By Vlad Roman,
General Manager, Smart Games

Monza was not a perfect “fiesta” for Ferrari but in Singapore the wheel turned, Sainz finally managed to bring the Italian-Spanish sun to the nocturnal Marina Bay both in qualifying and in the race.

Since Friday’s practice, the Ferrari team was superior to the Red Bull team, both Leclerc and Sainz overtaking Verstappen in both stages. On Saturday, Sainz again set the fastest time in practice and qualifying to win the race on Sunday.

But let’s take a quick look back… Qualifying – spectacular!, Carlos Sainz and George Russell in the top two positions, followed on the 2nd row by Leclerc and Lando Norris. Neither Hamilton, Alonso nor Ocon were absent from the top ten, but the presence of the Haas team with both drivers and newcomer Liam Lawson in 10th position should be mentioned, followed by, fatality!, Max Verstappen – P11.

Unfortunately Lance Stroll had a serious crash in Q1, losing control of his Aston Martin on the outside curb in the final corner and crashing head-on into the track barrier at high speed. The completely destroyed car was thrown back onto the start/finish line. The Canadian emerged from the wreckage unscathed, but officials had to stop qualifying for cleanup and repairs.

The race was crazy – 30 degrees Celsius at 8pm and 80% humidity, exhausting conditions for the pilots who have to endure a temperature of 60 degrees in the cockpit. After two hours and 62 laps, only twelve drivers crossed the finish line, but the winners were Sainz, Norris and Hamilton.

The 15th race of the season was determined by tactical games from the start. In the first stint, Sainz steadily slowed down the peloton, so that at the front of the peloton no pit stop was possible. On lap 20, Williams driver Logan Sargeant took the Safety Car out on the track, an accident that saw almost the entire peloton take the opportunity to change tyres. Only the Red Bull drivers continued, as they had started on hard tires and thus gained some positions on the track.

Ferrari’s strategy worked this time, as well as for McLaren, who managed through Lando Norris to keep the two Mercedes drivers behind. Leclerc finished 4th followed by Max Verstappen, Alpha Tauri and Hass scored through Liam Lawson and Kevin Magnussen respectively.

It was a dark weekend for Red Bull’s hopes of capturing the constructors’ title in Singapore, however the title would come a week later at Suzuka…

In Japan, Max resumed his dominance, Hamilton even declared that “at Suzuka Red Bull has a 30-second advantage!” – even if it wasn’t entirely real Max dominated everything: practice, qualifying, the race… even the fastest lap.

Red Bull has won the constructors’ title and Max needs just 3 more points to become world champion for the 3rd time.

The pleasant surprise at Suzuka were the McLarens, Oscar and Lando finished 2nd and 3rd in both qualifying and the race. As a rule, debutants in Formula 1 need at least two years to adapt or to confirm, but it seems that this rule does not apply to Oscar Piastri, the Australian is truly a super talent, after the race in Japan he takes the place 9 in the drivers’ standings and has already achieved the first podium of his Formula 1 career. Since the British Grand Prix, when both McLaren drivers were allowed to drive a completely renewed MCL60 for the first time, Piastri has gone from one achievement to another. A fourth place at Silverstone, immediately followed by a fifth place at the Hungaroring, a top three result at the Belgian Sprint and now the high point of the season so far, 3rd place. Piastri’s evolution goes hand in hand with his team’s progress – in continuous growth.

And indeed the growth continues… after Suzuka came the Qatar sprint – pole position in sprint qualifying and 1st place in the sprint, no comments, well done!

The sprint on the Lusail night circuit also marked the tick of the 3rd world title for Max Verstappen.

The next day’s race started with Max in first position followed by Russell, Hamilton, Alonso and Leclerc, although better placed, due to exceeding the limits of the track, the McLaren drivers had their fast laps canceled so they started from positions 6 and 10. After qualifying and the sprint it was clear that the tires did not last more than 20-25 laps due to the abrasive asphalt and sand, which led the FIA to introduce a special rule for the race – no more than 18 laps of the circuit with a set of tires.

The race actually turned into 4 sprint races, there were many overtakings, an incident immediately after the start featuring Hamilton who collided with Russell and had to abandon, Sainz who didn’t even start due to technical problems, many penalties for pushing circuit limits and heat-exhausted drivers – Logan Sargeant even dropped out because of it.

As expected Verstappen won the race, but the driver of the day, I say the driver of the weekend, was Oscar Piastri who finished 2nd, maybe his colleague Lando Norris would have overtaken him if he didn’t follow the team’s orders, but the conclusion is the same – Oscar is the best debutant this year.

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