Carlos Sainz, at 29 years old, earned his doctorate in Singapore with his second victory of his career in F1. The Madrid native achieved a superb victory, based on driving-control, dominating the 62 laps at the front, and keeping Lando Norris and the Mercedes at bay, who put his victory in check with a devastating final attack.
Sainz, who had only been on the podium this season (third place in Monza in the last GP), achieved victory number 34 for a Spaniard in F1; His two wins added to the 32 of Fernando Alonso, who finished outside the points (15th) due to a terrible stop that made him lose 6th place.
"It was about minimizing our limitations, then I provided DRS to Lando so that he could defend himself and that would help me," the Madrid native explained his masterful tactics to minimize his lack of rhythm against the Mercedes.
Tension on the starting grid. Sainz, for the second time this season, second time in a row, in the most advanced position on pole, with Russell next to him and Leclerc – with soft tires – behind. The Red Bulls, far away, 11th Verstappen and 13th Pérez, both with hard tires, to stop later and advance positions.
The traffic lights went out and what was predicted happened, looking at the tires they were wearing: Leclerc, with more grip, hit Russell and placed second, behind Sainz, who took off like lightning. Third was Hamilton who overtook his teammate and Norris off the track, through the escape – he had to return the position to his neighbor (but not to the McLaren) – while Alonso gained a place, sixth, from Magnussen. Verstappen advanced one position, 10th, and Pérez remained in 13th.
Vestappen's comeback was not long in coming, although without passing the roller. He overtook Magnussen and Hülkenberg to reach 8th place on lap 6, while Hamilton had to return the position to Norris and dropped to 5th, ahead of Alonso.
Sainz kept Leclerc at bay, between 1.1 and 1.5 seconds, knowing that the Monegasque would have to stop first to change the soft tires. There were 50 of the 62 laps left and no one was taking any risks, conserving tires. Ferrari was interested, in principle, in building a safety cushion for Sainz compared to Russell, whom he had 5.9 seconds behind on lap 19/62, before Leclerc stopped and stopped acting as his shield.
The appearance of a safety car, due to an accident by Sargeant (who left pieces of carbon fiber on the track), precipitated the first change of script. Almost everyone stopped to change tires, Sainz maintained first place, but Leclerc lost second due to a slow stop (5.7 seconds, to avoid traffic, Ferrari told him), while the two Red Bulls, who were on hard tires, They did not stop and the Dutch advanced to second place and the Mexican fourth.
So with the dance of stops and after the safety car left (v. 22), Sainz was leading with new toughs – he would not stop anymore –, followed by Verstappen, Russell, Pérez, Norris, Leclerc 6th, Hamilton and Alonso 8th, who received a 5-second penalty for leaving the pit-lane entrance lane when overbraking.
When the safety car left, hostilities broke out. Russell overtook Verstappen – with very worn tires – and Norris and Hamilton overtook Pérez in fourth place. A few corners later, Norris, Hamilton and Leclerc also ate Verstappen to push him back to sixth place. An unprecedented image, the Red Bull surpassed by McLaren and Mercedes with that ease, courtesy of the tires (the Red Bulls had 20 more laps).
At the halfway point of the race (v. 31/62), Sainz maintained his slow and tiring pace - to conserve tires until the end -, which created an Indian file behind him with Russell 9 tenths behind, Norris 2 seconds behind, very close together, with Hamilton fourth, Leclerc fifth and the two Red Bulls still far away and harmless, Verstappen 6th and Pérez 7th. Alonso approached them stealthily.
The Asturian slowly overtook the Mexican, whom he tried to overtake on lap 37, but Esteban Ocon's Alpine cleverly snuck in, taking advantage of the fight. Pérez emerged alive from the attack of the Spanish and the French, while Alonso lost one position (9th).
Two laps later, Ocon and Fernando got Perez out of the way, as did Gasly, seeing that the Red Bull's tires were exhausted and forced him to go through the pits. He started 18th on the track. And moments later Verstappen stopped, reappearing 15th. Pathetic strategy of the energy team.
Another script change came on lap 43, with 22 left to go. Ocon's Alpine broke down and was left parked on the shoulder, Alonso gained a place (6th), and Virtual Safety-Car was declared, which some cars took advantage of to stop and change tires.
Russell and Hamilton took a chance by coming in and wearing new rubber socks. Alonso also stopped, who served the five-second penalty and was given soft tires. But at the stop he was stopped for 25.8 seconds. Goodbye to 6th position from him; He appeared on the track in 15th place. A subsequent off-track ruined his race.
With 15 laps to go, the two Mercedes with medium tires went on the attack. Sainz had Norris at 2 seconds and Leclerc at 3.3, but Russell was closing in at 13s and Hamilton at 17s; The two star cars were the threat because they arrived flying.
First, the two Mercedes would have to overcome the barriers of Leclerc and Norris, the protective walls of Sainz. Russell reached Leclerc's rear wing with 10 laps remaining; The Monegasque held the Englishman's position for one lap. He had nothing to do against a softer and younger rubber. Hamilton also took a bite out of the Ferrari, which dropped to 5th place.
Russell's next station was Norris, who he had at 6.7 seconds with 8 laps remaining. The Mercedes were 1.6 seconds per lap faster than the McLaren. In three turns they would catch him.
The lead of the race was compressed into two seconds between Sainz, Norris (0.6-8), Russell (1 second away) and Hamilton. Anything could happen in the last four laps. Sainz gave the DRS to Norris, his last armor, so that he could defend himself against the two Mercedes. Russell attacked Norris with three laps remaining, Sainz opened a small gap, enough to secure the advantage.
The last lap was heart-stopping, with the four cars in a little train at 300 km/h. Sainz held his own, Norris acted as a protective screen, the Mercedes bit, but the positions were maintained in the same order. Sainz achieved his second victory in F1, after the one achieved in Silverstone last year.
Norris tied second position, Russell lost third due to an accident in the last lap when he crashed into the protections and Hamilton was third. Verstappen managed to climb to 5th place, behind Leclerc. Alonso finished in 15th position.