Carlos Sainz survived a dramatic finale to win the Singapore Grand Prix and put an end to Red Bull’s unbeaten run in Formula 1 in 2023.
The Spaniard resisted late-race pressure to become the first non-Red Bull victor this year, beating out Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, who capitalised on George Russell crashing on the final lap of the race.
From the outset, Ferrari’s tactic to get Leclerc ahead of Russell worked as the Monegasque driver utilised his Soft tyre advantage to catapult past the Mercedes driver.
Russell then came under pressure around the outside from his team-mate Hamilton, who had got the measure of Lando Norris away from the line. Although Hamilton went wide and off the track, the seven-time World Champion maintained the position, much to Russell and Norris’ dismay.
Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen immediately went backwards from sixth on the grid, getting overtaken on the opening lap by both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
Yuki Tsunoda’s race came to an end by Turn 14 after earlier contact with Sergio Perez, while Hamilton eventually let both Russell and Norris back into third and fourth respectively over the following laps.
Despite starting on the more durable Hard compound, Max Verstappen made up two places on the first tour, opportunistically diving down the inside of Nico Hulkenberg into the tight Turn 13. However, team-mate Sergio Perez had been unable to make the same inroads, remaining in 13th.
Having already overhauled one Haas in the early exchanges, Verstappen got past Magnussen on Lap 6, as Leclerc continued to court the rear of Sainz’s sister Ferrari. However, Leclerc was swiftly told to drop back to around 3s behind his team-mate, with Russell’s engineer estimating Ferrari could be sacrificing its second driver.
Leclerc was again informed to fall back from Sainz, extending the margin between the two Ferraris to around the two-second mark.
The opening 18 laps had been devoid of much overtaking, but Piastri was instructed that rain could be on the horizon to potentially spice up proceedings.
Logan Sargeant had been encountering an uneventful beginning to his maiden Singapore GP when he headed straight into the barrier at Turn 8, breaking his front wing.
The debris scattered around the track brought the intervention of the Safety Car, with most teams taking the opportunity to switch to the Hard tyre to go to the end.
Leclerc had attempted to back up the pack, but still dropped behind Russell and Norris as he was delayed exiting the pits.
Fernando Alonso was punished by the stewards for overshooting the pit entry and crossing the pit lane entry line.
The two Red Bulls elected to remain out on track on their original starting tyres, with Verstappen moving up to second behind Sainz and Perez getting shuffled up to fourth.
On the restart, Norris was rebuffed by Perez into Turn 4, with the concertina effect seeing Leclerc almost get caught out before losing a further place to Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Both Russell and Norris made synchronised moves on the two Red Bulls into the same corner, with Hamilton demoting Perez again into Turn 7 on the next lap before Verstappen was also passed by Norris.
For the second time, Hamilton was under scrutiny for overtaking off the track, this time involving his pass on Perez. Nevertheless, the Briton continued onwards and pulled a comfortable overtake on the sister Red Bull of Verstappen on Lap 27 to rise to fourth.
Meanwhile, his team-mate was making good progress at the front, remaining within DRS range of Sainz as he began to apply more pressure on the Ferrari driver.
Leclerc was the next to move Verstappen aside, placing his SF-23 back into the top five as the race approached half distance.
Sainz continued to control the pace out front, with Russell, Norris and Hamilton all line astern behind the race leader.
Pierre Gasly had been courting Magnussen relentlessly for the final points position and nudged his way ahead into Turn 7. However, the Frenchman returned the place instantly, having aggressively forced the Haas driver off the track in completing the pass.
Magnussen’s hold on 10th was broken when he outbroke himself into Turn 1 and then again into Turn 7, dropping him to 16th.
Alonso had been staring at the rear of Perez’s Red Bull for several laps but his next attack saw him instead lose a position to ex-Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Ocon succeeded where Alonso failed on the exit of Turn 8 on Lap 39, cutting underneath Perez to seize seventh. The Red Bull had headed offline to defend, allowing both Alonso and Gasly by, which prompted Perez to detour to the pits, dropping him to last.
The next time around, it was Verstappen’s turn to change tyres, coming in for a brand new set of the Medium compound; the reigning World Champion emerged in 14th.
Unfortunately for Ocon, his stellar work was undone by a technical issue that saw him ground to a halt at the pit exit.
The Virtual Safety Car was thrown for the stricken Alpine. But the top five had all passed the pit lane by the time it was called, despite many teams being on standby.
Williams had failed to scale the heights of previous races but took the opportunity to stop Albon for a new set of tyres. The VSC remained active for the entirety of the lap, however, enabling Mercedes to also gamble by stopping both drivers for the Medium tyre.
Aston Martin also brought Alonso in, allowing the two-time champion to serve his five-second time penalty. However, a 25s stop dropped him out of the points as the race returned to green flag conditions again.
Mercedes’ choice to utilise the VSC to make a second stop promoted Norris and Leclerc to second and third respectively, with the two W14 cars on the charge behind.
Within one lap Russell took 1.7s out the leader on his fresh Medium rubber, but Alonso’s evening went from bad to worse as he headed down the escape road at Turn 14.
Verstappen made his way back into the points with an unchallenged move on Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo before also dispatching Hulkenberg and Liam Lawson.
With 10 laps to go Russell had caught onto the back of Leclerc for the final podium place, right when Valtteri Bottas peeled into retirement with a hydraulic problem.
Russell wasted no time in maximising the better grip of his tyres in the traction zone to pass Leclerc into Turn 14, with Hamilton then following him through at Turn 7.
Further back, Verstappen’s tyre offset saw him rapidly reel in Piastri and sweep past the McLaren for seventh. The Dutchman’s comeback was completed with an overtake around the outside of Gasly at Turn 14.
Back at the front, Sainz had dropped back into the clutches of Norris, with the Mercedes pair soon joining the battle.
However, the aid of DRS was enabling the McLaren driver to keep his British compatriots at bay, paving the way for Sainz to take a dramatic second career victory.
Russell was on course to claim the final podium place behind Norris, but the Mercedes driver clipped the wall on the final tour at Turn 10, promoting Hamilton to third. The seven-time World Champion also moves into third spot in the Drivers’ Championship, courtesy of Alonso not scoring.
Leclerc took the chequered flag a distant fifth, marginally beating Verstappen, whose record run ended at the Marina Bay Circuit.
Gasly wound up sixth, with Piastri recovering from 17th to take an impressive seventh in the second of the McLarens, ahead of Perez.
Lawson secured his debut F1 points with ninth, while Magnussen completed the top 10, ending Haas’ protracted wait for a point.