Sainz holds off Norris and fast-charging Mercedes pair to take sensational Singapore Grand Prix victory
Carlos Sainz converted pole position into a second career victory as the Spaniard held off the charge of Lando Norris and the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell – who crashed on the final lap – to take a well-earned win at the Singapore Grand Prix – the first non-Red Bull win of the season.
Sainz kept a hold of the lead at the start but with Charles Leclerc having opted to start on the softs, as opposed to those around him on the mediums, the Monegasque was able to jump ahead of Russell for second place.
He then navigated a Safety Car – caused by Logan Sargeant crashing into the barrier – to keep a hold of the lead, as he later held off the challenge of Russell, Norris, and Hamilton.
But after Esteban Ocon – running in sixth at the time – stopped on track with a suspected gearbox issue, Mercedes used the Virtual Safety Car to stop their drivers for some new medium tyres, setting up a grandstand finish.
FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX 2023
|1 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||1:46:37.418||25|
|2 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+0.812s||18|
|3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+1.269s||16|
|4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+21.177s||12|
|5 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+21.441s||10|
But despite Russell and Hamilton getting past Leclerc, they could not overtake Sainz and Norris, with the Spaniard gifting his former McLaren team mate some DRS in the closing stages to hold of the Silver Arrows pair, and sealing a second career win.
Russell’s hopes of a podium ended in the barrier at Turn 10 on the final lap as he looked to get past Norris for second, allowing the McLaren driver to take his third podium finish of the season, while Hamilton took third place.
Leclerc was able to hold off the fast-charging Max Verstappen for fourth at the end, with the Red Bull driver recovering from a difficult outing, that at one stage saw him being overtaken by the leading drivers for the first time this season, to take fifth.
Pierre Gasly was an impressive sixth for Alpine, while Oscar Piastri took seventh for McLaren. Sergio Perez ended up eighth – although he is being investigated for his part in a collision with Alex Albon.
Liam Lawson scored the first points of his short F1 career for AlphaTauri as he took ninth, ahead of the lead Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Alex Albon wound up 11th for Williams, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, and the other Haas of Nico Hulkenberg.
Both Sargeant and Fernando Alonso had their fair share of incidents in the race as the latter had a five-second penalty, a slow pit stop, and went off track to finish last of the remaining runners behind the American rookie in 14th.
Russell’s crash at the end meant he, alongside Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda – who sustained a puncture in the opening lap of the race – and Ocon did not finish the race.
As It Happened
With the sun having set, and the lights turned on, we were set for what was sure to be a fascinating evening in Singapore. With Sainz on pole, and Verstappen and Perez outside the top-10, the paddock wondered if we would get the first non-Red Bull victory of the season.
But we were two drivers short on the grid as, while Zhou was starting in the pit lane with Alfa Romeo making changes to his C43, Stroll and Aston Martin had elected to withdraw the Canadian racer from Sunday’s event, with him still suffering from the effects of his hefty qualifying crash.
A couple of minutes before the race start, the blankets were lifted showing the tyres each driver had opted to use at the first stint. Plenty selected the mediums while Leclerc, Tsunoda, Zhou, and Piastri chose the softs, with the Red Bulls and Bottas on the hards.
It was a brilliant start for Ferrari as the lights went out. Sainz kept a hold of the lead and his team mate Leclerc was able to jump ahead of Russell, with the Mercedes driver also losing out to his team mate, Hamilton, who made his way up from fifth to third.
“Is he gonna let me past?” exclaimed Russell on the radio, after Hamilton went off track at Turn 1 to gain the place. Hamilton obliged, as he let Russell through on the next lap.
Tsunoda’s race was over as soon as it began on the first lap as he pulled over with a puncture, with replays showing a collision with Perez had caused the damage.
Further back Alonso and Ocon moved up to sixth and seventh after jumping ahead of Magnussen in the opening exchanges, with Verstappen up to ninth from P11. Alfa Romeo then made the first stop of the day with Zhou swapping his softs for hards.
While Hamilton had given the place back to Russell, Norris – now in fifth – was not happy either, as he also came on the radio pleading for the Mercedes driver to give the position back, which he later did.
On Lap 7, despite Magnussen's staunch defence, Verstappen dived down the inside of the Haas racer at Turn 16 for eighth, while his Red Bull team mate Perez overtook Piastri for 13th into Turn 1.
