What a weekend, what a race! It’s fair to say that Scuderia Toro Rosso was always making headlines in Singapore this weekend, from engine news on Friday to an incredible fourth place for Carlos Sainz on Sunday night.
It was not exactly a secret, but finally on Friday, it was announced that we have reached an agreement to run Honda power units from the start of next season. That first day of the fourteenth round of the World Championship was like a speeded up jigsaw competition, with McLaren placing the first piece of the puzzle, announcing their split with Honda. Then came Renault’s announcement, as well as our own. Helping these pieces fit nicely was the news that Carlos Sainz is going to drive for the Renault team next year, although all concerned were keen to stress that our Spanish star is still very much part of the Red Bull family. Carlos has been with us for three years now and we will be sad to see him go, but all the guys in the garage were quick to congratulate him. As for Carlos, he said something about wanting to “do well for you guys, as you’re giving me a lot of support.” A couple of days later he would change those words into deeds…and how!
Both our drivers arrived in Singapore early in the week to start preparations for the first of an Asian trio of races. Usually, that means getting used to the weather conditions and adapting to the time difference, but for this event, only the former applies as the key to feeling good here is to stick on European time. On Wednesday, Carlos and Daniil were already “on duty” attending an event for our sponsor Acronis, celebrating the third anniversary since the opening of their International headquarter in Singapore, which involved our drivers being interviewed by a robot, and you can make up your own joke about whether or not they noticed the difference between this and being asked questions by the journalists!
When the track action began on Friday afternoon, Daniil Kvyat took to the track as usual, but Carlos Sainz was a spectator during FP1, as we are giving Sean Gelael a bit more time in the car. The Indonesian, currently racing in F2, has tested for us before, most recently in Budapest. He drove in FP1, helping the team acquire the usual first session data and most importantly, handed over the car in one piece to Carlos for FP2. The Indonesian’s final duties for Scuderia Toro Rosso this weekend involved going to the famous Amber Lounge Formula 1 fashion show and charity event, to walk down the catwalk. Meanwhile on track, the team had mixed feelings after Saturday qualifying: Carlos just squeezed into the Top Ten and Daniil was 13th fastest, so it looked as though scoring points might be a tough proposition in the very competitive mid-field.
Then on Sunday, it rained… Yes, we’ve had rain before in Singapore, but never much and never during the race. There is an even an urban myth that the Singaporean authorities “seed” the clouds in the days before the event to prevent it from raining. But this was real rain, requiring real rain tyres. It had taken ten years of Singapore GPs but finally we would get the answers to all the questions about grip and visibility. What soon became clear was that, even after the rain had stopped falling, the track stayed wet as there was no wind to blow the water away, especially in the confines of a street circuit.
But events at the start meant that four of the cars ahead of us were already out of the running after just a handful of laps. Unfortunately, Daniil was unable to capitalise on this, crashing into the barriers immediately after overtaking Kevin Magnussen. Carlos made the most of all the opportunities that came his way and combined with an aggressive strategy, our Spaniard never put a foot wrong, despite going for some breathtaking passing moves. He was rewarded with his best ever finish in Formula 1 and as he crossed the line in fourth place, he could be heard shouting over the radio, “toma, toma, toma!” “Take that, take that…”.
There would have been a spare seat on a Sunday night flight back from Singapore to Spain, because one of Carlos’ first decisions after getting out of his STR12 was to cancel his flight home, so he could attend the Grand Prix after-party. And why not, he deserves it.
Most of the team would also have a very late night, but packing rather than partying. We are embarking on a very busy final leg of the season and many of the team are now staying in Asia, as the next round sees us move just 350 kilometres up the peninsula to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian GP in a fortnight’s time.