A sudden turnaround of the F1 formbook occurred last time out in Singapore as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz capitalised on Red Bull’s rare lack of competitiveness to claim the only non-Red Bull win of 2023. 

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez could only salvage a fifth and eighth place finish as the Marina Bay Street Circuit exposed unknown weaknesses of Red Bull’s previously unbeaten RB19 challenger. 

But Mercedes, who also suffered from unusual performance slumps in Singapore during their own spell of F1 dominance, do not expect Red Bull’s pace to be hampered again.

"The problem that we had was actually quite specific to the old set of regulations and how the car was working aerodynamically,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said at the Japanese Grand Prix. 

“It's very bad for overheating, it’s a street track, it's quite bumpy. If the drivers haven't got confidence, that will always rob quite a lot of lap time off them. 

“And in particular, it's really hard to keep your rear tyres under control because of all those traction zones. So, it's quite a nuanced circuit. 

“But you know, we've had one really, really difficult year there, it was very good for learning and probably you'd say Red Bull will find the same: that they'll get to the bottom of what went wrong, and it won't be a mistake that'll happen again.” 

Indeed, Red Bull dispelled any suggestions they might suffer something of a performance hangover as Verstappen comfortably topped both Friday practice sessions at Suzuka. 

“I don't think we expected it to be such a big challenge as it proved to be,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of his side’s Singapore woes. 

“And I think we ended up in a window with the car, set-up-wise, that was suboptimal. I think we have recovered, to a degree, for the Grand Prix, for the race. 

“Unfortunately, when you get into a situation like that, the Safety Car came out at just the wrong time for us, and then the VSC, almost even worse.

“So I think without that, actually, we'd have been in that group fighting for a podium at the end of the race, but it wasn't to be and, you know, the others did a great job, better than us. So, you know, we brush ourselves down and go again, here.” 

Horner added: “There's never a silver bullet with any of these things. It's a combination of how is your interaction with aerodynamics and mechanical set-up; it interacts, obviously, with the tyres and the layout of the circuit. 

“I think it is a combination or how you run the combination of your set-up. And I think we'd be probably a little different to where we started. And yeah, I think there's a lot of lessons that we've taken out of that.”