For the first time all season, a Formula 1 grand prix podium was without a single Red Bull driver. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz started from pole position in the Singapore GP and never let go of his lead. Even when a safety car forced Ferrari to slightly alter its tire strategy, Sainz's brilliant driving kept him ahead of the pack for every lap of the race, giving him not only Ferrari's first win of the season but his first win for Ferrari.
It helped that both Red Bull's were struggling in Singapore. According to the team, both Red Bull cars were said to be pretty much identical to the ones that have been so dominant, so it was unusual to see them struggle. They were having a hard time all weekend, with Max Verstappen qualifying in in 11th place and Sergio Perez in 13th. Both drivers moved up throughout the race but not enough for either to even sniff the podium. For the first time all season, Verstappen failed to bring home a trophy, finishing fifth, with his teammate a distant eighth.
Hopefully, though, the narrative surrounding the race isn't that Sainz won because Red Bull struggled, as his driving was sensational for all 62 laps. Like most teams, Ferrari went with a one-stop tire strategy, starting on mediums and then switching to hard tires to carry them to the end. A safety car in lap 20 forced that tire switch earlier than Ferrari would have liked, so Sainz had to manage his hard compound tires for 42 laps.
Late in the race, Mercedes stacked its two drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the pit lane, giving them both a fresh set of medium tires with which to attack both Ferraris and McLaren's second-place Lando Norris. The strategy worked as intended, as both Mercedes' quickly dispatched Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and were closing on the second place Norris.
But in the closing laps, Sainz's brilliant strategic driving sealed his victory. His front tires were toast and he was bleeding pace and the fresh-tired Mercedes duo were closing in. So Sainz slowed his pace just enough to keep Norris in DRS-range, so he could fight off the the hard charging Mercedes'. That kept Russell and Hamilton occupied, which eventually kept them off Sainz's tail and secured Norris' second-place finish.
Unfortunately, Russell clipped a wall in the final lap, which caused him to retire from the race and handing his third-place finish to Hamilton.
Formula 1 is so much more fun to watch without the two Red Bull's dominating everything, as you genuinely don't know who's going to win. The final laps in Singapore were thrilling, with Sainz brilliantly managing both his tires and his lead, Norris scratching and clawing to keep Russell off his tail, and Mercedes looking to pull off an upset. Hopefully Singapore is a sign of things to come and we see more exciting grand prix finishes to close out the second half of the season.
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