Carlos Sainz wins the Singapore Grand Prix through some intelligent driving under immense pressure from behind. Verstappen made up places but the Red Bulls were not in good form while the Mercedes team made an impressive strategy call to challenge for the lead.
Lights out and Sainz got away cleanly but behind him Russell bogged down meaning Leclerc made it past the Mercedes before turn one. The challenge was now on for Leclerc, who started on softs, to keep up with his teammate in the first stint.
Slightly further back Hamilton had a great start to out-break Norris before heading around the outside of Russell but having to take to the escape road and then back on track. Hamilton eventually gave back both places and then settled into his P5 position for a while.
It wasn’t all clean racing on lap one as there was a small amount of contact between Tsunoda and Perez which led to the Alpha Tauri retiring a few corners later. Luckily for the drivers he was able to pull off the circuit safely and the race continued.
Verstappen had gained a place in the first couple of laps and was now on the tail of Magnussen. It was a tight battle between the pair but Verstappen took advantage of DRS to make it into P8. His next job was to chase down Gasly, however, on the hard tyres the Red Bull was still sliding around so Verstappen was told a few times to back off and cool the car down.
The race began to settle down while we waited for the first pit stop window to open. Sainz was managing the race well by keeping the pack close together, however, this meant that even 15 laps in, if the Spaniard had pitted from the lead, he would have come out in P17.
Just a few laps later Sargent ended up hitting the barrier around turn eight and damaging his front wing. Sargent was able to get back to the pits but not without leaving debris along the track and causing a safety car.
Ferrari took this opportunity to double stack. Most Ferrari fans waited with bated breath as this was the sort of thing that could ruin a Ferrari race, however they managed to pull it off… to a certain extent.
Leclerc had backed up the pack in order to create himself a gap to allow the double stack to happen. Because of this a queue of cars formed behind him and all filed into the pit lane as the Monégasque needed to leave, so he had to be held in his pit box until there was a gap, which cost him track position.
In an interesting strategy call, Red Bull didn’t pit either of their cars as they had started with the hard tyres. However, Sainz came out ahead of Verstappen after his stop so the plan hadn’t paid off for the World Champion. This meant that he and Perez were on old tyres with everyone else of fresh hards around them at the restart.
On lap 23 the safety car came in and Sainz had the lead from Verstappen who was struggling to defend against Russell. Just behind them Perez had to fend off Norris and Hamilton who were closing rapidly.
Almost synchronised, Russell overtook Verstappen and Norris gained a place on the other Red Bull. Perez nearly left the door open for Hamilton but the Mexican was able to stay ahead for a few more corners before the Mercedes made a move stick using DRS.
This then became the trend for a few laps. The Red Bulls began to tumble with Norris and Hamilton gaining places on Verstappen in quick succession. Perez was at the start of a train of cars which led to an interesting battle between the Red Bull, Alonso, and Ocon.
On lap 37 Alonso dived up the inside of Perez but went in deep and Perez was able to fight back. This opened the door for Ocon to join the fight which was getting closer and closer to the wall. Perez defended the inside of turn eight from Alonso but Ocon went around the outside of the Aston Martin to go side by side into the next few turns.
Ocon was able to make the move on Alonso stick for P8, and was able to pull off a switch back on Perez just a lap later. Alonso then saw his opportunity and overtook Perez a few corners later before the Red Bull headed into the pits for his tyre change.
Sainz at the front had been controlling the race at a decent but slow pace which meant the pack were still quite close together. By the time Perez exited the pit lane, he went from P9 to P18. The story wasn’t much better for Verstappen who came in one lap later from P6 to come back out P15.
Two laps after both Red Bulls changed tyres, the virtual safety car was deployed for Ocon who had stopped just before turn two with a gearbox issue. The top five had already passed the pit entry when the VSC came out but that didn’t stop Mercedes making a bold move.
They double stacked their cars on the next lap for some new mediums to come out P4 and P5 in clean air and only the top three ahead of them. Russell was ahead of Hamilton and it was a very aggressive call but as they headed out the VSC ended and both Brits were on a charge, closing in by two seconds per lap to the leaders.
Ocon is distraught as his car grinds to a halt ❌
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 17, 2023
With 17 laps left it was now an incredible strategy race to see the Mercedes pushing in full force for the podium. Something we haven’t seen for a few seasons. Because of this, it wasn’t long before both cars were within the DRS range of Leclerc in P3.
Out of the corner Russell pulled out a switch back and won the battle of traction against Leclerc to take P3. One lap later and his teammate made a similar move to take P4 from the Ferrari. Now the hunt was on to claim P2 from Norris ahead.
The Mercedes were closing at an alarming rate, so Sainz came over the radio to ask for the gap to Norris on every lap for the last five laps. When told Norris was 0.8 seconds Sainz replied with ‘that’s the point’. In some very clever driving, Sainz kept Norris within DRS range to give the McLaren some help with speed down the straights. This not only helped Norris but also meant Sainz would likely keep hold of his win.
It was the final lap and the top four were still within 1.5 seconds. Both Mercedes were moving all over the road in a bid to get past Norris. However, with only a few corners to go, Norris tapped the wall on his rear right but came away unscathed. Russell behind him was not so lucky as he clattered the wall with his front right, breaking the suspension and going head first into the barrier. He was ok but had lost P3 right at the end for his teammate to claim the podium.
Sainz was able to break the Red Bull 2023 win streak by taking the win, Norris finished on the second step of the podium while Hamilton took P3.
It was a fascinating race which intrigued not only this Formula 1 fan but many around the world. We are at Suzuka next weekend which will likely see the Red Bulls back on form.