Carlos Sainz wins unpredictable and entertaining Singapore Grand Prix


Starting from 11th and 13th, what better way for Max and Sergio to make it into Wikipedia than storming through the field to score a miraculous 1- 2... not that anybody reads it.

We refer, of course, to Toto Wolff's sniffy response to the Dutchman's record tenth successive win a couple of weeks back.

We find it strange that despite the numerous issues with the RB19 this weekend, Red Bull didn't opt to make any changes under parc ferme, unlike Williams, McLaren and Alfa Romeo.

Though the two British teams made minimal changes, Alfa took on a whole new engine and as a result Zhou will start from the pitlane... yet no changes at Red Bull.

Of course, overtaking is difficult here, but only a fool would be against Red Bull scoring a decent points tally this afternoon.

On the other hand, the Austrian team's misfortune is all the better for us, for having been subjected to weeks... indeed months of speculation over how the championship would look without Mighty Max, today the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren have the opportunity to prove it.

The revised circuit lay out has not only increased lap speeds but offers another overtaking opportunity, so despite the naysayers we are looking forward to some epic battles and some canny strategy not only in terms of pit stops but drivers taking full advantage of the DRS zones.

As regular readers will be aware, for some time we have feared that the late Dr Mike Lawrence's talk of a Formula One Script Unit were proving true, and today is the perfect opportunity for Turk Thrust and the gang to come up with something special.

Sainz, Russell, Leclerc, Norris, Hamilton, Magnussen, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Lawson, you really couldn't write it any better.

Everyone involved has so much to play for, be it the big guns or the likes of Haas, and consequently we are expecting some real fun and games.

As ever, the race cannot be won at the first corner but it can be lost, and while Russell, Norris and the Ferrari pair will be sorely tempted, caution might prove to be the safest bet.

Following his heavy crash yesterday, Lance Stroll has wisely opted to withdraw from today's race, the Canadian now targeting a return at Suzuka.

With Safety Cars a regular feature of the Singapore race, this could be a factor today, and certainly one that Red Bull might be figuring on, however, the sheer physical and technical demands of the circuit can take their toll.

A one-stopper is usually the quickest strategy, given that time lost in the pit lane is one of the highest on the calendar. On paper, the best combination involves the medium and the hard, though one cannot rule out the soft completely. However, one must consider that the advantage it has in terms of grip over the medium at the start is significantly reduced because of the short run to the first corner. In addition, the soft requires careful management on a full fuel load in the first stint. However, the soft could be worth considering in case there is a Safety Car period in the second part of the race.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out.

Air temperature is 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 38 degrees. Humidity is 67%. Seemingly there is a 10% chance of rain.

Ahead of the national anthem there is a minute's silence in honour of the victims of the recent disasters in Libya and Morocco.

"It's not going to be easy," admits Norris ahead of the start, "just to overtake is going to be difficult so it will be about Lap 1, Safety Cars, VSC and all the fun stuff.

"I think we have the pace to compete," he adds.

"I can't breathe," says Verstappen as he asks for the cool air blower to be moved.

All are starting on mediums bar Verstappen, Perez and Bottas who are on hards, and Leclerc, Tsunoda, Piastri and Zhou who are on softs. All on fresh rubber bar Leclerc.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly. The field splits into three packs, the first led by Sainz, the second by Alonso and the third by Verstappen, each seeking to get as much energy into their tyres as possible.

The grid forms.

They're away! Sainz gets away well, as do Russell and Leclerc. However, as they enter Turn 1, the Monegasque gets ahead of the Mercedes while Hamilton is alongside the Briton. Running out of track, Hamilton has to miss the first corner.

"I got pushed wide by George," claims Hamilton.

Alonso is all over Norris while the Haas pair are attacking Ocon.

"Is he gonna let me back past," asks Russell of his teammate.

Sparks fly, literally and figuratively.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Sainz, Leclerc, Hamilton, Russell, Norris, Alonso, Ocon, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Verstappen.

Tsunoda has stopped at Turn 14, the Japanese having climbed from his car.

Russell has passed Hamilton who is now under pressure from Norris.

Verstappen passes Hulkenberg for ninth as Norris claims that Hamilton should give up a position to him also.

At the end of Lap 2 Zhou pits for hards.

Verstappen is wheel to wheel with Magnussen as they battle for 8th.

The stewards have noted that Hamilton left the track and gained an advantage.

As Lawson almost collects Gasly, Hamilton allows Norris through to take fourth. As a result the stewards decide that no further investigation is required.

