Sports writer Yaseen Zaman analyses the effects of the Carlos Sainz’s win at the Singapore Grand Prix, both for the other competitors and the perceptions of the F1 community.
After ten victories in a row, the world of Formula One was left believing it would take a miracle for Max Verstappen’s imperious run of form to be halted.
Whilst Carlos Sainz did not quite turn water into wine, or restore a man’s sight, he was able to provide a desperately needed tonic for the predictability of recent Formula One races. The Spaniard started on pole for the second race in a row and went on to lead every lap of the Singapore Grand Prix.
Sainz’s second career win was not the seamless task he had hoped for, joking about wanting an easy race after Saturday’s qualifying session. Stood next to George Russell, he said, “Hopefully I get a good getaway and I lead into turn one and just have a relaxing day in the heat of Singapore. But, I know that isn’t going to be the case.”
It was Russell who looked primed to challenge Sainz for the race win, before a lapse in concentration caused him to make a big blunder on the final lap. The Brit made contact with the wall at turn ten and crashed into the barriers in the run-off area.
The Singapore Grand Prix was dubbed by many as the most entertaining race of 2023, courtesy of a late virtual safety car, with 17 laps to go. Both Mercedes drivers changed their old hard tyres onto fresh mediums. The eight-time constructors champions were canny with their pit strategy, having saved a new set of medium tyres from Saturday’s practice session.
And so the hunt began. Sainz led Russell by 18 seconds on lap 45. Lewis Hamilton trailed his Mercedes teammate by five seconds and had a fighting chance to earn win number 104 of his career. The pair cut the time deficit to the leading pack of Sainz, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc like knives through butter.
They both passed Leclerc on lap 54 and were in the DRS range of Norris with four laps to go. The quartet were separated by less than four seconds. Sainz was heard on the radio saying that he was purposefully keeping his former teammate less than one second behind him to allow Norris to defend from the Mercedes duo with the help of DRS.
But desperation got the better of Russell on the last lap, as he lost control of his car and went straight on into the barriers. He did not hide his frustration after the race and was heard asking himself, “What am I? A rookie?” Russell’s error allowed Sainz to hold on and win the race, with Norris in second and Hamilton completing the podium.
As for Verstappen, the two-time champion was denied his 11th win in a row, having started 11th on the grid. Red Bull’s bizarre loss of form meant he could only recover to fifth place. Despite a tough weekend, Verstappen remained optimistic about his team’s chances of regaining performance in Suzuka this week. “I feel good about Suzuka”, he said. “We have a few ideas. This track [Singapore] is so different and it doesn’t relate.”
Verstappen will have good memories of visiting Japan, where he won his second world championship in 2022. It should be said that the anomalistic result in Singapore will hardly derail the Dutchman’s season. He still retains a healthy 151-point lead in the driver’s championship to his teammate Sergio Perez and looks certain to win his third championship before the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.