Race Weekend Central

McLaren Capitalizes on Safety Car & Alpine Woes for Double Points in Singapore

On a wet and humid night filled with safety cars and tortured intermediate tires, McLaren took advantage of a well-timed safety car to convert an otherwise forgettable race into a double points finish in Sunday’s (Oct. 2) Singapore Grand Prix.

Currently battling Alpine for fourth place in the Constructors Championship, the papaya team found a bittersweet, or perhaps sweetly bitter, qualifying result on Saturday. Entering the weekend 18 points behind Alpine in the Constructors race, Lando Norris managed a respectable sixth place grid slot while Daniel Ricciardo failed to advance from Q1 and lined up 17th when the lights went out.

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A comparatively quiet race for the team, minus Norris having a fair scrap with Max Verstappen early on, began to blow open for McLaren when Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was struck with an engine failure on lap 21. Seven laps later, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine came grinding to a halt with smoke billowing from the engine cover. Two for two on engine failures for the French squad.

As most of the field, Norris and Ricciardo included, aimed to stretch their intermediate tires as long as possible on a slowly drying track, Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri being planted firmly in the turn 10 barriers on lap 36 offered the McLaren duo the opportunity to pit under safety car conditions, elevating Norris and Ricciardo to fourth and sixth, respectively.

Moments after racing resumed an overambitious attempt by Verstappen to jump Norris into turn 7 sent the points leader locking up and screeching into the runoff area. Immediately on the scene to pick up an extra position was Ricciardo who slotted into fifth place for the rest of the race. The Australian’s previous best finish of 2022 was sixth in Australia.

Splitting their tire strategy, the team place Norris on mediums and Ricciardo on softs for the approximately 36 minute dash to the finish – weather conditions had delayed the race start by an hour, meaning race control had to institute a timer rather than lap counter to ensure the race stayed within its two hour window.

Norris maintained a healthy gap over Ricciardo to the end, though the young Briton was unable to properly challenge Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for the final podium position. Behind his teammate, Ricciardo managed to maintain a firm gap over Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who also collected his best result of the season in sixth place.

Norris referred to the race as be “by far the hardest race probably of my career,” to Sky Sports. Concerns over exhaustion due to the intense heat and humidity in Singapore, as well as the mental strain of a street circuit race with laps as long of those in Singapore are always talking points when Formula 1 visits the city-state.

McLaren’s total of 22 points claimed in Singapore while Alpine went pointless on the evening means the Woking based team goes from trailing Alpine by 18 points to leading the French squad by four points; 129 to 125, to be precise.

McLaren is currently sat 244 points behind third placed Mercedes, so the ceiling has been hit in terms of McLaren’s upward potential in the points standings. Five races remain in the season for McLaren to nurse and maintain this newfound lead over Alpine.

 

About the author

Alex joined Frontstretch in March of 2021 and currently serves as the IndyCar editor, as well as contributing to Formula 1 coverage.

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