AlphaTauri reveals that Tsunoda suffered a puncture following a clash with Perez.

Even with DRS Verstappen cannot make a move on Magnussen stick.

Finally, at Turn 14, on Lap 7, the world champion nails the Dane. Meanwhile Perez passes Piastri for 13th.

After 7 laps, Sainz maintains 0.94s lead over his teammate who is 1.6s clear of Russell. Norris is 1.4s down on the Mercedes with Hamilton 1s behind.

"As soon as you get within half-a-second it's incredible how little front you have," reports Albon.

Lap 9 sees a new fastest lap from Sainz (39.626) as his mirrors are filled by his teammate.

"I could go forever at this pace," says Sainz as teammate Leclerc is told to create a gap to the Spaniard in order to protect him.

Indeed all 18 drivers are lapping in the mid 1:40.5s.

"Overtaking isn't going to happen on track," says Hamilton, "these guys are driving so far off the pace."

"Looks like they're going to sacrifice Leclerc," Russell is told.

Suddenly, Hamilton is all over the back of Norris.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay here.

"Gap to Sainz target 3," Leclerc is told (again), and he isn't happy about it.

Indeed, the Monegasque bangs in a new fastest lap (39.613).

Verstappen is told that there is no merit at this stage is remaining within a second of Ocon. "We've been here before, we've been hurt before," he is warned.

"Gap to Sainz 2.3 and we need 5 seconds in 5 laps," Leclerc is told.

"It is possible brief light rain shower will be here in 5 minutes," Piastri is advised. "It will be Class 1 and last only a couple of minutes."

The entire field is covered by 34 seconds, so a stop at this stage would be costly.

Sargeant has hit the barrier and though he is able to continue there is debris on the track. He returns to the pits spreading carbon fibre debris all the way.

The Safety Car is deployed.

Sainz is first to pit, followed by Leclerc, Russell, Norris, Hamilton and just about everyone else. The double stack doesn't work out for Leclerc, while Verstappen doesn't stop and takes second behind Sainz. Perez and Bottas also opt not to pit.

Sainz leads Verstappen, Russell, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alonso, Ocon and Bottas.

"What happened there," asked Leclerc. "We had to hold you," he is told.

Meanwhile, on entering the pits Alonso locked-up and crossed the white line, consequently he is under investigation.

The Safety Car is withdrawn at the end of Lap 22, as Sainz is told not to pull away and keep the pack together. However, Verstappen won't make it easy for the Spaniard.

They're away... Norris makes a move on Perez, has a wobble and is almost collected by Leclerc.

Alonso gets a 5s time penalty.

Verstappen is now under pressure from Russell, while Norris is all over Perez.

In no time at all, both Red Bulls are passed. Indeed Hamilton follows through and passes Perez with Leclerc also closing in on the Mexican.

Norris passes Verstappen for fourth, as the Bulls continue to struggle.

"You will keep the pack behind," Sainz is told, "we cannot let Russell do two stops."

Leclerc and Hamilton both have times deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 7.

"Hamilton ran off the track," says Perez, "he should give me the position."

Magnussen gets a black and white flag for forcing Gasly off track.

Hamilton makes short work of former nemesis Verstappen as the Dutchman's weekend goes from bad to worse. Indeed, he is subsequently demoted to sixth by Leclerc.

Perez has a whole pack of cars on his heels, led by Alonso who has that time penalty.

"He's managing a lot," says Russell, "he's trying to back us up."

Alonso misses the first corner without gaining or losing a place.

Told to keep an eye on his tyres, Russell insists that with Sainz' tactics they will last to the end "comfortably".

"It's like driving on ice," reports Verstappen of his 32-lap old hards.

"I wanna go for this win," says Russell. "Yes, we're on the same page," he is told.

Gasly finally makes move on Magnussen that sticks. However, the Dane subsequently retakes the position as he was clearly force off track. The incident has been noted.

Magnussen runs wide in Turn 1 and loses a heap of positions.

Alonso makes a move on Perez in Turn 7 but overdoes it and loses momentum and in the process the Spaniard loses out to (birthday boy) Ocon.

"Let me know when you think it's good to push," says Sainz.

"Sainz reporting he still has one second of pace in hand," Russell is told. "I'm surprised it isn't two," comes the reply.

A brave, bold move sees Ocon pass Perez for 7th. The Mexican subsequently pits, rejoining in 18th (last) on mediums.

As Russell closes on Sainz, Verstappen is told to pit. The Dutchman duly obliges, rejoining in 15th on mediums, as Bottas also stops.

