Carlos Sainz orchestrated a masterful victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, ending Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s impressive winning streak. The race saw Sainz expertly control the proceedings while Verstappen had to claw his way back from an 11th-place start on a challenging weekend for Red Bull. As the checkered flag fell, Sainz led a closely-followed procession of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, narrowly escaping a late-game challenge that could have altered the outcome.
The race unfolded in dramatic fashion, featuring a safety car, a virtual safety car, and intense battles throughout its nearly two-hour duration. This thrilling event marked the conclusion of Verstappen’s historic run of 10 consecutive victories, as Sainz secured his second win for Ferrari since last year’s British Grand Prix. It was also the first time Red Bull had failed to secure a win since George Russell’s triumph in the penultimate race of the previous season in Brazil.
So, how did Ferrari manage to pull off this surprising victory? The Scuderia entered the race with a clear determination to secure the win, even if it meant sacrificing Sainz’s teammate, Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc, who had qualified in third place, was the sole driver in the top 10 to start the race on soft tires. This strategic decision paid dividends as he swiftly passed Russell at the start, setting up a Ferrari one-two in the initial laps. Sainz, in the lead, controlled the pace, a typical strategy for the Singapore Grand Prix. Ferrari instructed Leclerc to keep the rest of the field at bay and create a five-second gap for his teammate.
While Leclerc didn’t maintain that precise gap, hovering within a second of Sainz for about 10 laps before settling around three seconds behind, he played a crucial role when a safety car was deployed on lap 20. Logan Sargeant’s collision with a wall and subsequent debris on the track forced a safety car, and Leclerc deliberately slowed down to hold up the cars behind him. As a result, Sainz enjoyed a nine-second lead when he entered the pits at the end of the lap.
This strategic move worked wonders for Sainz, allowing him to rejoin the race in the lead. However, it left Leclerc vulnerable, and he lost positions to Russell, Norris, and Hamilton during his pit stop because Ferrari had to delay his release due to passing traffic.
As the race resumed, Sainz led Verstappen, who had advanced through the field without stopping during the safety car period. But Verstappen’s aging hard tires soon proved to be a disadvantage, causing him to drop down the order.
Russell, now chasing Sainz, understood that the Ferrari driver was controlling the pace to prevent Mercedes from making another pit stop to use their fresh set of medium tires, which they had saved for this race. However, when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine halted in the pit-lane exit on lap 43, the virtual safety car was deployed, prompting Mercedes to act. Both Russell and Hamilton pitted for those fresh medium tires, with Russell returning to the track in fourth place, just over 15 seconds behind Leclerc, and Hamilton right behind him in fifth.
Russell quickly passed Leclerc on lap 54 and set his sights on Norris and Sainz at the front, with Hamilton in close pursuit. With only five laps remaining, the top four cars were locked in a nail-biting battle. Sainz deliberately slowed down to grant Norris the benefit of the DRS (Drag Reduction System), making it harder for the Mercedes duo to pass him.
On lap 59, with just three laps to go, Russell made a spirited attempt to overtake Norris into Turn 16, the final chicane, but Norris skillfully defended his position. Russell never quite closed the gap again, and in a late twist of fate, he crashed at Turn 10 on the final lap. Sainz then led Norris and Hamilton across the finish line, with the top three separated by a mere 1.2 seconds.
In the end, Carlos Sainz’s controlled drive and Ferrari’s strategic maneuvers proved decisive in breaking Red Bull’s winning streak and delivering a memorable victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.