Singapore would be the venue for the 15th round of the Formula One world championship, a circuit that Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel have been historically strong at. Vettel needed a strong weekend after losing more points to Hamilton in Monza, again another circuit that Ferrari looked to be the favourites so the pressure was on both team and driver to deliver here.
Throughout practice things looked close between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, especially in race trim where Red Bull looked to even have a slight edge. Come Saturday morning Ferrari looked comfortable; topping FP3 by a healthy margin, it seemed Ferrari were gonna deliver on their promise.
Come qualifying things looked close, a tyre gamble by Mercedes where Hamilton set his time in Q1 on the Ultra Softs looked like it would pay off with Hamilton close to the knock out zone, but duly making it through to Q2. Kevin Magnussen was perhaps the biggest casualty of Q1, he failed to set a quick time and was bemused as to where his lack of pace went.
“I don’t think anything special happened. We just don’t have the pace this weekend, so it’s really strange.”
Q2 put concern on Ferrari, they too tried to run on the Ultra Softs but were not able to run fast enough to make it through safely to Q3. Vettel made a late change to the Hyper Softs but found himself in traffic on his flying lap, he made it through to the pole shootout though but the Ferrari pit wall didn’t make it easy for him. The fight for pole was setup to be a thriller, there were 6 cars in with a chance to claim pole. When all the cars made their first attempts it was Hamilton who set the pace, he set a blistering time which was 0.3 seconds faster than anyone else, and when it came to the second runs no-one could find anything on the Brit. Hamilton took a very unexpected pole ahead of Max Verstappen who also impressed and a dejected Sebastian Vettel who was everyone’s favourite for pole.
There was a lot of expectation ahead of the race, Singapore was famous for it’s controversy and chaos with last years start being a prime example. When the lights when out Hamilton made a clean get away with Verstappen and Vettel close behind. The two Force Indias got close into turn 2 and eventually banged wheels forcing Esteban Ocon into the wall. This was the first time the two teammates had an incident this year; this was more reminiscent of last year when they made numerous collisions with one another.
The safety car was deployed to clear the stranded Force India, but prior to this being deployed Vettel made an overtake on Verstappen to take 2nd place putting him in a prime position to attack Hamilton on the restart. As the safety car pulled back in Hamilton made a quick getaway, the pack had stabilised with all the cars conserving their tyres. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were the first to make their stop by changing to the Ultra Soft tyre but fed in behind Sergio Perez. Hamilton and Verstappen would make their stops a few laps later but instead would change to the soft compound, both drivers would come out ahead of Vettel with Verstappen narrowly coming out ahead after an engine issue meant he was slow out of his box.
Ricciardo and Raikkonen opted to stay out, their pace looked good and managed to stabilise the gap to Hamilton, they looked like they may play a part at the end of the race. Sergio Perez was having a frustrating race, he had made his stop but was stuck behind Sergey Sirotkin who was doing just enough to stay ahead, he was losing time to Fernando Alonso who was running a long first stint. Perez was getting frustrated over the team radio calling for race direction to move the Williams over, Perez would have to make the move on track. He looked like he eventually made a move that would stick but would move over to the racing line too early making contact with Sirotkin who was still along side him and gave himself a puncture while earning a drive-through penalty for his mis-demeanour.
Hamilton’s lead looked in doubt when a squabbling Sirotkin and Grosjean were holding him up, Verstappen had turned a 4 second gap into a matter of tenths, yet he was unable to make a move with Grosjean also holding him up. Grosjean would eventually get a 5 second penalty and more points to his licence pushing him close to a mandatory race ban. Once the back markers had been cleared Hamilton extended the gap once more and would remain unchallenged for the remainder of the race. Sirotkin would find himself in trouble with the stewards when Brendon Hartley made his turn to overtake the the Russian. Sirotkin went deep into the corner forcing Hartley close the the tyre barrier earning Sirotkin a 5 second penalty of his own.
Hamilton would eventually take the chequered flag ahead of Verstappen and Vettel who was almost 40 seconds behind the winner. Hamilton would extend his championship lead to 40 points and with only 6 races remaining he looks to be the favourite for the title. After as what Ferrari described as a “boring” Singapore Grand Prix the top ten were as follows:
- Lewis Hamilton 1:51:11.611
- Max Verstappen +8.961s
- Sebastian Vettel +39.945s
- Valtteri Bottas +51.930s
- Kimi Raikkoen +53.001s
- Daniel Ricciardo +53.982s
- Fernando Alonso +103.011s
- Carlos Sainz +1 lap
- Charles Leclerc +1 lap
- Nico Hulkenberg +1 lap
Max Verstappen had been battling engine issues all weekend long but managed to put in a stunning qualifying lap to put himself on the front row, he then made an overcut strategy work to retake P2 from Sebastian Vettel showing the talent that we all know he has and why he is a future champion in the making.
What now for the Championship?
Vettel and Ferrari should be on 5 on the bounce, Vettel should have won in Germany if it wasn’t for his costly mistake in the gravel, they should have won in Hungary but a poor wet performance meant they didn’t qualify where they should have. They won in Belgium on sheer pace and a good overtake by Vettel on lap 1 but failed to win in Monza thanks to contact with Hamilton, and didn’t make a good enough strategy in Singapore to threaten Hamilton and Mercedes. This championship looks set to go Hamilton’s way unless Ferrari can make a turn around in it’s operations and Vettel can make fewer on-track mistakes.
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