Johnnie’s Judgement: 2023 Singapore Grand Prix review
We thank thee, F1 gods, for this wonderful masterclass of strategy and racing!
Rejoice! 2023 is not the year of Red Bull for Carlos Sainz has broken the streak and become the first driver not named Max or Sergio to win a race this year!
I mean, the season is still very much Red Bull’s, but it is great to see someone else finally winning - and, to be quite honest - really nice to see the Red Bulls struggle and get passed as easily as they were.
For any Red Bull fans who don’t like that, cry more, you were saying that anytime Mercedes had a bad race during their dominant years (which, by the way, were never as bad as what we’ve been witnessing this year).
But let’s not get bogged down in celebrations for Red Bull’s very-likely-to-be-temporary downfall. Instead, let’s praise what was an absolutely outstanding race.
Carlos controlling the crowd
Carlos Sainz marked his second-ever F1 win in a fashion that made it look like he’d been there many times before.
He controlled the race from start to finish, dictating the pace throughout. There were many factors that came into play that could’ve taken away his win - tyre degradation, safety cars and virtual safety cars, or any unforeseen problems.
Thankfully for Sainz, nothing out of the ordinary came to mess up his road to victory, and the factors which he could control, being tyre deg and fuel loads, he managed to perfection.
The Marina Bay circuit isn’t the easiest place to pass on, so Sainz knew that he didn’t have to push to get away from the pack. He could go at a reasonable speed to keep them close behind, slow enough to manage his tyres and make them last longer, but still fast enough to keep his competitors behind.
To the new fans and unkeen eye, the first phase of the Grand Prix was probably very boring because it was all strategy. But for everyone else watching, it was brilliance.
Starting to get tasty
The first bit of excitement came when a safety car was deployed, bunching the whole pack up. The front five - Sainz, Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton - decided to take that opportunity to pit.
While Max Verstappen was able to get up to second because he didn’t pit, after the restart, the four behind him breezed past so easily you wouldn’t have thought that was the championship leader who has been dominating all year.
After that, things went back to normal, with Sainz yet again dictating play. However, it all changed when a late VSC came into play.
Only the two Mercedes pitted from the group of frontrunners, putting them on a different strategy which the team believed would be able to get them the win.
Despite being on fresh mediums that they could push to the end compared to Sainz, Norris and Leclerc’s used hards, the two Brits were not able to find a way past Norris or Sainz to get the win.
Russell was ahead and pushing but couldn’t make something happen. Then on the final lap, he crashed out, costing himself not just a podium but any points at all.
In hindsight, if Merc had swapped their two drivers they could’ve got the one-two. Hamilton was racing quicker than his teammate and could very well have got the job done. But that would’ve been too harsh on Russell, who overall did have a better weekend despite the finish.
Praise for Sainz, the top 5, Singapore, Red Bull and Max
A massive congratulations is in order for the race winner. It was a brilliant race from him as he continued this purple patch of form he is in right now. With Japan following up this weekend as well, he will surely be in contention once again.
The other four drivers deserve some praise, too. Each of the top five showed exactly the sort of quality season we could be having this year if Red Bull weren’t so record-breakingly good.
The Marina Bay circuit is one of my personal favourites, and despite a change to the layout that I didn’t much fancy, it still produced one heck of a brilliant race under the spotlights.
And finally, praise does need to go to Red Bull and Verstappen. While his and their streak of wins has finally been snapped, nothing can take away what they have achieved this season.
They are still very easily winning both championships and they will not stay down long. They knew this was going to be a difficult race for them, although I assume going out in Q2 wasn’t on the cards.
But they still did well considering, especially their main man Max, who fought well to finish in fifth, missing out on passing Leclerc by just three-tenths of a second.
It’s on to Suzuka next for the Japanese Grand Prix, where presumably Red Bull will be back in top form.