On that fresh rubber Perez posts a new fastest lap (38.551), as Alonso complains his car is "undriveable".

On Lap 43, pulls off to the side of the track at Turn 2. "No, no, no" he declares.

The VSC is deployed but not in time for any of the leaders to take advantage. Indeed (12th placed) Albon is first to pit, followed by Magnussen and Sargeant.

Russell complains that Sainz is driving "unnecessarily slowly". The Briton pits as does his Mercedes teammate.

Alonso also pits, the Spaniard taking advantage of the opportunity to serve his penalty. However it is a disastrous stop and he rejoins in 15th.

The VSC is withdrawn at the end of Lap 44.

On their fresh mediums the Mercedes pair trade fastest sectors.

Lap 46 sees a new fastest lap from Russell (36.273).

Alonso is off at Turn 14 after his car appeared to refuse to turn, briefly bringing out the yellows.

Verstappen passes Zhou to move into tenth and the last of the points.

Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (35.867) as he and his teammate close the gap on Leclerc.

"We need faster if you can," Sainz is told, "until the end."

Verstappen makes short work of Hulkenberg for ninth. Next up is Lawson who is 3.7s up the road.

Perez and Albon have been noted for a "VSC infringement".

Lawson doesn't make it easy but eventually Verstappen is through. Next up for the Dutchman is Piastri who is 5.9s up the road.

At the start of Lap 53 (of 62), Russell is just 0.4s down on Leclerc, with Hamilton 1.5s behind.

Bottas has stopped at Turn 14 but there is no sign of the VSC.

Russell sweeps by Leclerc to claim third, the Mercedes now 6.6s down on fellow-Briton Norris.

Hamilton adds to Leclerc's misery, much to the delight of the watching Mercedes crew.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay here.

As Albon moves up into the points after passing Perez, Verstappen passes Piastri for 7th.

"Let's go for it," Hamilton is told.

"Gap to Lando every lap," asks Sainz, though he doesn't appear to be aware of the Mercedes duo's pace.

Leclerc complains that his right-rear is "gone", as Verstappen closes on Gasly. The Dutchman leaves the Alpine for dead to take sixth.

Out front, Norris is within DRS range of Sainz with the Mercedes pair right behind.

"It's on purpose," Sainz assures his team.

As they start Lap 59 the leading four are covered by just 1.7s.

Albon has stopped at Turn 13 but is able to continue.

Russell makes his move on Norris in Turn 14, and as they battle Sainz pulls away. The Mercedes pair mount a pincer attack on the McLaren.

Rear shot from the McLaren shows both Mercedes to be suffering from the dirty air.

They begin the final lap covered by 1.762s.

As Verstappen reels in Leclerc, Russell is off and in the barrier at Turn 10, the Briton seemingly having clipped the wall on entry and damaged his suspension.

"No, no, no," he cries.

Sainz takes the win, ahead of Norris and Hamilton as Leclerc holds on to fourth by the skin of his teeth, well, 0.264s actually.

Gasly is sixth, ahead of Piastri, Perez, Lawson and Magnussen.

Albon is eleventh, ahead of Zhou, Hulkenberg, Sargeant and Alonso.

Well, that was fun. Yes, the early stages were a bit silly, what with Sainz effectively controlling the narrative for the entire field, but once we got the Safety Car - not for the first time brought to us by our friends at Williams - things livened up.

"Congratulations to Carlos and Lando," says Hamilton, "they did a great job today and their strategy worked.

"We rolled the dice, with different tyres," he continues. "The team did a great job to get us back up there.

"Extremely unfortunate for George, we were pushing so hard to catch these guys and our tyres were so hot, but he'll bounce back, he was phenomenal."

"Carlos was very generous, helping me get DRS," smiles Norris. "It helped my race... but it also helped his.

"We knew it would be tough when Mercedes boxed. I hit the wall on the last lap at the same place, so Russell just copied me, he just did it worse.

"I feel for him," he adds, "he was the quickest out there today."

"An incredible feeling, an incredible weekend," grins Sainz. "I want to thank everyone in Ferrari for this turnaround after a tricky start to the season.

"We brought home a P1 that I'm sure will make all the Italians happy today," he adds. "Given our limitations with tyre wear, I knew it would be a long final stint on hards. It worked to perfection.

"We gave Lando some DRS to help him and we got the P1. I felt under control to be honest, I had the head space to do what I wanted to do."

Unpredictable, fun and entertaining, and while Max was in the mix, he wasn't quite able to pull off the save of the century.

Of course, all eyes will now be on Red Bull as we head to Suzuka.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 17/09/2023
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