At the front of the field, Leclerc was within a second of Sainz, while Verstappen was showing good race pace to close in on Ocon – who was also looking to make his way past his former Alpine team mate Alonso for sixth.
On Lap 10, Leclerc was told to try and give a three-second gap to Sainz out front, while the comfortable Spaniard came on the radio to say “I could go forever at this pace” as he continued to set the fastest times of the evening.
Elsewhere, Haas had not scored a point since Miami in May, but Magnussen and Hulkenberg were joined at the hip in ninth and 10th, respectively, while Gasly was right behind them looking to pounce on any mistakes.
“I think Carlos is slowing down” said Leclerc on the radio, with the timesheets proving his point, as Lawson in 12th matched the pace of Sainz out front. Further back, Hamilton was beginning to reel in Norris for fourth, as he set the fastest first sector on Lap 14.
On Lap 18, Russell’s engineer told him to keep the pressure on the Ferraris ahead in response to his question about what he needed to do to win the race. But then Piastri was told that there was a possibility of rain hitting the track in five minutes.
And just as that happened the yellow flags were waved as the cameras panned to Turn 8, where Sargeant had gone straight into the barrier. His front wing was now stuck underneath the FW45 as he made his way back to the pits with pieces of carbon fibre spreading over the track as a result.
That triggered the deployment of the Safety Car with the top seven drivers all deciding to dive into the pit lane for some hard tyres, with the Red Bulls electing to stay out on their old hards. This meant Verstappen was up into second, with Perez in fourth.
In the pit stop chaos, both Leclerc and Hamilton ended up being delayed to avoid traffic. The pair were now down in sixth and seventh, while Alonso was seen crossing the line at the pit entry, with race control investigating the incident.
The order at the restart, as the Safety Car peeled off at the end of Lap 22, was Sainz, Verstappen, Russell, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alonso, Ocon, and Bottas. Magnussen was 11th, ahead of Gasly, Piastri, Lawson, Hulkenberg, Albon, Zhou and Sargeant.
And Sainz played the restart perfectly as Russell attacked Verstappen, while Norris looked to take Perez for fourth. Behind, Leclerc looked to avoid colliding into Norris at Turn 7, an incident that forced him wide with Hamilton taking advantage to move up to sixth.
Russell eventually overtook Verstappen, while Norris then got past Perez, with Hamilton now having a look at last year’s Singapore GP winner. All while this was happening, Alonso was handed a five-second penalty for crossing the line at the pit entry.
On Lap 24, Norris made a move past Verstappen into Turn 14, while Hamilton eventually got past Perez round the outside on the exit of Turn 7, although the seven-time champion went on the curb and wide at the corner, with the Red Bull driver asking for the position back.
At the front, Russell was incredibly racy as he looked to keep the pressure on Sainz for first place, the Briton within half a second of the Ferrari driver. Elsewhere, Hamilton, was within striking distance of Verstappen for fifth.
Magnussen was then shown the black and white flag for forcing Gasly off the track, right before Hamilton put his good pace and his DRS advantage to use to get past his 2021 title rival Verstappen for fifth, down the inside at Turn 7. The Red Bull driver was then almost immediately under pressure from Leclerc – who had earlier got past Perez.
It was good news for Ferrari as Leclerc made his way past Verstappen down the inside at Turn 7, while Sainz began to eek out a gap. But it was less then positive for Red Bull, as Perez was now under pressure from Alonso for seventh.
“It’s like driving on ice” complained Verstappen as he ran a lonely race in sixth. Out front, Russell had closed the gap to Sainz once again, while the top four – including Norris and Hamilton – were covered by just three seconds.
In the battle for 10th further back, Gasly was incensed by being forced off the track by Magnussen, as the two drivers went wheel-to-wheel through Turn seven and eight, with the Dane holding on for at least another lap.
However, at the same corner on the next lap, Magnussen ran off track handing Gasly 10th, with replays showing the Haas racer going off at Turn 1 and getting his tyres dirty before going off again, thus dropping him down to 16th.
