At the Marina Bay race, Norris was originally the third car in the leading procession, with Carlos Sainz striving to keep the leading pack intensely knotted together as the polesitter. An unexpected twist occurred when George Russell, originally ahead of Norris, as well as Lewis Hamilton, taking up the rear, transitioned to medium tyres during a virtual safety car at the 44th lap. This situation saw Norris escalate to second place.
The switch to medium-grade tyres was an optimal choice with both Mercedes players clocking laps more than a second faster than Sainz and Norris. This sudden hike in speed gave the impression of Mercedes setting up to clinch a sensational victory.
According to Stella, who was on the pit wall at that moment, the move from Mercedes to switch to fresh mediums signalled an end to Norris’ hope for a podium position. Stella quoted, “When I saw them going onto sets of brand new mediums, I thought they’re going to pass us”. He noted that the medium tyre was the best choice for that particular stage, especially considering the remaining extent of the race.
Stella admitted that they brainstormed over pitting but were apprehensive over using a used soft tyre for 16-17 high-speed laps, considering Norris’ lack of alternative tyres. The solution would have been to pit in case a safety car was deployed, however, they decided to maintain their positions under the circumstances of a virtual safety car.
Stella was so certain about Norris’ impending defeat to the Mercedes that he began prepared himself emotionally for the outcome. He confessed, “It was tense, but I was not very optimistic. I was just waiting for it to happen and be ready to say: ‘Don’t get too disappointed.'”
His anticipation ran high with Russell’s performance falling short due to potential brake or tyre overheating, preventing him from mounting an offense prior to the last lap, which incidentally also saw a crash. Stella speculated, “I think soon they lost a little bit of this momentum, and getting traction with the softer tyres.”
Towards the end of the race, Stella perceived a glimmer of hope for perhaps accomplishing it. He declared, “Then the last three laps, I said: ‘Maybe we can do it’.” He attributed this marginally favourable shift to Carlos’ wish for Lando to be within the DRS. He added, “so the time when Lando lost it in trying to defend, I think Carlos actively kind of waited for Lando to get within DRS. So it was a bit of teamwork between two previous team-mates for a great result for both teams.”