Carlos Sainz Jr. put in his best performance in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship during the Singapore Grand Prix, and the Spaniard was rewarded with his second career victory despite almost race-long pressure from behind.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver led from pole position and never lost the lead despite leading a five-car train for much of the day, with Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton all remaining involved in the battle for the win.
Sainz used his brain to ensure the two Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers, Russell and Hamilton, could not use their fresher medium tyres to good effect in the closing laps by allowing second placed Norris to stay just within the range of his DRS, meaning he held on until the chequered flag.
The win marked the first for Ferrari in 2023 and the first non-Oracle Red Bull Racing triumph this season, and he hopes to be able to keep up his recent strong form this coming weekend in Japan.
“It has been an incredible weekend right from the start,” said Sainz. “The team deserves this win for the enormous work they have done both here and in Maranello and I’m proud to dedicate it to all of them and the tifosi.
“We executed the weekend perfectly on my side and I think we managed the final thrilling part to perfection, giving Lando (Norris) DRS and controlling the pace all race long. Of course, pitting earlier meant we had to make our tyres last for a longer stint and the final laps were on the limit, but I’m extremely happy we made it work.
“Tonight we celebrate, but from tomorrow we’ll start preparing Suzuka. Let’s keep it up.”
“Our race execution was good today so I’m happy” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Leclerc could only finish fourth – it would have been fifth had Russell not crashed into the wall on the final lap – with the Monegasque driver compromised by being forced to wait for Sainz to be serviced in the pit lane under the safety car.
Both Ferrari drivers headed for the pits when the safety car was deployed after debris was left on the track by Logan Sargeant after the young American hit the wall. However, whereas Sainz was able to get away smoothly from his stop, Leclerc lost places to Norris and Russell after being forced to wait.
Leclerc was pleased to see Ferrari finally take their first victory of a very testing 2023 season, and he hopes the recent upturn in performance can continue into the rest of the season.
“I’m really happy for the team,” said Leclerc. “So much work has been done in order to understand the car better in the past few weeks and today it paid off. Congratulations to Carlos who did a really good job all weekend.
“Our plan was for me to start on Softs and position myself ahead of George (Russell), which was the right choice and worked out well. Unfortunately, we lost some positions due to traffic during the pit stop under the Safety Car.
“Still, our race execution was good today so I’m happy. It’s great to see that we’ve made a step forward in terms of performance overall and hopefully we can confirm it next week in Japan.”