Analysis: Things we learned from the Singapore Grand Prix

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Following a season that has been dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen, the Singapore Grand Prix saw Ferrari end their rival's dominance with Carlos Sainz taking his second career victory. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó delivers his Singapore race analysis.

Winless streak – In a season where Red Bull managed to win every single round, the Singapore Grand Prix probably offered a unique opportunity for their rivals to record a victory. With Red Bull slightly off the pace around the modified Marina Bay track, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes used this opportunity to battle it out among themselves with the Scuderia coming out on top following a rarely-seen battle in the dying stages of the 62-lap race.

Ferrari clinched their 242th F1 victory on Sunday, winning for the first time since last year’s Austrian Grand Prix. For their winning driver, Carlos Sainz, it was his second career win after his triumph for Ferrari at the 2022 British Grand Prix.

It was Ferrari’s fourth win at Marina Bay following their triumphs in 2010, 2015 and 2019. The result ties Ferrari with Mercedes and Red Bull with all three outfits having won in Singapore four times apiece.

Tight affair - Carlos Sainz had to work hard for his second F1 victory to overcome the threat from the fast-charging Mercedes drivers. The Spaniard crossed the finish line 0.812s ahead of second-placed Lando Norris, albeit it was not the closest finish at Singapore. The smallest winning margin in Singapore F1 Grand Prix history came in 2010 when Fernando Alonso beat Sebastian Vettel by just 0.239s.

Faultless achievement – Red Bull has had a faultless season so far in 2023. The Milton Keynes-based outfit has won every race so far his season and as they also won last year’s season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, they had a run of 15 consecutive wins. However, Carlos Sainz’s heroic win at the Singapore Grand Prix ended Red Bull's record streak and Max Verstappen’s run of ten consecutive victories.

Unbroken record – Safety car interruptions belong to the Singapore Grand Prix. Since its inception, Marina Bay has been known for featuring at least one safety car in every race edition, with a total of 24 safety car deployments as of 2023. Sunday’s race was no exception in the sense that both the safety car and the virtual safety car was deployed during the 62-lap race.

Pit stop – Neither team was able to get close to the best pit stop performance of the 2023 F1 season at the Singapore Grand Prix. Red Bull performed the best tyre change when they serviced Sergio Perez’s car with the stop requiring 2.32s. McLaren achieved the second fastest tyre change (2.46s), followed by Ferrari (2.51s). The overall best tyre change in 2023 remains the pit stop performed by Red Bull at the Hungarian Grand Prix that only required 1.98s.

Interestingly, only seven of the tyre changes were performed within 3 seconds with Mercedes having been unable to change tyres within that mark despite their total of four pit stops.

Late charge – While Lewis Hamilton was unable to challenge for top positions in qualifying, the British driver ended the Singapore race on the podium. It was partly down to Charles Leclerc’s misfortune in the pit lane and his team-mate George Russell’s mistake on the final lap, but also down to his late charge that was possible through the fresh medium tyre he received during his second stop.

The pit stop for the Mercedes drivers allowed them to light up the timing screens with Hamilton setting the fastest lap of the race with a 1m35.867s. His team-mate Russell set the second fastest lap, four tenths of a second slower than what Hamilton managed. Despite struggling for pace across the entire weekend, Fernando Alonso set the third fastest race lap with a 1m36.456s thanks to his late stop for Pirelli’s soft compound.

When it comes to fastest lap in the current season, Max Verstappen is still the driver with the most quickest laps (6) with Hamilton following the Dutchman (3). Sergio Perez has set the fastest laps on two occasions while Zhou Guanyu, Fernando Alonso, Oscar Piastri, George Russell have been the only other drivers to record the fastest race lap.

Driver of the Day - He may have won by less than a second, but Carlos Sainz reigned supreme in Singapore. It is therefore no surprise that Ferrari’s Spaniard was voted as Driver of the Day with 21.2 per cent of the votes.

AlphaTauri’s rookie driver Liam Lawson earned the second highest percentage (14.4 per cent), followed by Lando Norris (13.6 per cent), George Russell (9.8 per cent) and Max Verstappen (7.6 per cent).

Tyres – Pirelli brought the softest compounds, the C3, C4 and C5 to Singapore. With overtaking being a difficult affair around the Marina Bay track, every driver attempted to limit the number of pit stops even if the higher than expected tyre wear would have favoured a two-stop strategy.

It meant that drivers performed very long stints on Sunday. The longest stint on the hard compound was the 42-lap run, completed by Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Oscar Piastri and Liam Lawson. The best time on this compound was Sainz’s 1m37.666s that the Spaniard recorded on the 27th lap of his stint. That was the beginning of the phase of the grand prix when Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell commenced their late charge on their fresh set of mediums.

The longest stint on the yellow-banded mediums was performed by Zhou Guanyu as the Chinese driver racked up 42 laps on the C4 compound. The fastest lap on the compound was registered by Lewis Hamilton, who clocked in a 1m35.867s on the third lap of his race-ending stint with that time having become the fastest race lap.

