Alpine out, McLaren on top. Singapore brought the provisional turning point in the fight for fourth place in the World Cup. Suddenly McLaren is ahead of Alpine. The biggest upgrade of the season paid off. Daniel Ricciardo benefited from the safety car. Alpine wants to counter in the last five races.
It can go that fast. Before the Singapore GP, Alpine still had an 18-point buffer to McLaren. After Friday practice, it looked like the French would pull further ahead of their rivals. While the Alpine drivers were safely in the top 10, their McLaren colleagues were scratching their heads. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo simply found too little grip. One in the revised car, the other in the old one.
McLaren remained quiet in the third practice session as well. The knot only burst with the qualification. At least on one side of the garage. The usual. The engineers drew the right conclusions and adapted the setup. Lando Norris took sixth place on the grid. The teammate starved to death in Q1.
Ricciardo ends the drought
Ricciardo, who hadn't scored since the French GP, also came up in the race. Gradually at first, with the help of the second safety car, then into the bigger points. And after Max Verstappen's major braking, even fifth place. The late stop was not necessarily planned. "We were already in the points and in good positions with both drivers," explained team boss Andreas Seidl. "We just wanted to minimize the risk."
The intermediates gave up a late switch to slicks. Both McLaren drivers had petted her. It paid off. Ricciardo could not have asked for better timing for the safety car. He did the rest with experience: The Australian then brought the delicate soft tires to the finish line. The reward was ten championship points. Team boss Seidl hugged his other problem child.
Poor start, perfect end
Norris delivered as usual. In total, the McLaren drivers scored 22 points. As many as only in Imola this season. Woking initiated the turning point. Suddenly you are 129 to 125 points ahead of Alpine. "It was incredibly important for us to score big points again," said the team boss happily, while the rival's heads hung for a moment after two engine failures.
McLaren started the weekend weakly, but improved all the more. Already in the qualification you saw yourself on an equal footing with Alpine. "Lando made a mistake in turn eight. It cost him half a second." Otherwise the Englishman would have driven the Alonso time. Norris made no mistakes in the race. Even when Verstappen shadowed him. "Lando controlled it completely. Even when Max put pressure on him, he was able to keep him behind him," praised Seidl.
Biggest McLaren update
Ricciardo also received great praise."Both drivers did a super job. The conditions were very difficult. Many drivers missed the braking points with stationary front wheels or flew off completely." In Japan, Ricciardo will then also be able to enjoy the new vehicle parts. Only one kit had been completed by Singapore.
McLaren showed up with the fourth major upgrade of the season. It was the biggest hit so far. New inlet for the sidepod, modified baffles on the underbody, differently shaped channels for the Venturi effect and a modification to the diffuser. McLaren had teething problems with the first three packages. It took two to three races before you gained a noticeable advantage from it.
Alpine stays positive
This time the new parts hit the market faster. The data shows immediate progress. "But we still need to understand the upgrade further," interjects the team boss. In other words: there is more lap time buried. There was also an improvement on the tire front. As in Monza, the cars protected the Pirellis over the distance. "We have definitely taken a step forward in this regard," says Seidl.
However, he wants to wait for the race in Japan for a final conclusion. "Monza and Singapore were two outliers. On one track you drive with mini wings. The other is a street circuit. We have to see how we treat the tires on a normal circuit over the distance."
Naturally, Alpine doesn't stick up. The drivers have a fast but unreliable car in their hands. The new underbody is said to have brought 0.25 seconds to the clock. The Alpine engineers want to modify it again for the race in the USA. The French national team remain optimistic of defeating McLaren in the last five races. Tenor in the team: "If we bring everything together, we'll have the faster car."