Carlos Sainz survives late drama to take impressive Singapore GP victory

Sainz was just able to hold off the charging Mercedes in the closing stages of a thrilling race in Singapore.

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Carlos Sainz held off a late challenge from the charging Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton as well as the McLaren of Lando Norris to take victory at the Singapore GP.

Both Russell and Hamilton pitted under a late virtual safety car after Esteban Ocon retired with gearbox issues on track for new medium tyres which they had kept in hand for the race, but were unable to get by Norris in second as Sainz backed the McLaren up.

Despite their clear pace advantage, the Mercedes pair ran out of time to have a clear shot at the Ferrari in first, and Russell suffered further heartache as he went into the barriers chasing the win on the final lap of the race, promoting Hamilton to the final podium spot.

Charles Leclerc had to settle for fourth after being held in the pitlane during an earlier safety car caused by the Williams of Logan Sargeant, dropping down the order despite the Monegasque showing some stern defence to help his teammate in the early stages.

Max Verstappen was always likely to come to the end of his record breaking run of wins following a disappointing weekend all around and qualifying 11th as Red Bull struggled, but the champion rallied to finish in 5th on the track ahead of Pierre Gasly.

Red Bull had gambled with the early safety car for Sargeant and opted to stay out on track, but their hopes of another interruption went unfulfilled, and Sergio Perez was only good enough for eighth behind Oscar Piastri, who recovered from a tough qualifying to seventh.

Liam Lawson managed to hold onto a points finish in ninth for AlphaTauri on his Singapore debut, easing the pain of Yuki Tsunoda’s first lap retirement due to a puncture after contact with Perez, with Kevin Magnussen rounding off a solid weekend for Haas in the final points spot.

Intrigue up and down the grid

The race in Singapore promised a blockbuster fight between Ferrari, Mercedes and the McLaren of Norris, and it lived up to its billing with all three cars at various stages looking like they could fight for the win.

While there was early drama as Hamilton was forced to give back places to both Russell and Norris after being judged to have gained an advantage by going off track on the first lap at Turn 1, the race settled down as Sainz and Leclerc looked to manage the pace up front.

Sainz looked to have survived the worst of it despite losing the backup from Leclerc in the early safety car as he controlled the race from first, but the late safety car changed the dynamics as Mercedes gambled with stopping for mediums with 18 laps to go.

Leclerc tried to hold off the pair on older tyres, but eventually succumbed to Russell on Lap 54 and Hamilton the next lap, clearing the path for the British drivers to chase down compatriot Norris, who himself was closing in on Sainz.

At that point, the Spaniard displayed remarkable calm and guile to deliberately give Norris DRS to help the McLaren fend off the Mercedes, a risky strategy which ultimately paid off as he sealed only his second victory in F1.

Alonso’s race to forget

Elsewhere it was a race to forget for Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso, who slipped back to 15th over the line from seventh on the grid, with the Spaniard suffering a litany of errors including a late lockup which put paid to hopes of a points finish.

But that simply compounded the misery of his earlier stint, when he had to serve a 5-second time penalty after locking up heading into the pits under the VSC and recrossing the white line, and then being delayed significantly due to an error changing his tyres.

That rounded off a nightmare weekend for the team, after Lance Stroll was pulled out of the race at late notice following his heavy crash in qualifying.

Alex Albon may also walk away disappointed after he just missed out on the points in 11th despite another strong performance at a track not slated to suit the Williams’ strengths, while Zhou Guanyu was 12th for Alfa Romeo.

It was worse news for Zhou’s teammate Valtteri Bottas in the week the pair confirmed they will stay with the team for 2023 as the Finn retired with a mechanical issue on Lap 55.

Nico Hulkenberg was unable to replicate his qualifying top 10 back in 13th, while Sargeant’s early error proved costly as he was down in 14th at the chequered flag.

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