On Lap 38, we were treated to some more excellent wheel-to-wheel action, as Perez, Alonso, and Ocon had a three-way fight for seventh. The Aston Martin racer lost out to Ocon – who moved up to eighth – while Perez stayed ahead, as Gasly – now the fastest driver on track – closed in on the trio.
On the next lap, Ocon showed his strong racing prowess as he forced Perez off-line before making way past at Turn 9. Later in the lap Alonso and Gasly also both made their way past Perez – who boxed for the mediums immediately.
Perez then came back out at the back of the field, with Verstappen also coming in a lap later for a set of the medium tyres, as he came back out in 15th. The Dutch driver’s pit stop pushed Piastri up to ninth, and Lawson to 10th – with the AlphaTauri rookie looking for his first points finish.
Back at the front of the field, Sainz was still holding on to the lead, as Russell, having dropped back, began to close the gap back up. Further back, Alonso – now in seventh – came on the radio to call his car “undriveable”.
But there was to be unwelcome news for Ocon and Alpine, as the French driver, having been running in sixth, stopped at Turn 2 with smoke coming from his A523. “No! No” shouted the French driver, slamming his fist against his steering wheel, as the Virtual Safety Car was deployed.
Yet still there was no movement in the pit lane apart from Albon – who came in for some mediums. Then came the Mercedes drivers, as Russell and Hamilton double stacked for a set of the new medium tyres.
This dropped the pair down to fourth and fifth, but importantly it gave them clear air as they looked to chase down the top three of Sainz, Norris, and Leclerc with 17 laps to go. But it was more bad news for Alonso as a combination of his penalty and subsequent slow stop in the pitbox for softs dropped him to 15th.
We were then in for a grandstand finish with Russell and Hamilton starting to close the gap to the drivers ahead, as the cameras panned to Ocon walking back to the pit lane, with Alpine saying a gearbox issue was to blame for his stoppage.
Things then worsened for Alonso as he went off at Turn 14 and dropped to the back of the field, while Verstappen was showing a good turn of pace on his mediums, moving past Hulkenberg for ninth, as he looked to rescue what had been a difficult evening.
As we got to Lap 50, the gap continued to close between the top three and the Mercedes drivers, as Russell and Hamilton set the timesheets alight with green and purple sectors. Elsewhere, Lawson – running in eighth – was now coming under pressure from Verstappen.
The stewards then revealed that they would be investigating a possible VSC infringement by Perez and Albon after the race, as the timesheets showed that while Russell was closing in on Leclerc, his team mate, Hamilton was even quicker.
By Lap 53, Russell and Hamilton were right on the back of Leclerc, as the leading Mercedes made his way past the Ferrari driver at Turn 14. Hamilton then overtook the Monegasque round the outside at Turn 7 on the next lap, with Norris next on their list.
Verstappen was also enjoying his end to the race, as he was now up to seventh after overtaking Piastri, while Bottas’ race ended with a hydraulics issue. Back at the front, Sainz was asking his team for information on the gap to Norris, as Russell and Hamilton continued to close in.
Russell and Hamilton were then struggling to get past Norris, who was being strategically offered some DRS to help by Sainz to him stay ahead of the Mercedes pair.
But as we got to the final lap, we were given one last dramatic moment as Russell, looking to get past Norris, clipped the barrier on the entry to Turn 10 and went straight into the wall. That gifted Hamilton third place, while Sainz held on for victory.
Norris wound up second, while Leclerc held off the pacy Verstappen to take fourth place, with the championship leader recovering to finish fifth – his first time off the podium this season.
Gasly was sixth, ahead of Piastri, Perez, Lawson, and Magnussen – after the stewards decided there was no further investigation necessary for an incident between Perez and Lawson.
Outside of the points was Albon, Zhou, Hulkenberg, Sargeant, and Alonso, as Russell’s crash left him joined with Bottas, Ocon, and Tsunoda as the four drivers unable to finish the race.
"An incredible feeling, an incredible weekend," said Sainz. "I want to thank everyone in Ferrari for making this huge effort to turn around and manage to win this season after a tricky beginning.
"But now we nailed the weekend, we nailed the race… Everything that we had to do, we did perfect, and we brought home a P1 that I’m sure all Italy, all Ferrari, is going to be proud and happy today."
The drivers now get a few days off before the next tour on the F1 calendar reaches Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, which takes place from September 22-24.