This Grand Prix – Singapore (17092023)
Hello, Singapore saw Red Bull’s run of wins come to an end, but while it maybe a blip it could be a slight concern. Carlos Sainz took victory, heading into the final six races is this going to open up the opportunity to further halt the Red Bull express?
Pirelli boss Mario Isola says the sport is going to assess the likelihood of making the 2023 Alternative Tyre Allocation standard. At two races this year, Hungary and Monza, Pirelli has experimented with shipping fewer tyre sets, with adapted rules implemented for qualifying.
The rules mandate drivers run hards in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3, Pirelli can bring just eleven tyre sets overall for each car and achieve an improvement in its sustainability aims, as well as keep in-race tyre strategy variance. That has lead to the suggestion that the format increases race tyre choices for the teams as they have more sets of the harder compounds usually required for longer stints given there is no longer an incentive to stockpile softs for use throughout qualifying.
When asked after the Monza race if the ATA is likely to become F1’s standard tyre rules, Isola explained to Motorsport.com that “the plan [now] is to have a discussion on this to see plus and minus [points”. He continued: “[Assess the] pros and cons of the new format. And then they will decide.
It has, as you would expect, their was division amongst drivers Carlos Sainz enjoying “having to adapt, having to find the grip – it becomes a bit more improvisation” in qualifying at Monza, while Red Bull driver Max Verstappen reckons “it probably makes it even worse for the teams in the back” as “the quickest cars are even better on the harder compounds”.
In my view I think it works for the top teams, however it disadvantages the midfield to back end teams who can’t gamble on other compounds if they are at risk of dropping out in Q1 or Q2. As well as all the drivers in practice, with their long-run data gathering opportunities can be restricted.
To combat this, Isola has suggested tweaking the ATA format to make one more tyre set from the reduced total (at typical F1 weekends this year the total is 13) available for practice running, with that set taken from the tyres currently set aside for the race, as per the ATA rules.
“If there is a requirement to fine-tune a little bit – like, for example, considering one additional set for FP2 instead of having seven sets for the race, having only six sets [instead] for the race that is more than enough and maybe give with the same total number, one additional set for FP2 – it is possible,” Isola explained.
It maybe 2023, but recent weeks have been dominated by 2008 race and the Crashgate scandal. This week lawyers for Felipe Massa offered to make part of the case quid-pro-pro deal with Lewis Hamilton if they support his bid to overturn the race result, they would offer to fight to overturn his penalty at Spa, the race before.
His lawyer, Bernardo Viana hopes that Hamilton will support the case that would theoretically lead to him losing the first of his seven drivers’ championship crowns. In the same Reuters interview, Viana also revealed that Massa’s legal team have pushed back the deadline for F1 and the FIA to respond to a Letter Before Claim until mid-October.
Previously, the letter – which outlined that the F1 summer break and personnel being on holiday was not sufficient a reason for the FOM and FIA delays in replying – stated a deadline to respond of last Friday (8 September) ahead of potentially launching a formal challenge in the British High Court.
Speaking to Motorsport.com last week, Viana said: “They have asked for more time, and we are assessing internally if we’re going to give them more time in good faith,” added Viana. They are still within the time that we have offered them, so we are waiting for their response. If their response is adequate, and if they approach us for any conversation, that’s OK.
But what could this mean for Abu Dhabi 2021, on Friday, Toto Wolff s ays Mercedes are following the case around the 2008 world championship “with interest” as the outcome will “set a precedent”.
Hamilton remembers lost his eighth world title when then race director Michael Masi ‘incorrectly applied the safety car rules’ allowing for a last lap restart which allowed Max Verstappen to overtake on the final lap and take the title. Wolff said, “Clearly not something that anybody saw coming.”
“The rule is pretty clear in Formula 1. There’s a civil case behind it, it will certainly set a precedent whatever it is. We are looking from the side-lines with curiosity.” The inquiry into Abu Dhabi 2021 concluded “human error” was a factor in the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP title controversy, but said race director Masi acted in “good faith” and the results from the race and championship are “valid”.
Sebastian Vettel says he “can’t exclude” the possibility of coming out of retirement to return to Formula One. The four-time champion retired at the end of the 2022 season but has since been touted for a comeback. Having only turned 36 in July, Vettel is almost a full six years younger than the oldest driver on the current grid, Fernando Alonso.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of this weekend, he said, “I can’t say no, because that you don’t know. I think it’s something that if you asked all of them, probably some of them would have said ‘no’. And some of them I don’t know, but in the end all of them came back, so I can’t exclude it.”
