Rogue lizards, horror crash, Red Bull turns bearish – highlights of 2023 Singapore Grand Prix

There was plenty of drama and excitement both on and off the track at the 2023 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix. PHOTOS: ARRIFIN JAMAR, SHAWNTAN(SG)/X, RED BULL, COURTESY OF MUHAMMAD THASBEEH
Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Ferrari celebrates during the trophy presentation at the Marina Bay street circuit on Sept 17. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Fans climb onto the fence after Carlos Sainz wins the 2023 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE – Once again, there was plenty of drama and excitement both on and off the track at the 2023 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix for its 14th edition at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Carlos Sainz – who started on pole in his Ferrari – won the race on Sunday, ending Red Bull’s unbeaten streak this season. As the Spaniard savours just his second career Grand Prix win, The Straits Times looks at the standout moments during the race weekend.

“Godzilla” lizards invade track

Yellow flags are waved by marshals during races to warn drivers of a hazard on the track and while it is often due to debris, a stalled car, or an accident, this time it was a scaly intruder that saw the flag’s appearance during Friday’s practice session.

About half an hour into the Singapore Grand Prix’s opening practice, a monitor lizard was seen shuffling across the track at Turn 9.

For world champion Max Verstappen, it was a case of deja vu as he also had a reptilian encounter at the Marina Bay circuit seven years ago, which resulted in his race engineer humorously saying then that the Dutchman came “face to face with Godzilla”.

On Friday, after Verstappen said, “There’s a lizard again on the track. A smaller one this time” over the team radio, Red Bull engineer Gianpiero Lambiase responded: “Understood. Maybe Godzilla had a kid.”

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes teammate George Russell also reported sightings of the big lizards.

Up close with their heroes

It was a dream come true for several fans in Singapore as they got to meet their favourite Formula One drivers.

National serviceman Muhammad Thasbeeh’s six-hour wait outside the F1 paddock in the wee hours of Friday morning was rewarded after Hamilton made a U-turn in his car to step out and pose for photos with him.

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc also gave 16-year-old Seet Wenyu the “best birthday present ever” in the form of a signed cap during the F1 Pit Lane Experience on Thursday.

Several racing teams also scheduled their own meet-and-greet sessions with fans.

Williams’ Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon signed autographs and posed for photos with fans at Raffles City on Wednesday while the Wharf Stage at the F1 village saw Ferrari, Alpine, Red Bull Racing and Haas drivers appear at a fan meet event on Saturday.

Horror crash causes delay in qualifying

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll crashed his car near turn 19 during the qualifying session on Saturday. ST PHOTO: ARRIFIN JAMAR

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was involved in a horror crash during Saturday’s Singapore Grand Prix qualifying session.

The Canadian driver lost control of his car over the final corner and slammed it into the wall.

The car suffered significant damage, although Stroll was able to get out unaided. He was passed fit by the medical team but the team later said that Stroll was still feeling the after-effects of the crash – he sat out the Singapore race to focus on recovering for the following weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Russell also missed out on the podium after a dramatic crash in the last lap of Sunday’s race as his car veered off track after hitting the wall.?

Off-track fun

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (right) and Sergio Perez taking on ‘The World’s Cleanest Race’ at Jewel Changi Airport. PHOTO: RED BULL

It was not all work and no play for the drivers at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Jack Doohan tried their hand at a different kind of ride, driving around Skyline Luge at Sentosa.

Several drivers also took to the padel court, said Russell. Padel is a racket sport that is a mix between tennis and squash which is played in doubles on an enclosed court that is slightly smaller than a tennis court.

Russell said during a press conference: “We reached out to the local padel court here to see if we could get some courts after hours. I had Lance Stroll playing on the court next to me. Then it was Lando Norris and I playing, and then on the other court it was Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi. So Lando and I had a good battle. 3-2 in sets to Team Russell, so I’m happy with that one.”

Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Perez swept the competition at the Jewel Changi Airport as they raced around the venue on floor-cleaning machines as part of a promotional activity.

Red Bull’s charge for perfect streak ends

Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing?during race night of the 2023 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix on Sept 17. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Sainz’s victory on Sunday brought an end to Formula One leader Verstappen’s record run of 10 wins in a row and shattered Red Bull’s dream of going through the season unbeaten.

Verstappen finished fifth while teammate Perez was eighth.

Up till Sunday, Red Bull had won 15 successive races but that looked set to end from the moment they failed to qualify in the top 10.

Despite the end of the record run, Verstappen and Red Bull still hold comfortable leads in the drivers’ and contsructors’ standings. Verstappen leads teammate Perez by 151 points while Red Bull are ahead of Mercedes by 308 points.

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