At one point in the 2023 Formula One season, it was starting to become a realistic target that Oracle Red Bull Racing would take a clean sweep of victories with Max Verstappen also setting a benchmark of consecutive wins which would be near impossible to beat. Well, the streak has come to an end in a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix with Carlos Sainz winning for Ferrari, making him the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race this season. McLaren’s Lando Norris followed closely in second place with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes.
As the race happened
A consecutive pole position for Carlos Sainz was a big advantage on the streets of Marina Bay as the circuit layout is known for making overtakes a difficult affair. Sainz had a trouble-free start and his teammate, Charles Leclerc had an even better one from third position, taking full advantage of the softer compound of tyres to jump the Mercedes of George Russell for second place. For most of the first stint, it was an interesting game of chess at racing speeds as the two Ferraris controlled the pace up front and bunched the pack up to foil any attempts of an undercut strategy.
But it was the safety car caused by Logan Sargeant sending his Williams into the barrier that kicked off the round of pit stops. Amongst the chaos, Leclerc lost out due to traffic in the pitlane and dropped to fifth. Again, Sainz kept up the same strategy of keeping the pack closed up but another twist was in store thanks to the Alpine of Esteban Ocon retiring from the race due to a technical issue, causing a virtual safety car period.
The two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton took a gamble and made an extra pitstop for fresher and softer tyres with 20 laps to go to have a crack at the win. Initially, it looked like the gamble was paying off as both drivers were slicing away two seconds per laps to the leaders. They made quick work of Leclerc and were on the back of Norris in second place and the race leader Sainz with 10 laps to go. However, Sainz played a strategic masterstroke in purposely allowing Norris to be within DRS range to minimise the slipstream effect for the two Mercedes drivers. Nevertheless, it was a close contest till the final lap where a minute error proved costly for Russell as he crashed out of the race in dramatic fashion. When the dust settled, it was Sainz who triumphed, taking a hard-earned second career win ahead of Norris and Hamilton.
As for the Oracle Red Bull Racing squad, it was a good recovery for Verstappen from a shocking 11th on the grid to finish fifth while teammate Sergio Perez finished in eighth position after starting 13th,
Despite it being an off weekend for Red Bull, it is just a minor delay for them to clinch both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles. In the battle for third in the drivers’ standings however, there’s a further twist in the tale as Hamilton has overtaken the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and sits 10 points clear with seven races to go. Next week will be the Japanese Grand Prix, slated to take place from September 22-24, 2023.