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The Singapore Grand Prix delivered in a big way. Not only was it arguably the most exciting race of the season, but Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz became the first driver in 2023 to win a race behind the wheel of any car that isn’t a Red Bull
It was only the third time this season that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen wasn’t the Grand Prix winner, which snapped his record-setting consecutive wins record at 10 races.
Sainz started on pole with Mercedes‘ George Russell in P2 and his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc behind him and in P3.
Ferrari was in control of this one for most of the race, helped by the fact that Red Bull had a miserable weekend from the moment they set up shop in Singapore. Both of their cars started outside the top 10. Not because of penalties either; they just didn’t have it this weekend.
That isn’t to say it was an easy win for Ferrari. They had some issues in the pits and one of the somewhat head-scratching strategy calls they’ve been known for in recent years.
However, even with Mercedes’ Russell and Lewis Hamilton in hot pursuit in the closing laps around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Sainz — with a little help from his former teammate and good buddy McLaren’s Lando Norris — held on for his second career win.
Joining him on the podium were Norris in P2 and Hamilton in P3. Hamilton inherited the final spot on the podium after Russell crashed out of the race on the final lap.
Ferrari And Carlos Sainz Put It Together In Singapore
Carlos Sainz had a stellar Italian Grand Prix and maintained that form in Singapore. While he and teammate Charles Leclerc never managed to drop the rest of the field on the opening stint, the Ferraris ran a comfortable 1-2 until the first round of stops.
That was due to a crash for Williams’ Logan Sargeant, but while Sainz’s stop was clean, Leclerc had to sit in the pit box for an extra second or two. That left Sainz alone out front.
The make-or-break call came after a virtual safety car brought out by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon’s car crapped out in the pitlane exit. Ferrari opted to stay out on their hard tires (as did McLaren with Lando Norris), but Mercedes swapped for fresh mediums.
That meant Sainz had to drive the final laps of the race with two Mercedes eating into his lead on every lap. However, they ran into some trouble getting past Norris, which allowed Sainz to maintain a comfortable lead.
This was Carlos Sainz’s second career win and first since the 2022 British Grand Prix. It’d be tough to argue that this wasn’t one of the best drives of his career.
Mercedes’ Late Pursuit Of Sainz, Norris Ended In Heartbreak For George Russell
It looked like Mercedes may have had a stroke of genius by pitting under the virtual safety car for medium tires. The two Silver Arrows carved through the field and were on the gearbox of Lando Norris with a few laps remaining.
However, at times it looked like Russell may have overdriven his tires. The rear tires especially were squirming on corner exits in the closing laps.
Then on the last lap of the race, Russell clipped a wall that caused him to go straight on at the following corner and into the barrier.
It was just a brutal end to the race for Russell, who looked to be within reach of not just a podium finish, but a win.
What may sting even more is that Russell has yet to score at Singapore as that crash dropped him to a P16 finish.
Other Notes I Typed Into My Phone While Guzzling Coffee
That race was what the kids would call “A banger” (I think). But while it was enjoyable for us at home there were a few teams and drivers who would disagree with that assessment.
- Red Bull has possibly the most dominant car in Formula 1 history, but it was anything but that in Singapore. Who knows if it was the heat, humidity, or a slight tweak to the regulations? Whatever it was, the RB19 looked like a handful for both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. It remains to be seen if their struggles — which lasted the entire weekend — are a blip on the radar. The next race — the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka — is a different animal than the Marina Bay Street Circuit. If they continue to have issues, then, Milton Keynes, we might have a problem.
One problem they won’t have to contend with? There are fewer lizards at Suzuka
🚨 LIZARD ON TRACK KLAXON 🚨— The Race (@wearetherace) September 15, 2023
Not the first time Verstappen has encountered Godzilla at Singapore… pic.twitter.com/YDocR1Csj7
- AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda has completed about a fraction of a lap in the last two races. His AlphaTauri suffered a power unit failure on the formation lap at Monza. Then this weekend he had a puncture on the opening lap. Hopefully, he gets some better bounces next weekend at Suzuka, his home race.
- Aston Martin has hit a rough patch in the last couple of weeks. Lance Stroll didn’t start the race after a scary crash in qualifying. He’s recovering from soreness and the team decided to forego the expensive and time-consuming repairs to start P20 on a street circuit where overtaking is a real chore.
However, it was also a tough day for Fernando Alonso. He seemed to have trouble moving up the order. Plus, he had to deal with an uncharacteristic penalty for crossing the white line at the pitlane entrance. While Monza wouldn’t have suited Aston Martin’s notoriously high-downforce (read: draggy) setup, Singapore should have. It just… didn’t.
Next Race: Japanese Grand Prix
Formula 1 will hop from Singapore over to Japan for a visit to Suzuka. A fan-favorite circuit with a not-so-American fan-friendly start time. If you’re on the East Coast (*raises hand*) the race starts at 1 in the morning. Brutal.
Oh well, that’s what the DVR is for, right?
Follow on X: @Matt_Reigle