There has been speculation that the up-turn in Aston Martin’s up turn in form made Vettel regret the decision to retire, by he admits only the right “challenge” could tempt him into a comeback. He says he is enjoying the challenge of ‘what next’, adding “The biggest challenge for any sportsman, sportswoman, what do you do after?”
Speaking about the potential of Lance Stroll missing the opening races following a broken wrist in a cycling accident, he admits he has maintained his fitness to the point that the only major obstacle to an instant return for him would be rebuilding the neck strength required to withstand the extreme G-forces F1 drivers face.
But while he is ‘race fit’ he says that is a lifestyle choice rather than aimed at preparing for a return to the grid. Asked if he is race-ready, Vettel said: “Yeah, but because I want to, not because I’m like, come back or if somebody falls out I’m going to (step in), not because of that.
FP1 saw Charles Leclerc lead a Ferrari one-two in first practice with a 33.350 to go nearly eight hundredths faster than his teammate Carlos Sainz. Max Verstappen was third half a tenth behind Sainz however the top three drivers all set their fastest laps on the slowest hard tyre. But the two-time champion struggled with oversteer and Lando Norris was fourth
FP2 saw the roles reversed Sainz leading Leclerc by two hundredths, after setting a 32.120 on the soft tyre. Sainz looked very strong in the first and second sector in the only representative practice session, saw Leclerc go second on the medium tyre, allowing Sainz to remain fastest. George Russell was third almost a quarter of a second behind Sainz.
FP3 Sainz was fastest with a 32.065 on the soft tyre putting the Ferrari seven hundredths ahead of Russell. Lando Norris putt his McLaren third, the Englishman nearly aa quarter of a second ahead of Max Verstappen, the Dutchman three-tenths off the pace.
Qualifying saw Sainz take back-to-back poles beating George Russell by seven hundreds, after a shock Q2 knock out for both Red Bull’s blew qualifying wide open. Russell has looked all weekend to have the edge over Lewis Hamilton, he looked at one stage in Q3 on course to challenge Sainz for pole, going fastest in the middle sector before losing time in the final sector. It was a disastrous qualifying for Red Bull the team which has won every race this season were knocked out in Q2, and Verstappen was clearly frustrated by the lack of performance this weekend.
A nail-biting race between Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes saw Sainz convert pole into the win, ending Red Bull’s fourteen-race win run. Sainz had to fend off Norris and Russell in the closing laps, all three had a chance in the closing stages, Mercedes looking to be the fastest car in the latter stages when trying to pass Norris the Englishman clipped the wall on the penultimate lap then went straight into the wall at Stanford and out of the race. Russell’s crash moved his teammate Lewis Hamilton into third, the seven-time world champion finishing the race comfortably ahead of Leclerc.
George Russell labelled Mercedes’ practice form in Singapore as its best of the season but suspects Ferrari has more in hand after not using its top engine modes. In the more representative FP2 session Russell was third, behind both Ferrari’s with the Red bulls appearing to struggle.
But, while things looked very close between several teams and more was needed for qualifying, it had been a hugely encouraging run for Mercedes. Russell said, “It’s definitely probably our best Friday of the year so far.”
“But it is definitely really close between probably five teams at the moment, which is pretty exciting. So we will have to work hard overnight, and try and gain those last milliseconds ahead of tomorrow.” Ferrari was thee big surprise in practice, on Friday night Russell suspected that the squad could not only maintain that form into Saturday but could actually go quicker based on GPS analysis of what engine modes it was running.
Saying “Ferrari are looking favourites at the moment and I don’t think they were maximum [with their] power unit as well. They’ve probably got a couple more tenths in the pocket. The fight is probably for the second row. But we never know what’s going to happen.
“The tyres are going to be key: when we have the C5, the softest compound, just getting it in the sweet spot you can find tenths of a second so easily. So we just need to find that sweet spot, try to nail every single lap and find ourselves in a good position.”
Russell’s optimism about the day was shared by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who concurred it had been the most encouraging Friday of the year after he ended FP2 in fifth spot. The seven time champion added, “It was nice to finish a Friday feeling so positive. I think we’ve got a good platform to build off for the rest of the weekend. It’s the best I’ve felt from a Friday this year, so I hope we can do some good work overnight, as we always tend to do, and continue to improve.”
Come qualifying, Russell spilt both ferrari’s to start the race from an “exciting” second place and went into a race with an “strategy advantage” with an extra set of mediums compared to Ferrari’s. Russell was beaten to pole by less than a hundredth of a second.
