Max P5 in Singapore, winning streak over: 'We really had to fight for it'
Published on 17 September 2023 by Florence Cobben
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) has broken the 10 race win streak held by Oracle Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen. The Spaniard drove a strategic race and seized the win in Singapore. Verstappen managed fifth place, making the most out of a difficult race. George Russell (Mercedes) was on track to collect the third podium place, but crashed on the very last lap. Teammate Lewis Hamilton drove into third place, right behind Lando Norris (McLaren).
On whether he was content with fifth place, Max answered: “Of course. In general, everything was against us, especially the timing of the safety cars. We really had to fight for fifth place. In the first stint, everything went quite well, till the safety car was called in. Afterwards everyone was on new tyres, so I stood no chance. The safety car also made the tyres cold. I couldn’t get them at the temperature I wanted afterward. I lost a lot of time with that. But after, it went alright on the medium tyres.”
The whole weekend had been tough for Verstappen. Not only the free practice but also qualifying did not go as planned. According to Max, the race was better: “But it still wasn’t up to our normal standard. We had to understand why qualifying went so badly here. In the race, on the whole, it went better. In general, our car isn’t that good on a street circuit. But this really was too much.” Looking ahead, Max predicts, “Suzuka is of course a beautiful circuit. It should fit nicely with our car.”
We start with nineteen cars under the lights of Marina Bay. Lance Stroll had to miss this Grand Prix after his dramatic collision in qualifying yesterday. Max started from eleventh position after a frustrating Friday and Saturday. While the rest of the season had been smooth sailing for Oracle Red Bull Racing, their luck turned for the worst on the street circuit of Singapore. Pole position was Sainz’s, with teammate Leclerc in third place. At the start of the race, both Ferraris get away quickly, with Leclerc passing Russell, who started in second. Hamilton goes wide in the first turn and surpasses Russell and Norris, but has to give those places back. Max goes up a position.
Yuki Tsunoda has a collision with Sergio Perez, and is forced to retire his AT04. He is the first retired car of the day. After a short fight with Kevin Magnussen, Max passes him and claims P8. After the first ten laps, the top five are as follows: Sainz, Leclerc, Russell, Norris and Hamilton. Leclerc, according to Russell’s team radio, gets sacrificed for the team: he has to widen the gap to Sainz, backing up the rest of the grid and putting himself at risk.
In lap 20 Logan Sargeant goes too deep into a turn and hits the wall. He manages to keep his car driving, but lost has his frontwing. With the debris scattered across the streets, a safety car is called. Chaos follows in the pitlane. Almost all cars re-emerge with new tyres. Lerclerc loses two positions due to traffic in the pits. Fernando Alonso locks up going into the pits and goes over the white line, earning himself a five second penalty. Only Valtteri Bottas, Pérez, and Verstappen stay out. The Red Bull drivers seize two spots in the top 5, with the top positions looking as follows in lap 23: Sainz, Verstappen, Russell, Pérez en Norris.
However, Max struggles to keep going on his used hard tyres. Russell, Norris and Hamilton pass the Dutchman. Pérez also quickly drops outside the top five after being overtaken by Norris, Hamilton and Leclerc. Sainz is still leading, but has lost his defense in Leclerc, who is in sixth. Russell is hot on the heels of the Spaniard, but does not manage to pass him. Verstappen calls in to let his team know he feels like he’s driving on ice.
In lap 40, Esteban Ocon, Alonso and Pierre Gasly pass Pérez, enough reason for Red Bull to pit him. He rejoins the race in 18th. Max also gets called in from sixth and returns 15th on a new set of medium tyres.
Only three laps later Ocon has to retire his car. The birthday boy’s car had broken down. A virtual safety car is called in, and a number of drivers go into the pitlane, including the Mercedes drivers. Alonso also pits. Because of his penalty, he suffers a long pitstop- almost 26 seconds. He returns to the race far outside of the points. Further dissapointment finds him when the Spaniard locks up and drives off track, but he manages to get his car back underway.
Max manages to drive himself back into the points, passing Zhou Guanyu, Nico Hülkenberg, Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri. He makes it into P7. Leclerc, meanwhile, is fighting with both Mercedes drivers, and eventually has to concede his place. With five laps to go, Sainz is still leading the race, followed by Norris, Russell, Hamilton and Leclerc. The new mediums on the Mercedes cars mean both drivers have a lot more pace than their competitors. Bottas, in the meantime, also has to retire, making him the third car to do so. Verstappen passes Gasly and drives into sixth position.
In the last couple of laps the battle for P1 gets properly underway. Sainz keeps Norris within his DRS, which keeps Norris securely in between Sainz and the Mercedes’. In the very last lap, Russell crashes into the wall, throwing away his podium. Sainz’s strategy means he passes the finish line first. This makes the Ferrari driver’s second race win. Norris finishes second, and Hamilton made up the position of his crashed teammate, claiming third. Max drives into fifth position, bringing an end to his 10 race win streak. For the first time since the Miami Grand Prix, it is the Spanish anthem that blasts over the speakers, instead of the Dutch.
|2||Lando Norris||NOR||McLaren Mercedes||62||+0.812s||18|
|5||Max Verstappen||VER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||62||+21.441s||10|
|6||Pierre Gasly||GAS||Alpine Renault||62||+38.441s||8|
|7||Oscar Piastri||PIA||McLaren Mercedes||62||+41.479s||6|
|8||Sergio Perez||PER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||62||+54.534s||4|
|9||Liam Lawson||LAW||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||62||+65.918s||2|
|10||Kevin Magnussen||MAG||Haas Ferrari||62||+72.116s||1|
|11||Alexander Albon||ALB||Williams Mercedes||62||+73.417s||0|
|12||Zhou Guanyu||ZHO||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||62||+83.649s||0|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||HUL||Haas Ferrari||62||+86.201s||0|
|14||Logan Sargeant||SAR||Williams Mercedes||62||+86.889s||0|
|15||Fernando Alonso||ALO||Aston Martin Mercedes||62||+87.603s||0|
|0||Valtteri Bottas||BOT||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||51||DNF||0|
|0||Esteban Ocon||OCO||Alpine Renault||42||DNF||0|
|0||Yuki Tsunoda||TSU||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||0||DNF||0|