Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s winning streak was broken by Carlos Sainz’s controlled drive for Ferrari in the Singapore Grand Prix.
On a challenging weekend for Red Bull, Verstappen battled back from starting in 11th place to finish fifth as Sainz expertly controlled the race from the front.
After George Russell crashed out of third place on the final lap, Sainz was followed across the finish line by Lando Norris of McLaren and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Russell and Hamilton bet on a last-minute tire change and charged back up to Sainz and Norris, but they were unable to overtake before Russell’s mishap.
A fitting event to mark the end of Verstappen’s all-time record of 10 straight triumphs, it was a dramatic conclusion to an entertaining race that ebbed and flowed throughout its close to two-hour running duration, with a safety car, a virtual safety car, and some close racing through the field.
Since Russell won the last race of the previous season in Brazil, Sainz’s second victory for Ferrari came after the British Grand Prix. This was the first time a Red Bull had finished second since that time.
We performed all we needed to do, perfectly, and we nailed the weekend and the race, according to Sainz. “We got home P1, and I’m sure the entire nation of Italy and Ferrari will be thrilled and proud today.
I always felt in control and like I had the speed and mental space to accomplish anything I set my mind to. At this moment, I’m over the moon.
Ferrari clearly started the race with the intention of winning, and they used every trick in their arsenal to achieve this goal, sacrificing Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc in the process.
The only driver in the top 10 to start the race on soft tyres was Leclerc, who qualified third. The move paid off as Leclerc overtook Russell from the line to give Ferrari a one-two start.
Sainz set the pace, as is customary for a leader in Singapore, and Ferrari ordered Leclerc to drop back and allow his teammate a five-second advantage over the rest of the field.
Leclerc came close to catching Sainz for approximately 10 circuits, but fell behind him by about three seconds after that. However, he undoubtedly made a huge contribution to Sainz’s success when a safety car was brought out on lap 20 as a result of Logan Sargeant damaging his front wing by veering into a wall and dragging debris with him as he made his way back to the pits.
Sainz had a nine-second lead when he led the field into the pits at the end of the lap after Leclerc backed off and held up the vehicles behind him.
Leclerc was left exposed and fell behind Russell, Norris, and Lewis Hamilton before rejoining the race because Ferrari had to keep him back in the pits before releasing him when traffic went by. It worked perfectly for Sainz, who returned to the track in the lead.
Verstappen had jumped up the field by not stopping under the safety car, and Sainz was in front of him at the restart. However, the world champion’s worn-out hard tyres left him vulnerable, and he quickly fell back down the field.
In order to prevent Mercedes from making another pit stop and using the brand-new set of medium tyres that they alone among the teams had kept for the race, Russell, who was now sitting behind Sainz, made it apparent that he knew the Ferrari driver was controlling his speed.
However, the virtual safety car was deployed and Mercedes pulled the trigger, stopping both Russell and Hamilton for those brand-new medium tyres on lap 43 after Esteban Ocon’s Alpine broke down in the pit lane exit.
With Hamilton in fifth place right behind him, Russell re-entered the race in fourth place, just over 15 seconds behind Leclerc.
On lap 54, Russell caught and passed Leclerc before moving on to pursue Norris and Sainz in the lead, with Hamilton now following closely behind and seemingly moving even quicker.
The top four were nose-to-tail with five circuits remaining, but Sainz purposefully slowed down to allow Norris to use the DRS and prevent the Mercedes from passing him.
With three laps remaining, Russell attempted to pass Norris into Turn 16, the last chicane, but the McLaren driver was able to stop him.
Sainz led Norris and Hamilton to the finish line, the three of them separated by only 1.2 seconds. Russell never got quite that close again, and there was late drama as he crashed at Turn 10 on the penultimate lap, catching the wall with his outer front tire on the entrance.
After such a wonderful weekend, it’s heartbreaking, Russell commented after the race. “Qualifying was fantastic, the race was fantastic, we had a bold strategy, but I feel like I’ve let the team and myself down. It’s hard, but we will come back.”
Verstappen salvages solid performance from tough weekend
Verstappen started the race on hard tyres with the intention of running a lengthy first stint and hoping to overtake cars in front as they made pit stops.
Within a few laps, he had advanced from seventh to eleventh before becoming enmeshed in Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon’s duel with an Aston Martin.
At the first safety car, staying out propelled him into second place behind Sainz, and if Leclerc hadn’t backed up the pack, he might have even taken the lead.
However, he quickly fell behind again, and when he eventually stopped on lap 40 for new tires, he slid to 15th.
However, he showed patience and used his fresher tyres to pick off slower cars in front of him. By the closing circuits, he was applying pressure to Leclerc, but he simply ran out of time to try to pass.
Verstappen currently leads teammate Sergio Perez by 151 points, which prevents him from clinching the championship in Japan the following weekend because doing so would require him to finish that race 180 points ahead and only a maximum of 26 points are available.
With his third-place finish, Hamilton moves up to third in the standings, 10 points in front of Alonso, who had a challenging race in Singapore.
The Spaniard was given a five-second time penalty for going over the pit entry line during a first pit stop, and Ocon passed him as he attempted to pass Perez in the middle of the race.
Alonso slid wide at Turn 14 as he restarted, finishing 15th and last as a result of Aston Martin’s risky decision to make a late stop for soft tires while protected by the virtual safety car.
Behind Verstappen, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly overtook the McLaren of Oscar Piastri and Perez for sixth place after taking advantage of Ocon and Alonso’s issues.
Since being brought in at Alpha Tauri to replace Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian fractured his hand during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, Liam Lawson has continued a string of strong performances.
Despite dropping a few positions at the start after breaking into the top 10 on the grid for the first time, Lawson finished a good ninth.
In spite of losing many positions by driving off the track at Turn Five in a tense battle mid-race, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen pitted for new tires under the VSC and fought back to take the final point in 10th place.