While Ferrari topped every session going into the race, we know that they have been weak on tyres strategy. This made Russell believe Mercedes were in a good position to win the race. Speaking after qualifying, Russell remarked that he is “really happy with this weekend as a whole” and feels “really confident in the car”.
he said, “The team did a great job with the strategy. We’re on an offset strategy compared to everybody else. We’ve got an extra set of medium tyres tomorrow, which nobody around us has. So to get to Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is exciting place to be.”
Russell explained that because tyre degradation during Friday’s practice sessions looked “pretty bad”, there would be a high chance that its extra tyres could play to the team’s advantage.
Russell’s optimism turned to heart break as when fighting potential for a win he crashed out trying to pass Lando Norris, that left him left with “the most horrendous feeling in the world”. Both Mercedes drivers made a late pitstop for medium Pirelli tyres as they sought to challenge eventual race winner Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris on their aging hards.
On the penultimate lap, fighting Norris for second both drivers clipped the wall, but Russell’s wwas much heavier and damaged his rear before spearing off into the wall and to sixteenth. Russell said he wanted to “curl up in a ball”.
He said: “In the moment, you just want to curl up in a ball and be with nobody. It is the most horrendous feeling in the world when you are so physically drained, mentally drained. We missed out on an opportunity for victory and then to make such a mistake, it is truly heart-breaking.”
Despite the major error, Russell reckoned that upon reflection, he was now delivering the best performances of his F1 career. He continued: “I have to be honest now, and I’m standing here an hour later, it has been such an amazing weekend. I truly believe that I’m driving better than I have ever driven.”
Russell doesn’t often make mistakes and there are always going to be the odd error, we know its going to hurt as this cost him a chuck of points. It was tiny and how often have we said street circuits the margins are fine, and this is the hardest race of the year.
ed Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has apologised for blaming Sergio Perez’s inconsistent form this season on his ethnicity. Marko made his original comments on a Servus TV programme following the Italian Grand Prix.
Referring to Perez’s up-and-down season, Marko said: “We know that he has problems in qualifying, he has fluctuations in form, he is South American and he is just not as completely focused in his head as Max [Verstappen] is or as Sebastian [Vettel].” That was also geographically incorrect as Mexico is in Central America.
In a statement, Marko said, “I would like to apologise for my offensive remark. I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalise about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity.”
The Austrian, who issued his statement via Red Bull’s Servus TV website, added: “I was trying to make a point that Checo’s form has fluctuated this year, but it was wrong to attribute this to his cultural heritage.”
Central and south America has produce four world champions and is the most successful region outside Europe.
Going into the weekend, Marko admitted that “of course it is becoming a goal now” to win all of 2023 races. Perez has won two and Max Verstappen has won the other ten races as well as Abu Dhabi last year taking the run to fifteen in a row, as it looks to do a clean sweep of wins which no team has ever managed to do.
But it saw this weekend in Singapore as its biggest obstacle to an invincible season as the Red Bull B19 doesn’t get on so well with bumpy layouts, but Marko still expects Red Bull to be the favourite.
Marko added, “Like every race, we have had a competitive car everywhere so why should that not be the case in Singapore? But I have to say Ferrari and especially Leclerc is a specialist around there. If they are faster in qualifying, then it could become a problem for us because overtaking in Singapore is very difficult.”
biggest obstacle to an invincible season as the Red Bull B19 doesn’t get on so well with bumpy layouts, but Marko still expects Red Bull to be the favourite.
Marko added, “Like every race, we have had a competitive car everywhere so why should that not be the case in Singapore? But I have to say Ferrari and especially Leclerc is a specialist around there. If they are faster in qualifying, then it could become a problem for us because overtaking in Singapore is very difficult.
Red Bull were surprisingly off the pace in Friday evenings practice session, with Max Verstappen saying the form was worse than expected” after struggling with car balance. The biggest talking point going into this weekend is could Singapore be/was seen as the biggest obstacle towards taking an unprecedented clean sweep of race wins in 2023.
The sessions gave some hope with Perez seventh and Verstappen eighth, seven-tenths off and the car visibility sliding around on the corners. Perez saying at one point he was “going to crash” in every braking zone.
Verstappen admitted Red Bull’s practice pace was even worse than it had envisaged, citing a lack of balance. Verstappen said, “ little bit worse than expected today.I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car. We tried quite a few things in FP2. Some worked, some didn’t but we never really got the car together, so quite a few things to figure out for tonight.”
When asked if Ferrari’s table-topping pace was surprising and made it a big threat for pole, Verstappen said: “Ferrari is very fast, I think we’re just way worse than we expected. We’ll try of course to improve but it’s quite a big gap.”
