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Catching Up With Formula One: Japan

Written by Sofia Costantino, Edited by Meghana Sree

Are you ready to dive into the high-speed world of Formula One? Whether you're a seasoned fan, or a newcomer to the sport, there's never been a better time to catch up with everything happening on track this year.

This article has got you covered, from the latest race results and driver standings to the biggest shocks and controversies. So buckle up, and get ready to experience the thrill of the race like never before!

Let's get into a recap of the smooth operation that happened this weekend.

Image credits: Motorsport Images

Ferrari had the perfect weekend, with the first victory of its new team principal Fred Vasseur and the second Grand Prix win for Carlos Sainz, who brilliantly fulfilled the precepts of Ferrari’s great predecessors who coined the phrase “the secret is to win at the slowest possible speed,” which was initially attributed to Juan Manuel Fangio and later endorsed by another master of the minimum speed to win, Niki Lauda.

The smooth operator won the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday after a dramatic finish that saw the Spaniard hold off a trio of Brits to secure his career’s second race win. He worked perfectly – from his strategy, race pace, and management, everything was masterful. We saw a determined Sainz trusting his gut and holding everyone behind him from securing the win.

Image credits: Motorsport Images

Sainz’s team-mate Charles Leclerc passed George Russell at the start of the race, and Lewis Hamilton then also swept past his Mercedes team-mate, running wide off the track, before he had to give up that place, and then another to Lando Norris behind him. Sainz looked comfortable until Logan Sargeant – who went into the wall - brought out a safety car on lap 20, when many cars took the opportunity to pit.

A double stack for Ferrari risked Sainz's place to Russell, who was on the hard tyres and was putting pressure on the Spaniard. The usually dominant Max Verstappen was the second to last driver to pit as Red Bull recognised their strategy had not paid off in Singapore. That left the Dutchman facing the final third of the race from 15th, and though his run of ten consecutive F1 victories was to end, he managed a creditable fifth.

Image credits: Motorsport Images

A virtual safety car after Esteban Ocon broke down allowed both Mercedes in for fresh medium tyres, leaving them quicker as they targeted Leclerc and Norris behind Sainz. Going into the final nine laps, Russell breezed past Leclerc into third, with Hamilton soon following.That left the two Mercedes, Norris and Sainz to battle it out over the last five laps, and a tussle between the chasing trio saw the Spaniard take the victory as the British pair ran out of time, with Hamilton clinching third after Russell crashed into a wall on a dramatic last lap.

As Russell showed with his late crash, there is no easy race when your tyres start to fade, and the Spaniard used all his experience to stay on the track despite the mounting pressure. Slowing his pace to bring Norris within DRS range to give the McLaren more speed to hold off the Mercedes cars was a stroke of genius.

“I felt under control. I felt like I could manage well and we brought it home. That was the best feeling,” Sainz said after celebrating with his team as fireworks lit up the Singapore circuit.

Image credits: Motorsport Images

Sainz admitted after the race he had slowed down to ensure Norris stayed within the one-second window that allowed the McLaren driver access to the DRS straight-line speed boost – a valuable aid in holding off the two charging Mercedes.

“Carlos was very generous trying to help me get DRS. It helped my race and also helped his,” said Norris, who has placed second in three of the last six races but has yet to win in F1. “We held [Mercedes] off, we did everything we needed to do and more.” Norris also added that he had clipped the wall in the same spot where Russell later went off.

But for this top three to be achieved, it was imperative to remove Verstappen and Red Bull, the winners of the last ten and 15 consecutive races respectively, from the equation. Murphy’s First Law came to fruition for the team in Singapore: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” The Austrian team and its drivers suffered a tough weekend right from the opening practice on Friday. A Red Bull driver failed to make it to Q3 for the first time since the Russian GP in 2018, in a shock exit from Verstappen.

Image credits: Motorsport Images

The big question is: Does this result mean that Red Bull's dominion is over?

For some - the most optimistic - it all lies in the stricter control implemented by the FIA authorities of the technical guidelines, just initiated during this Grand Prix. The TD18 was introduced on the flexibility of the ailerons with not only static but also dynamic scrutiny and on the other hand the TD39 was already introduced in Canada last year, on the flexibility of the floor and the reference to the lower plank, which determines the height of the single-seater to the asphalt. With this the RB19 went from being a stable single-seater, stuck to the asphalt and insensitive to disconnections, to one too sensitive to the transfer of longitudinal loads, suffering an unstable rear train during braking and unpredictability coming out of curves, generating distrust in the driver.

But for others - the most pessimistic - it is only an isolated event on a track where Red Bull failed to place the RB19 in the proper window of ailerons, suspension, floor height, in addition to a gearbox failing in ascents and descents. This difficulty in set-up was already presented in Brazil last year, and then the team returned dominant in the last race in Abu Dhabi. Even their biggest rival, Toto Wolff of Mercedes, explained that the same thing happened to them at this Marina Bay circuit in 2015 – in a season in which they won 16 of the 19 races – without being able to find a way to be competitive.

The good thing is, you don't have to wait long to know who's right. This weekend is the Japanese Grand Prix, with the characteristics of the Suzuka circuit especially favourable to Adrian Newey's single-seaters.

It is also true that any failure by Red Bull makes the races much more interesting and that behind them there are now at least three teams that are almost equal and are eager to win. Especially Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes have shown that they continue to move forward.


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