Expectations regarding the Singapore Grand Prix were high from the beginning, but we think the result managed to easily exceed them. It’s fairly safe to say that we saw one of the most exciting races of this season, as once again the Marina Bay Street Circuit was full of drama and action.
Is Ferrari back?
Already beginning with practice sessions, it was clear that Ferrari had some serious pace, topping time sheets at every single outing. Red Bull were experimenting with some setups on Friday and Saturday, so it wasn’t completely clear how much speed they got in the tank. Then came the qualifying, and to the delight of Red Bull haters, both cars failed to make it out of Q2. During the season Sergio Perez has had some qualifying mishaps, but it was unexpected to see both cars out of contention for the Top 10. Even more dramatic was the fact that Max Verstappen was knocked out of Q2 by Alpha Tauri’s Liam Lawson, who got into Q3 just in his 3rd race of the season. With Red Bulls out of the way, we were in for a wild qualifying finale, which in the end saw the Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr. take the pole position. The other front-row position was taken by George Russell, who potentially could have snubbed Carlos, but instead, he managed to split both Ferrari’s. Less than 0.080 seconds split the top 3 drivers.
The Race is On
It is certainly quite tricky to overtake cars on this circuit so qualifying results were crucial come the race day. Throughout the weekend Red Bull struggled massively with grip issues, so even though you can never count them out, it was clear from the first laps of racing that they won’t be as speedy as usual. This was one of the tightest races of the season, in terms of the time gap between all cars, as all the drivers were tightly packed up with each other.
By choosing to begin the race with soft tires, Charles Leclerc managed to pip Russell and swiftly secure a provisional Ferrari 1-2. Singapore’s 100% safety car record remains unchanged, as a crash from Logan Sargeant triggered its appearance. Of course, multiple drivers tried to use this to their advantage, making “free” pitstops, but, unfortunately for Leclerc, the traffic in the pitlane caused him to lose out a couple of places. A very racy Lando Norris also managed to stay composed and moved himself up the field. Sainz ingeniously controlled the pace throughout the whole race, but he couldn’t drop his focus for a second, as the rest of the competitors were right on the heels.
George Russell and Mercedes were especially keen on scoring a race win, but strategy-wise they needed to do something special for them to have a proper chance at this. And so they did. With less than 20 laps to go both Mercedes perfectly used the opportunity to pit under a virtual safety car for new medium tires. In exchange, they dropped behind some competitors and opened a big gap between themselves and the race leader, but the much more grippier tires in comparison with heavily used hard tires meant that Mercedes were flying on the track while the rest of the drivers in front were already struggling with control. The chase was on, and both Mercedes tried their best to catch up and overtake the drivers in front.
Mercedes now were in perfect position to secure a race win, as in a couple of laps time they were right on tails of Sainz and Norris in front. Russell and Hamilton were much faster than the drivers in front, but Sainz and Norris masterfully defended their positions and in the very last lap Russell pushed his limits too far and clipped a wall. What potentially could have been a race win ended up in a crash and no points scored. A massive heartbreak for George but a delightful Sunday for Ferrari and Sainz, who finally broke the Red Bull streak of dominance and got their first win of the season. It was also a pure joy for Mclaren and Lando Norris, who took home the 2nd place, while Hamilton got the final podium. Even though he struggled, Verstappen still crossed the finish line in 5th place, almost overtaking Leclerc on the last straight.
What an eventful and exciting race it was, which also opens up a question – have other teams improved enough to challenge Red Bull on the remaining track or was this just a one-off mishap? We will already find out next week in Japan.