Carlos Sainz wrote his name in Formula 1’s annals as he became the driver who ended Max Verstappen’s winning streak by holding off a late-race attack from three drivers to win the Singapore Grand Prix.
Lit up by a Safety Car after Logan Sargeant crashed and later a VSC under which Mercedes were the only front-runners to pit, Sainz played a tactical game as he led a five-driver battle for the race win. It was, however, a battle that never included Red Bull.
Sainz raced to the victory as he overcame a late-race threat from Mercedes and in doing so ended all the talk of a season’s whitewash for Red Bull. Lando Norris was second ahead of Lewis Hamilton with George Russell crashing on the final lap.
An early Ferrari 1-2 at the Singapore Grand Prix
19 drivers lined up on the Marina Bay grid after Lance Stroll, still sore from his heavy qualifying crash, withdrew. Pole sitter Carlos Sainz led off the line with Charles Leclerc making it a Ferrari 1-2 as he stormed ahead of George Russell.
The Briton came under attack from his teammate Lewis Hamilton but the Briton went flying off at Turn 1, cutting the run-off area. Returning to the track ahead of Russell, Russell was on the radio asking if Hamilton was “going to let me back past”.
As for Max Verstappen, he made up a single position on the opening lap to run 10th behind Nico Hulkenberg while Sergio Perez stayed P13. Yuki Tsunoda was hit by Perez, suffered a puncture and retired the car, while Zhou Guanyu pitted to swap to hard tyres.
Hamilton gave third back to Russell only to find Lando Norris all over his rear wing the McLaren driver complaining that Hamilton should give back “three” places due to his lap 1 off-track excursion. Hamilton let Norris pass, and the stewards gave the Mercedes driver the all-clear.
Verstappen was up to ninth on lap 5 as he overtook Nico Hulkenberg and then eighth on lap 7 as he passed the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Perez was down in 14th, overtaken by Oscar Piastri, retook 13th off the McLaren and then sat behind Liam Lawson.
10 laps in Sainz and Leclerc ran 1-2, separated by less than a second, with Russell two seconds back in third place. While Sainz said he could go “forever at this pace”, Leclerc was told to drop three seconds behind his teammate. He replied: “Yeah copy, I try to slow down.” In turn, Mercedes told Russell: “It looks like they’re going to sacrifice Leclerc.”
As the procession, sorry, pace and tyre management played out, Sainz ran P1 ahead of Leclerc, Russell, Norris, Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Verstappen and the Haas teammates. 1:40s for the entire top 10.
Ferrari again told Leclerc to slow down. Hamilton commented: “These guys are driving so far off the pace.” Verstappen was also told by Red Bull to back off Ocon’s rear wing and concentrate more on tyre management. Russell was asking for advice as to what he “needs to do to win this race”. He was told to continue applying pressure.
Logan Sargeant brings out the Safety Car
And then out came the Safety Car. Logan Sargeant got it wrong at Turn 8 and went straight into the barrier with his front wing dragging under his car. He limped back to the pits for repairs, the Safety Car came out, and into the pits came race leader Sainz as well as Leclerc for a double-stack. It was a long stop for Leclerc as Ferrari held him back for “traffic” as everyone except Verstappen, Perez, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou pitted.
The action resumed on lap 23, Sainz pulling away from Verstappen, who leapt up the order by not stopping but came under attack from Russell. Leclerc almost hit Norris and in the process lost a place to Hamilton. Russell overtook Verstappen, Norris passed Perez, Hamilton, who had Perez on his rear wing, and Verstappen. Hamilton then overtook Verstappen and so too did Leclerc.
After five laps of intense action, Sainz was P1 ahead of Russell, Norris, Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, who was facing a five-second time penalty for crossing the line at pit entry when he pitted, Ocon and Magnussen. Magnussen, seemingly hit by Haas’ tyre troubles and flying off the circuit, dropped from 10th to 16th in the space of one lap.
Lap 37, Alonso tried to attack Perez and they almost collided with Ocon jumping on the moment and using it to overtake his former teammate. Two laps later Ocon was ahead of Perez with Alonso also ahead a few corners later. Perez pitted, coming out P18. Verstappen stopped too, rejoining the action in 15th place as Bottas also pitted.
Alonso wasn’t having much fun in seventh place, telling Aston Martin the car is “undriveable”, but for his former teammate Ocon it was even worse as he retired with a cry of “no, no!”. Alpine revealed it was a gearbox issue.
A late VSC meant the top five had all passed the pits when the call was made. Next lap around Russell and Hamilton took the gamble and pitted, the two rejoining P4 and 5. Alonso also pitted, taking his penalty, but it was a slow stop.
With 15 to go and the action back at speed, Russell and Hamilton were easily 1.5s faster than the three cars ahead with Sainz told he needed to be “faster”. Russell caught Leclerc on lap 53, overtook him at Turn 14, and Hamilton was also through a few corners later. Further back Verstappen was working his way toward a top-six showing as his RB19 finally showed some pace.
Russell’s next target was Norris, the Briton within DRS range on lap 59. Norris in turn had DRS on Sainz, who was complaining about his front tyres. Hamilton was also there, four drivers separated by less than three seconds. Norris was setting himself up as Sainz’s hero as he held up the Mercedes teammates, giving the Ferrari driver a moment’s reprieve.
In an intense final lap, Russell lost control of his Mercedes and speared into the barrier giving Sainz a much easier run to the victory, his and Ferrari’s first of this season. Norris held on for second ahead of Hamilton in arguably one of the best finishes seen since 2021. Hamilton claimed the fastest lap point.
Leclerc was fourth ahead of Verstappen, Gasly, Piastri, Perez, Lawson and Magnussen. That marked Lawson’s maiden top-ten in only his third race.
Standings: 2023 Singapore Grand Prix
1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:46:37.418
2 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.812
3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes+1.269
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +21.177
5 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +21.441
6 Pierre GASLY Alpine +38.441
7 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +41.479
8 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +54.534
9 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +65.918
10 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +72.116
11 Alexander ALBON Williams +73.417
12 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +83.649
13 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +86.201
14 Logan SARGEANT Williams +86.889
15 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +87.603
Did not finish
George Russell Mercedes lap 62
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo
Esteban Ocon Alpine lap 43
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri lap 1
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