run be under threat around the streets of Singapore?

Both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez suggested that Red Bull could struggle, with the reigning world champion admitting “it’s not going to be the strongest weekend for us”. 

Given their supremacy over the rest of the field in 2023, anything other than a Red Bull win is hard to envisage. 

But with Ferrari enjoying a resurgent outing in Italy, and a revised Marina Bay circuit that should suit both Mercedes and Aston Martin’s cars better, Red Bull may face their sternest challenge yet this weekend.

A fierce fight for the podium? 

Assuming Red Bull are in the mix for victory as usual, there could be as many as five teams scrapping for the three spots on the podium. 

Ferrari were Red Bull’s nearest rivals at Monza and Mercedes and Aston Martin will be looking for a much stronger weekend at a high downforce track following their respective performance struggles in Italy. 

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have not managed to finish on the podium in the last four events, while Aston Martin have managed just one in the six races since July, courtesy of Fernando Alonso’s superb drive to second at a wet Zandvoort. 

On paper, Singapore should also play to the strengths of McLaren’s MCL60 challenger, potentially resulting in an intriguing five-team, 10-car battle for the rostrum. 

Crunch time for Sargeant and Zhou?

We are entering a run of races that will be key to determining the futures of Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu, both of whom face a battle to retain their respective seats at Williams and Alfa Romeo. 

Sargeant’s performances are coming under increasing scrutiny given his teammate Alex Albon is shining and regularly over-delivering in the same car. The young American is heading into a series of unfamiliar tracks, which will only make his job of convincing Williams he deserves to stay for a second season that much harder. 

Zhou’s future also remains up in the air, with the Chinese driver understood to be facing competition from the likes of F2 championship frontrunner (and Alfa Romeo-Sauber junior) Theo Pourchaire, and Aston Martin reserve Felipe Drugovich, to secure the spot alongside Valtteri Bottas next year. 

Singapore poses a notoriously physical challenge that will be the toughest test yet for F1’s rookie trio of Sargeant, Oscar Piastri and Liam Lawson, who is looking to continue his solid start as a stand-in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo.