From the start, the weekend in Singapore gave us the impression that the race could perhaps be the best of this season: the problems of the main dominator of 2023, Red Bull, seriously changed the balance of power in the peloton for this. career. In the absence of Red Bull at the helm, pole for the second consecutive weekend went to Carlos Sainz, and Ferrari’s main rivals in the next race were the Mercedes drivers, mainly George Russell.
The strategic part of the race also promised to be interesting: the drivers chose completely different strategies. Some drivers chose “soft” for the first segment, including Leclerc, some chose “medium” and others chose “hard”. Furthermore, among those who chose a tougher set was Max Verstappen, who would start 11th in this race.
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start of combat
The start of the race was quite combative. Frankly, Russell slept until the lights went out, allowing Leclerc and then Hamilton to take the lead, with Lewis pulling ahead off the track and taking third place. Verstappen regained one position and moved into the top ten.
Already in the first lap we lost one of the drivers: Tsunoda had an accident with Sergio Pérez, after which he had to park in the safety pocket. As for the confrontation between Russell and Hamilton, Lewis finally returned the position to his teammate after his not entirely legal overtaking. Verstappen was in ninth position on lap five and Hamilton recovered another position, this time against Lando Norris. Verstappen soon regained another place, dealing with the second Haas and chasing Ocon.
The race quickly became a state of waiting for the first pit stops, the drivers stretched and practically did not fight with each other, except that Verstappen did everything to catch Esteban Ocon in the fight for seventh position.
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Leclerc continued to suffer with the soft on lap 19, gradually falling behind Sainz, but at the same time Russell was not closing in on Charles. On lap 20 something happened that happens quite frequently in the 2023 season: Sargent lost control in a corner and crashed into the barrier, breaking the front wing.
Logan continued to move with the wing underneath, covering the runway with debris. The race direction launched the safety car onto the track. Carlos Sainz took advantage of the situation and went into the pits, and Leclerc and Russell did the same. Charles had a problem because Hamilton went to see his mechanics: the Monegasque let Norris and Russell continue ahead. Verstappen and Pérez, who started hard, decided not to pit under the safety car and thus try to change the course of the race.
By lap 23, debris had been cleared from the track and the safety car had entered pit lane. Sainz won the restart, Verstappen retained second position and Russell third. But Leclerc made a mistake at the back and let Hamilton go ahead. Alonso received a penalty for crossing the white line at the entrance to the pit lane.
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Red Bull took a risk with its strategy…
The Red Bull drivers fell on old tires: Verstappen let Russell, Norris and Leclerc pass, and Pérez fell back even further and gathered a train of Alonso and Ocon behind him. Fernando tried to overtake Checo, but in the end he lost time and let Esteban overtake. A few laps later, Ocon managed to beat Pérez, reaching seventh position.
Alonso immediately took care of Pérez and then Gasly: the tires of the Mexican’s car finally went to Valhalla. Pérez immediately rushed to the pit lane in search of a new kit.
And the top four became denser in the middle of the race: Russell caught up with Sainz, and Norris and Hamilton, in turn, closed in on him. It was evident that everyone was saving their tires for the decisive laps of the race.
…but he didn’t wait even a turn
A lap later, Verstappen launched himself in search of a new “middle” from Pérez. In the end, Red Bull did not even wait for the virtual safety car to appear: on lap 43, Esteban Ocon stopped on the track due to technical problems.
As a result, Mercedes took advantage of this by stopping at the second pit stop and switching to “medium”; They did the same with Alonso at Aston Martin. However, Alonso had a terrible pit stop: it lasted almost 26 seconds. At that moment, the marshals finished removing Ocon’s car and the race resumed.
After a complete failure at the pit stop, Alonso’s adventures continued with his mistake, which set Fernando back even further. Meanwhile, Verstappen was back in the top ten, overtaking Zhou and then Hulkenberg.
Meanwhile, Russell and Hamilton gained more than two seconds on the leaders on each lap, chasing Leclerc. Verstappen managed to beat Lawson in a new “medium”, finishing in eighth place.
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Drama at the finish line
Nine laps before the end, Russell passed Leclerc and easily took care of the Monegasque, and Hamilton immediately took care of him. A pair of Mercedes drivers raced after Norris.
With four laps remaining in the race, Mercedes caught up with Norris and Sainz in the battle for victory. Norris was able to repel Russell’s first attack quite harshly, while behind him there was a clash between Pérez and Albon, so Alex lost three positions and his chances of scoring points.
Russell chased Norris to the end, but ultimately made a mistake on the final lap and hit the wall, losing everything. Sainz took the race to a comfortable victory, making the wise decision to stay close to Norris and provide Lando with DRS to keep the Mercedes at bay. Norris finished second and Hamilton third. The top five was completed by Leclerc and Verstappen.
Gasly, Piastri, Pérez, Lawson and Magnussen also finished in the top ten. At the same time, Pérez was the subject of another investigation, also for a collision with Albon. The Williams driver was the first without points, but in the event of a Pérez penalty, Albon could still hope to finish in the points zone.
The race was very tough, although the pace dropped at some points. The battle for victory between the four drivers will clearly be the highlight of the entire season, although there have never been any serious attacks, and George Russell’s mistake will clearly be included in the list of the Briton’s most serious mistakes in his career.
Sainz achieved his second victory of the season and once again confirmed that, perhaps, he is already the leader of the team.
Formula 1 will return to the tracks in a week’s time, when the next stage of the 2023 season will take place in Japan at the Suzuka circuit.