Carlos Sainz proved to Ferrari in the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix how smooth an operator he was, taking a great win after some tactful driving under extreme pressure.
Sainz gave Ferrari a lot to think about, especially as his future with the team is far from finalized beyond his current contract that expires at the end of 2024.
For the second race in a row, Sainz has spearheaded the Scuderia’s charge and after his pole and third place at Monza a fortnight ago, he delivered the perfect weekend for the Reds with pole and the win in Singapore on Sunday.
Like Monza, Singapore was far from being an easy race for the Sainz, and despite his team rightfully backing him strategy-wise, had to do a lot of work on track, especially when Mercedes sent a curveball toward him, boxing under the Virtual Safety Car, putting George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on fresh Medium tyres to launch an attack to deny Sainz the win.
The Safety Car earlier in the race also did not help, as it meant a longer stint on the Hard tyres towards the end of the race to make a one stopper work.
But the Spaniard played it smart, allowing Lando Norris to close in on him just enough to have DRS without passing him, thus helping him fend off Russell, the Briton playing along, the result: Sainz first, Norris second.
Famously known of singing the “Smooth Operator” song over the radio after every good result since his days at McLaren, Sainz was over the radio on the cool down lap saying: “You know what, this is my first smooth operation in Ferrari! Smooooth Operatorrrrr!!”
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after the race, he said: “It was that little bit of extra stress that I probably didn’t want or need. Wins never come easy.
“We had a bit of everything and it didn’t come easy, so we had to fight for it, be strategic and nail everything, commit to our plans and it did. The win tastes very, very well,” he added.
As for his tactics with Norris, he explained: “I knew more or less my pace versus Lando and how difficult it is to overtake here. I knew he was on a hard and if George and Lewis was going to overtake me I would be ‘dead meat’ also, so I needed him to hold on for as long as possible.
“A couple of laps I was 1.2 or 1.3s ahead of Lando, so I slowed down a bit to give him DRS into Turn 7, which was just enough for him to hold onto them and keep my race under control – not easy because you are putting yourself under risk and you cannot do any mistakes but it was my strategy and it worked,” Sainz reckoned.
Sainz dedicates the win to the Tifosi
Later in Ferrari‘s race report Sainz reflected: “It has been an incredible weekend right from the start. The team deserves this win for the enormous work they have done both here and in Maranello and I’m proud to dedicate it to all of them and the Tifosi.
“We executed the weekend perfectly on my side and I think we managed the final thrilling part to perfection, giving Lando (Norris) DRS and controlling the pace all race long.
“Of course, pitting earlier meant we had to make our tyres last for a longer stint and the final laps were on the limit, but I’m extremely happy we made it work.
“Tonight we celebrate, but from tomorrow we’ll start preparing Suzuka. Let’s keep it up,” Sainz concluded.
After going to the Formula 1 podium for the first time since he became Ferrari boss, Frederic Vasseur said: “I am proud of what the team has achieved this weekend with everyone doing a really great job.
“We know we’ve been making progress and here in Singapore we managed to get everything out of the SF-23, thanks in part to the great work done in Maranello.
“We proved to be competitive in qualifying and today that was also the case in the race. Carlos produced a magisterial performance in the race, always in control of the situation, especially in the final laps when he intelligently ensured Norris had DRS to defend against Russell,” he explained.
“But for traffic in the pit lane, Charles would probably have also finished on the podium. We are pleased to be the first team to have ended Red Bull’s winning streak and are happy to have picked up these points which keep us in the fight for second place in the Constructors’ championship.
“Now we move on to Suzuka, a very different sort of track, where we will do our utmost to continue this positive trend,” the Frenchman concluded.
Ferrari’s result in Singapore means they are only 24 points behind Mercedes in the 2023 F1 Constructors’ Championship. Sainz is fifth in the Drivers’ Standings, 28 points behind Fernando Alonso who is fourth and left Singapore pointless, a first for the Aston Martin driver in 2023.