December 11, 2023

F1 Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix


The Singapore Grand Prix was a weekend of contrasting emotions: Joy for Carlos Sainz Jnr as he ended Red Bull’s winning run, relief for Lance Stroll as he emerged unscathed from a huge crash and utter dejection for George Russell after he threw away a podium finish on the final lap.


It was fairly simple to get on Singapore’s time zone: We didn’t. We all stay on European time, give or take a few hours, which is utterly confusing when it’s okay to go to bed at 6am and wake the next day at 2pm. However the rebel in me loves it.

I met a friend to walk into the track together – I have only done this race once before and wanted to make sure I did not get lost. The heat was already intense and I was thankful to have purchased a mini rechargeable fan before I left which saved me from melting for much of the weekend. The first stop in the vast paddock was Yuki Tsunoda which was scheduled at 4pm. As I said, the hours are all over the place.

Later in the afternoon, I headed down to the media zone to chat with Charles Leclerc. As I was listening to his answer with his gaze directed at another journalist I got distracted momentarily by Lando Norris who was leaving the TV pen. As I looked up I saw him touch Carlos Sainz Jnr’s shoulder before administering a firm slap to his former team mates’ posterior. I chuckled, which Leclerc noticed, but I preferred not to explain why, instead mentioning it to his PR Mia later.

I wrapped up a busy night with a pair of exclusive interviews with each of the Haas drivers, fresh from their recent contract extensions. Look out for the write-ups of those coming soon on RaceFans.


After another hot and sweaty walk, I went straight to the pit lane for the car presentation. It’s a chance for journalists and invited guests to see the cars up close, and for us to inspect all the upgrades teams have brought.

It was also a chance to see Haas’ new garage, which was particularly impressive. It had a new central engineering island added to help communication between the team, new digital screens on the side panels and new double-door lower cupboards on the sides which hold all the equipment and fuel bowsers. This was previously stored in the back of house so the change makes it significantly easier for the team to operate. Quite impressive considering it only took them a year to build.

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In the afternoon I went trackside at turns one and two, braving the humidity for the daylight session. Walking all the way down from the pits I was terrified we may bump into another huge lizard like the one that was roamed the track during the opening session until it was, sadly, hit by Fernando Alonso. Thankfully no such dinosaur arrived and I was able to climb a relatively rickety but safe tower to overlook more of the track. A view to remember.

Clinging to the strange schedule, I ate dinner at 2am before heading back for some well-earned sleep.


Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Singapore, 2023

Ferrari’s pace in practice that evening raised hopes of a close fight in qualifying and – for once – the race. Mercedes looked strong but Red Bull struggled on Friday.

Settling down to watch the first part of qualifying in the comfort of the air-conditioned media centre, I began writing my notes for the session. The media centre has a great view of the final corner and the start/finish straight looking directly down on the pit lane. It’s pretty amazing.

As Q1 was drawing to a close I heard an almighty thump and smoke billowing over the track. I ran over to the window and saw a wrecked Aston Martin spinning to a halt. I peered in the hope of spotting a hand or helmet moving. Thankfully, Lance Stroll soon emerged from his cockpit unaided and make his way back to the pit lane. It was a big smash and we were all very glad to see how robust these cars have become.

After a lengthy break for barrier repairs, I watched the rest of qualifying from the media pen. The irony we watch most sessions on a screen when the cars are out on-track is never lost on me.

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Gasps rippled around the TV pen as Max Verstappen was knocked out in Q2 – and not, as in Jeddah due to a technical problem, but simply because he wasn’t quick enough. I readied myself to speak to a Red Bull driver who sounded furious on the radio and would surely not have cooled off by the time he reached us.

I could not have been more wrong. Verstappen came down before the end of qualifying and stood in front of the television screen near us. Realising he was blocking our view Verstappen ducked and looked around at us. “Sorry, let me move,” he said, slotting into a small space between the cameras. Very classy, I thought.

But his misfortune had set the stage for an exciting race on Sunday. After a 3am dinner, I headed back to my room.


Hours before the race came word that Stroll would not be driving. The team confirmed he was suffering some soreness after his crash in qualifying.

Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack joined a session which had been put on for two members of the technical team to field questions on Stroll’s absence. Asked about the state of his car Krack responded in his typical deadpan voice: “The chassis survived but it needs a little bit of cosmetic repair. We need to replace two or three stickers.”

The grid opened an hour before the race and I stopped briefly at Ferrari to see Leclerc and Sainz clamber into their car. It was stiflingly hot and I made my way up to the Ferrari on pole, mini fan in hand. One of the mechanics beckoned me over: I went in for the classic ‘hello’ with a kiss on each cheek. He laughed and pointed to his face, summoning me to fan him. I made a lot of friends on that grid and I am not sure it was solely down to my personality.

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The race was processional at first and I feared it might stay that way until Esteban Ocon’s Alpine broke down while he was running sixth. That set up a chase to the finish. With around seven laps to go I made my way down to the media pen to catch the final few laps.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Singapore, 2023Ocon was the first through, having obviously taken some time to compose himself. His eyes looked glassy as he came over – perhaps the emotions had been a little higher than I had anticipated – but he was gracious as ever with his answers.

It was a disappointment for Ocon on his birthday, but it paled compared to George Russell’s last-lap heartbreak as he crashed out of third place having been in the hunt for victory all night.

Russell was one of the last to come through and was clearly close to crying. He is not afraid to show his emotions and I respect him even more for that. As he was holding back a lump in his throat his team mate Lewis Hamilton put a hand on his shoulder as he walked past. They’re all human really and moments like that make you realise just how vulnerable these competitive beasts can be.

His dejection was in sharp contract to the jubilant Sainz, whose controlled drive put an end to Red Bull’s dominance. Afterwards we took the opportunity to was around the track, something we had done every evening, but was all the more special now it bore the marks of 62 laps of grand prix racing.

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix

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