The longest stint on the soft compound belonged to Charles Leclerc, who started on the C5 tyres and completed a total of 20 laps until the safety car was deployed following Logan Sargeant’s mistake at Turn 14. Fernando Alonso recorded the fastest lap on the red-walled tyres with a 1m36.456s after he made good use of the late virtual safety car that allowed a ten-minute faster pit stop compared to a tyre change in normal circumstances.

Unknown territory - Two drivers made their Singapore debut last weekend, with Logan Sargeant and Liam Lawson getting their first taste of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Although the American driver finished the race, he made a curcial mistake on his final push lap in qualifying which saw him set a lap in Q1 that was six tenths of a second slower than what his team-mate Alex Albon managed. His race was comporimed after he crashed inti the barriers at Turn 14 on Lap 20 with the incident causing damage to the front wing of his special-liveried Williams.

For Liam Lawson, it was a more successful afternoon. After qualifying tenth fastest on Saturday, the New Zealander seemed to have adapted quickly to his car in the immense heat on the tight and challenging track. The 21-year-old driver scored his first points in F1 with his P9 finish, collecting two further points to AlphaTauri’s previous three-point haul.

In his first three F1 starts, Lawson has finished 13th, 11th and ninth and became the 350th driver to score points in a Formula 1 World Championship event.

Deleted – Track limits have caused hardly any issues at the Marina Bay Street Circuit with the walls very clearly defining the racing lines. However, there are a few corners where drivers can play with the limits of the 4.9km circuit with Turns 2, 7 and 19 inviting drivers to exceed the track limits.

During the 62-lap race, ten laps were deleted for track limit infringements. Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton had all one lap time deleted apiece while Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg lost two laps in the heat of Singapore. Of course, these infringement had no direct consequence, but a fourth mistake would have resulted in a time penalty.

Penalties – Sergio Perez was involved in two separate incidents during the race. The Mexican collided with Yuki Tsunoda on the opening lap of the race which forced AlphaTauri’s Japanese driver to retire from the happening. The incident was investigated by the stewards, but Perez got away with it.

However, the six-time F1 race winner had a collision with Williams driver Alexander Albon in which Perez attempted an overtaking manoeuvre into Turn 13. With the stewards calling the Mexican’s manoeuvre “optimistic”, Perez was handed out a five-second time penalty and one penalty point. He now has a total of three penalty points for the 12-month period.

Interestingly, the pair was involved in a different incident. During the virtual safety car period, Albon exited the pits while Perez was on the track with the pair arriving at the second Safety Car Line at the same time. Albon stayed ahead, but the incident was investigated. However, the stewards took no further action as “the timing system was unable to determine that there was any diffence in their respective times of arrival at SC2. Video evidence was inconclusive when combined with an examination of the SC/VSC delta times.”

Fernando Alonso endured a dismal weekend in Singapore. The Spaniard qualified a lowly P8 and left the Asian round without any points due to lack of pace, pit stop mistake and an ambitious entry into the pit lane. The two-time world champion crossed the white line and the kerb when he tried to enter the pit lane which led to a five-second penalty which he served during his second pit stop.

Miserable run – George Russell was on course for a very successful weekend in Singapore. The one-time F1 winner qualified second on the grid, just under a tenth of a second off Carlos Sainz’s pole position time and had an enormous pace advantage in the closing stages of the race due to his fresh medium tyres.

However, his efforts were in vain after crashing his Mercedes in the final lap. Russell was still classified in P16, but failed to score for the second time in the last three races after a late race-ending contact at the Dutch Grand Prix.

Drivers’ Championship – When it comes to the points table, the Singapore Grand Prix led to a few key changes. Despite his low-key weekend, championship runaway leader Max Verstappen still has 151 points more than second-placed Sergio Perez.

The first key change revolved around third place in standings. While Fernando Alonso held on to P3 in the Drivers’ Championship in most of the season, Lewis Hamilton took over this from the Spaniard after a weekend when the Aston Martin driver failed to score a single point in contrast to the Mercedes driver’s third-place finish that earned him fifteen points.

In the meantime, Carlos Sainz closed in on third place thanks to his eye-catching results in Monza and Singapore while Lando Norris is slowly catching seventh-placed George Russell in the standings.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen scored his first point since May and he is now tied with Yuki Tsunoda in the standings with both drivers having scored three points apiece.

Constructors’ Championship - Although Red Bull failed to win for only the second time in the last 26 Grands Prix, their advantage in the Teams’ Standings has hardly changed as second-placed Mercedes still trails the Milton Keynes-based outfit by a whopping 308 points.

While Ferrari spent most of the season languishing down in fourth place, the Scuderia managed to overtake Aston Martin in Monza, and they have now built a 48-point lead from the Silverstone-based team and also edged closer to Mercedes.

Despite scoring only a singe point, the Singapore race was a successful round for Haas as it was their first points-finish in a Grand Prix since Miami. They are now two points clear of Alfa Romeo and seven points ahead of AlphaTauri.