‘Smooth operator’ Sainz ends Red Bull’s winning streak

Published September 18, 2023
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (front) in action during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday.—Reuters
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (front) in action during the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday.—Reuters

SINGAPORE: Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz won the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday to end Formula One leader Max Verstappen’s record run of 10 wins in a row and shatter Red Bull’s dream of going through the season unbeaten.

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished a close second and Mer­cedes’ Lewis Hamilton took third place as Red Bull ended up off the podium for the first time since last November’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

In a strategic, slow-burning thriller of a race Sainz, nicknamed ‘smooth operator’, played his hand perfectly after starting on pole, slowing the field to close any safety car window and saving his tyres before helping former team-mate Norris stave off the chasing Mercedes pair.

Mercedes’ George Russell, pushing hard for the win on far fresher medium tyres than the leaders, crashed on the last lap while in third place.

“We nailed the race,” said Sainz after his second career win for the Italian team. “We did everything we had to do. We did it perfect and we brought home a P1 that I’m sure all Italy and Ferrari is going to be proud and happy today.

“A safety car forced us to pit even earlier than we wanted and I knew it was going to be a long stint and hard ... it was just quite tight at the end but we gave Lando a bit of DRS (drag reduction) to help him and in the end we made it P1.”

The Spaniard eked out his hard tyres for 42 laps, winning at the slowest possible speed, for Ferrari’s first victory since Charles Leclerc triumphed in Austria in July last year.

Red Bull had won 15 successive races until Sunday but that looked set to end from the moment they failed to qualify in the top 10.

Double world champion Verstappen started 11th and finished fifth, with team-mate and closest rival Sergio Perez, last year’s winner in Singapore, eighth.

Verstappen still stretched his overall advantage to 151 points from a previous 145 with seven rounds remaining and Japan coming up next weekend.

The safety car came out on lap 20 when Logan Sargeant’s Williams hit the wall and left debris on the track, with the Ferraris pitting but the Red Bulls staying out.

Verstappen, who started on the longer-lasting hard tyres, was second with Perez fourth but they were soon overhauled and then plunged down the field when they made their stops under normal conditions.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

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