This could be a bigger headache for Red Bull, its not as easy to come through the field in Singapore because it’s a street circuit and we know when Mercedes were dominating the sport this was one of their biggest weaknesses.
Perez added, “I think there are some interesting bits going on that we need to figure it out overnight hopefully. We seem to be struggling a little bit with the rear end of the car, especially in FP2, so plenty of things to look at. Hopefully, we can come up with the best possible set-up because we know qualifying is very important.”
If you were expecting a bounce back in qualifying, you were wrong as both Verstappen and Perez were knocked out in Q2. The Dutchman continued to struggle with the balance of car and was then knocked out by the sister Alpha Tauri of Liam Lawson, while Perez spun out the first time since 2018 neither Red Bull reached Q3.
Asked how much of a struggle qualifying had been, championship leader Verstappen replied: “I mean, FP3 was already a little bit better and I think we were heading in the right direction actually, but we changed a few more things, thinking we could do it in the set-up… but it ended up being too aggressive where I was just sliding around a lot in every corner. I lost a lot of front grip as well every time in the big braking zones.”
Verstappen’s eleven race wins record was brought to an end But it was always looking to be a big challenge for him to win this weekend following the difficult qualifying, I think the gap has been closing for several races in qualifying the gap and their ability to come back was more difficult on this street circuit. Going into the race the Dutchman said he could “forget about” extending the record.
He said after qualifying when asked if he could fight for victory, “You can forget about that. You can’t pass. On other tracks you can start last, I mean probably in Spa you can start last and win the race, but not here. Here you need to be two or three seconds faster to have a chance to pass. And so that’s just street circuit stuff.”
While he didn’t win for the first time since Baku, Verstappen believed he was denied the chance to by the “worst-case scenario” safety car timings. While the Dutchman charged from P11 to P5 that charge was halted by Logan Sargeant crashing giving Mercedes and Ferrari a free pit stop. His alternative strategy to start on the hards meant he couldn’t take advantage of it with too long left in the race to make a switch to mediums last.
Verstappen also felt the virtual safety car that came later when Esteban Ocon stopped on the track wasn’t beneficial either, as he didn’t have another set of fresh mediums like the Mercedes pair. He felt like without the safety car he could have made more progress in the race, but “Everything went against us as well in the race with the safety cars, so it was possibly the worst-case scenario.”
After the race, Perez was given a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Alex Albon at Turn Thirteen. The pair made contact at the apex and Albon, who was deflected off-line, had to hit the brakes and lock up his tyres to avoid the outside wall.
The stewards concluding that Perez was to blame as Albon took his normal racing line, and unaware of the Red Bulls location. Perez’s move up the inside was considered to be an “optimistic late manoeuvre that could be defined as “diving in”, and that there was nothing that [Albon] could have done to avoid the collision.”
As a result, Perez was found to be predominately to blame and copped a five-second penalty and had a point added to his FIA superlicence. However, the Mexican retains eighth place in the final classification as his nearest pursuer, AlphaTauri substitute Liam Lawson, crossed the line thirteen seconds further back.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc admitted that they were “surprised” by Ferrari’s performance on in practice after they traded one-two finishes in both of Friday’s practice sessions in Marina Bay. Sainz topped FP1 by eight hundredths and Leclerc FP2 by almost two hundredths while Verstappen was a tenth off.
Sainz was asked if he was surprised by their strong performance. He replied: “Yeah, a little. But at the same time, you always need to arrive to Singapore very open-minded. You’ve seen in the past very weird performance swings at this track, because it’s a very particular track, and so far, it looks like it’s suiting our car well and it’s going well.”
But the Spaniard said he didn’t believe the struggles Red Bull had in practice meant they wouldn’t be in the fight in qualifying, believing the data suggests that they are still the strongest car once they sorted out those issues.
Adding “When you look at the long run pace, they looked like the strongest car. Once they sort out the one-lap pace they’ll be there fighting for pole. Hopefully we will be in that fight, but it also looks like Aston [Martin], McLaren, Mercedes should also be in that fight. So, I think we are on for an exciting day tomorrow and hopefully we can get the best out of it.”
Like Sainz, Leclerc also urged caution despite what he called a “good start”, as last year’s Singapore pole-sitter does not believes their rivals have shown their “true potential” just yet. He added, “Yes, we’re surprised, but we’re not getting carried away either. It’s only Friday and we expect the other teams to show more of their true potential tomorrow, so we cannot get carried away.”
Sainz would go onto win the race from pole after which he said he “felt under control” as he became the first non-Red Bull driver to win in 2023. He lead every lap from pole to take his second win of his career by eight tenths, On aged hard tyres, Sainz kept fellow one-stopper Norris at bay in the closing laps as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton closed them down with fresher medium tyres on their Mercedes to form a four-car train.
