Red Bull looked set to dominate the 2023 season, with the Austrian team topping the charts in almost every session so far this year. And that was the case, right up till qualifying for the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez never really set the timing sheets ablaze in any of three practice sessions. And this uncharacteristic lack of pace carried on into qualifying too, with both drivers setting times that put them only in the mid-pack.
Realistically, this has been the very first time in 2023 that no team other than Red Bull looked genuinely competitive across the weekend. Ferrari showed impressive pace since they hit the ground running on Friday, with Sainz topping all but one session.
At the start of Q1, drivers were all struggling to find track position. Expectedly, the FIA has cited multiple drivers for potential impeding infringements, so the final grid position for Sunday’s race may change yet.
Track evolution is a major factor here, so times got progressively (and significantly) quicker towards the end of the session. Tsunoda was the first to set a scorcher, going straight to the top of the timesheet. As the track continued to ramp up, drivers went ever quicker, with Piastri embarking on a lap that should take him comfortably out of the drop zone.
But his attempt at setting a time good for Q2 was scuppered by yellow flags at the very end, triggered by Canadian Lance Stroll’s massive crash into the last corner. He ran slightly wide, lost the car and ended up hitting the barriers, severely damaging his AMR23.
The shunt was massive, but thankfully Stroll escaped unscathed.
No other driver could set a lap as a result, which knocked out both Alfa Romeos, one Williams and a McLaren.
Out in Q1
The drama continued in Q2. With track evolution being very much a factor, times were drastically dropping as the session went on. And whilst Ferrari, Mercedes and the lone McLaren of Norris found big chunks of time, Red Bull showed their first signs of weakness in 2023 thus far, with both drivers complaining about driveability.
Perez triggered a yellow flag at the very end of the session with a half-spin into T3, causing a yellow flag that no doubt ruined the laps of a fair few drivers. Ultimately, Lawson ended up pipping Verstappen for P10, out qualifying the reigning world champion and current points leader by just seven thousandths of a second. Albon ended up last of the cars that would set a lap time, but only because his best attempt (which would have been good enough for 11th) was deleted as he ran wide.
Out in Q2
The Ferraris showed their hand in the first part of Q3, with both Sainz and Leclerc sitting comfortably in P1 and P2. With the Red Bull out of the picture, the Italian squad’s first legitimate challenger in Q3 came from Russell, who looked set to usurp the Spaniard from his provisional pole position.
A purple sector two and the Briton was actually marginally ahead of the Ferrari. However, the red cars were just too quick, and despite a valiant effort, the Mercedes driver had to settle for P2. Leclerc ended up in P3, with Norris, Hamilton, Magnussen, Alonso, Ocon, Hulkenburg and Singapore GP debutant Lawson rounding up the top 10.
Do note that the grid positions may still change yet, as the stewards are still investigating the early Q1 impeding chaos.
The 14th Singapore Grand Prix will start at 8pm. As per FIA regulations, the race distance will be a smidge over the mandatory 300 kilometre minimum, at 306.143 km. Total race lap count is now 62, up from the 61 laps from years prior due to the reconfiguration of the floating platform section. Who will win the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix? Find out on Sunday evening!
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Photo Credit: FIA/Singapore Grand Prix
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