Carlos Sainz Jr.’s strategic brilliance, and other winners and losers from the Singapore Grand Prix

The streak is over.

After starting the year by winning every singe race, Red Bull finally finished a grand prix watching a podium session, and not participating in it.

A tough weekend and qualifying session for both Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez opened the door, and a few different teams were able to crash through the opening, making for something Formula 1 fans had not see all season.

A new winner.

Here are the winners and losers from the Singapore Grand Prix.

Winner: Carlos Sainz Jr.

To break Red Bull’s streak, it was going to take something brilliant.

That’s what we saw from Carlos Sainz Jr. and Ferrari.

The team was strong all week, but it was Sainz who led the way on Sunday night at Marina Bay. Ferrari made the decision to try and make this a one-stop race, and as Sainz noted after the race the early yellow flag from Logan Sargeant made them execute that pit stop a bit earlier than they wanted to.

That forced Sainz to run the rest of the race on fading hard tyres, on a season where the team has been dealing degradation issues all year long. But he made it happen, in part by reeling Lando Norris in to use him as a blocker against the charging Mercedes duo.

A day of strategic brilliance, capped off with the biggest trophy at the end of the night. A fantastic run from Sainz, and the team.

Loser: Yuki Tsunoda

Unlike the Italian Grand Prix, where Yuki Tsunoda was unable to take the start when his AT04 suffered a failure during the formation lap, Tsunoda was able to start the Singapore Grand Prix.

However, his day ended not much longer after that.

Tsunoda made it to Turn 14, but his car suffered another failure, and his day ended early once more.

Tsunoda’s second straight DNF comes as there is increasing speculation about the driver lineup for the team next season. With Tsunoda, Liam Lawson, and Daniel Ricciardo seemingly fighting for just two spots, could Tsunoda be the odd man out?

Nights like this in Singapore may not help his case.

Winner: Lewis Hamilton

When Esteban Ocon — more on him in a moment — brought out the safety car in the closing stages of the race, it opened the door for someone to make an aggressive strategy call.

That team was Mercedes. They brought both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in to make the switch to fresh medium tyres, giving up track position for potential pace.

It almost worked for both drivers, as they fought back up a few spots to get Russell into P3 and Hamilton into P4 with just a few laps remaining. Unfortunately for Russell he slid off the track and into the barrier in the closing moments, but that opened the door for Hamilton, who finished third for just his fifth podium of the season.

Loser: Esteban Ocon

Alpine’s brutal luck continues.

By Lap 43 both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were running inside the points.

By Lap 44, Ocon was out of the Singapore Grand Prix.

The driver pulled his A523 over to the side of the track, screaming in frustration as his night came to an early end. 18 laps from the end his night ended, a bitter disappointment for him and the team.

Replays on F1TV illustrated that his A523 was stuck in sixth gear, and he lost the driveshaft on his car.

Adding insult to injury, the failure came just seconds after F1’s social media account sent this post:

2023 has been a season of ultimate highs, and bitter lows for Alpine. This failure for Ocon is just another example of a bitter low for him, and the team.

Winners: McLaren

Given how the day started, this was a dream finish for McLaren.

Lando Norris started the race fourth, and pushed his way to a podium finish, coming across the line behind Sainz for a second place finish. That part might have been expected.

But McLaren’s other driver, rookie Oscar Piastri, was handed some brutal luck when the red flag came out for Lance Stroll’s hard crash in Q1. As the McLaren driver was on a final push lap, he was hoping to do enough to get into Q2, but the red flag dashed those dreams, and he was forced to start the race in 17th.

Somehow, however, Piastri pushed his way into the points, coming across the line seventh.

Loser: Fernando Alonso

A rookie mistake, and a poor pitstop, ended a chance at points for Fernando Alonso.

During an early pitstop, Alonso was seen crossing the white line ahead of the entry to the pit lane, and was given a five-second penalty:

Then following Ocon’s failure, Alonso came into the pits to serve his penalty, as well as change out his tyres. But the pitstop was brutally slow, and he lost a number of spots when he finally rejoined the track, having slid all the way back to P15. He then slid off the track on Lap 47, drawing a quick yellow flag. The mistake cost him a few more spots on the track, and he was running in P17, last of the remaining cars on the track.

The F1TV commentary team described his night as one of the most “uncharacteristic” drives of Alonso’s career.

It certainly seemed that way.

Losers: Red Bull

Red Bull will likely clinch the Constructors’ Championship next week, their second straight title.

But the team’s dream of sweeping the season came to an end in Singapore.

The team struggled throughout the weekend, both in practice on Friday as well as qualifying on Saturday. Both Verstappen and Pérez failed to advance to Q3 on Saturday, with Verstappen starting 11th and Pérez starting 13th. They were able to fight back into the points — with Verstappen making it all the way up to fifth — but dreams of the perfect season were dashed on Sunday night at Marina Bay.

Winners: F1 fans

Finally the finish to a grand prix F1 fans have been waiting for his season.

With just a few laps remaining Carlos Sainz Jr., Lando Norris, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were battling at the front of the field. The Mercedes drivers were running on fresher medium tyres, having made the strategy call to pit during the yellow flag brought out by Ocon’s failure. Meanwhile Norris and Sainz were fighting for their lives on old hard compounds.

But Sainz had a strategy call of his own, reeling in the three drivers a bit to keep Norris within DRS range, to give the McLaren driver a chance to act as a blocker for him.

The fight among the four came at a cost, as Russell slid off the track and into the barrier on the final lap, crashing out of third place. That set up a podium of Sainz, Norris, and Hamilton with the Ferrari driver on the top step.

A finish that, given everything else we have seen this season, was everything F1 fans were waiting for.

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