After hailing a “perfect” execution from his Ferrari team, Sainz remarked: “I felt under control, to be honest. I always felt like I had the headspace and the pace in hand to do whatever I wanted to do. I’m not gonna lie, you’re under pressure and you obviously are very close to making any kind of mistake, but I felt under control. I felt like I could manage well, and we brought it home. That was the best feeling you know. I am over the moon right now.”
I think that was a perfect race, but Ferrari were in the closing stages under pressure from a rapid Mercedes and we know Russell was trying to catch him and pass him in the closing stages. While Russell crashed out and I think was right to have a go, it in hindsight was too bigger task to catch and pass Sainz for victory.
The teams performance director Tom McCullough says that improving efficiency will be a key focus with next year’s AMR24 car. While the team has concedes that this years car has been weak in that area, which made Monza difficult for the team.
Fernando Alonso had his least competitive showing of the season at the Italian Grand Prix, struggling to finish ninth, while Lance Stroll was out of the points in sixteenth. Alonso has urged the team to address efficiency, and McCullough agrees that it is a priority. Speaking to Motorsport.com about the issue, McCollough said, “It is an area where at the start of the year we were definitely one of the slower cars in the straight line.
“We worked on that with the base car, and also the rear wing levels that we brought [to Monza]. It’s an area of improvement, and it is an area we need to improve more for next year, that’s clear.”
McCullough conceded that there are unlikely to be changes that will benefit this year’s model, with Las Vegas the key race in the last part of the season that highlights efficiency as much as Spa and Monza. I think that backs up the pattern we saw in mid season with Aston Martin’s slip backwards and you need a car where the whole package needs to be efficient but Monza is a very unique circuit, you need to find the right compromise straight line speed and downforce as we always say.
Lance Stroll had a huge crash at the end of Q1, after which he explained how the FIA weighing his Aston Martin car plus dirty air from an Alpine led to his crash. Through the final corners the car was unsettled that sent into the wall damaging the car, sending him then back across the track.
This shunt, which ripped the tethered front-left wheel off, in the dying moments of Q1 led to a lengthy red flag stoppage while the barriers were repaired and the track surface cleaned. No injuries were detected during a precautionary assessment in the medical centre, following which Stroll explained that a hectic Q1 had laid the groundwork for his crash.
At the time Stroll wasn’t looking to be safely through to Q3, and he was also trying to recover time after being called to the weigh bridge. He explained, “We just weren’t really improving on that last lap with the out-lap being really bad. I had a lot of traffic, guys trying to make the line at the end. We got stopped at the weighbridge so that put us at the back of the queue and then I had to try and pass a bunch of cars to get my lap in before the end of the session.”
Stroll believed that the Alpine of Pierre Gasly unsettled the car, admitting that he was closer to the Frenchman than he would have like, plus poor tyre prep all played a role in the crash.
Alfa Romeo has confirmed an unchanged line-up for 2024 with Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou. While Bottas staying with the team was certain, their had in recent weeks been questions about Zhou’s funding to continue next year.
However, the Chinese driver has now been signed for a third year with the team, which is expected to revert to the Sauber identity for the next two years, ahead of the full transition to the Audi name in 2026. Current FIA F2 championship leader Theo Pourchaire will also remain in his reserve and simulator driving role
team principal Alessandro Alunni Bravi said, “the decision to continue our journey with our driver line-up unchanged is testament to the investment we have made in our project. Nothing in F1 changes overnight, and we have taken a conscious decision to focus on stability and to keep building our team up together as we embark on an important period of transition.”
Facts and stats (F1.com)
- Today was Carlos Sainz’s second career win after his victory for Ferrari in the 2022 British Grand Prix. It ended Red Bull’s record streak of 15 consecutive wins.
- It was Ferrari’s fourth win at Marina Bay following their triumphs in 2010, 2015 and 2019.
- Lando Norris taking second place was McLaren’s first podium in Singapore since 2012. It was Norris’ third podium of 2023, putting him only one short of his best-ever season total (four in 2021).
- P9 for AlphaTauri, Liam Lawson secured his maiden points-finish in Formula 1 – it was also the first time this chassis has scored points in 2023 (neither Nyck de Vries nor Daniel Ricciardo scored with it).
|2||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren – Mercedes||+00:00.812||18|
|1||Max Verstappen||374||Red Bull||597|
|4||Fernando Alonso||170||Aston Martin – Mercedes||217|
|5||Carlos Sainz||142||McLaren – Mercedes||139|