Scuderia Ferrari was the dominant force of the FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX weekend. After Charles Leclerc took pole last night, tonight the team from Maranello was able to celebrate its first one-two finish of the season, with Sebastian Vettel first past the chequered flag followed by his team-mate. It is the first time in the 12 editions to date of this night-time Grand Prix that one team has secured the top two places. For the German it was his fifth Singaporean win, a record here and it was also his first since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, bringing his total of Formula 1 wins to 53. It was Ferrari’s 238th victory and the first time it has won three in a row, since it did it four times in 2008 in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain and Turkey.
The biggest loser on the night, relatively speaking, was the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team which, for only the second time this season, the other being in Hockenheim, failed to get at least one driver on the podium. On the third step tonight stood Max Verstappen, making his first appearance in the top three since the summer break. In Spa and Monza, Mercedes had finished in Leclerc’s slipstream but here they were never in contention for the win, even if going into the event, their car seemed much better suited to this track than at the two previous ones. Of course, the result does not have a significant impact on the situation in both championships, given the huge advantage that Lewis Hamilton, fourth today has in the Drivers’ classification. He leads team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 65 points, the Finn coming home behind him tonight and he is a massive 96 ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen. In the Constructors’ Mercedes are 133 ahead of Ferrari.
Having survived the start and the first lap scraps, the top six on the grid crossed the line in their start order on the first of the scheduled 61 laps. Then the fight for the top places evolved in two clearly distinct phases. The first was very tactical with Leclerc dictating the ace without pushing too much so as not to stress the Soft tyres and to make the first stint as long as possible to ensure a one-stop strategy. Also, he did not want to pull out a gap too soon, which could have tempted those behind the lead group to try an undercut too soon if there was a chance of a couple of laps with a clear track ahead.
It meant that for a while, the midfield runners were actually running at a faster pace than the leaders, especially as all those drivers who had a free choice of tyre for the start had gone for either the Medium or the Hard. With a pit stop costing around 27 seconds, the first real opportunity came on lap 15, when a window of around ten seconds appeared between Stroll and Grosjean. At this point, Leclerc pushed on, bringing his pursuers along behind him like a cycling peleton and the first to make a move were Vettel and Verstappen who both stopped on lap 19 and that was the key moment of the race. Thanks to running new Hard tyres they were both immediately very quick which pushed Leclerc into making his pit stop. However, the Monegasque driver was unable to stay ahead of his team-mate and Verstappen was right on his tail.
Once those on the champion team’s pit wall realised the undercut was really effective, they first brought in Bottas at the start of lap 22, who rejoined however behind Verstappen, while to a certain extent Hamilton was forced to keep going with the aim of trying to make the most of having tyres that would in theory be fresher towards the end. The Englishman came in on lap 26, rejoining just ahead of his team-mate, but now a long way down on the duelling Ferraris.
With the leaders having all stopped, the race moved into its second phase marked by the sight of Italy’s Antonio Giovinazzi leading a Grand Prix for the very first time. The Alfa Romeo driver led until lap 30, when he was easily passed by Vettel who had gradually caught those drivers who had yet to pit. Overtaking and duels galore characterised this part of the race but the key player was actually the Safety Car, which made three appearances. The first followed a coming together between Russell and Grosjean on lap 36, the second so that Perez’s car could be removed from the side of the track where it stopped with a technical problem on lap 44 and the third on lap 50, when Raikkonen and Kvyat collided at Turn 1.
The three neutralisations wiped out any hope Mercedes had of seeing those ahead in difficulty in terms of tyre management and the three restarts did nothing to disturb the order so that the order at the chequered flag was the one established way back on lap 34. It was a whole different story behind the top six with several passing moves, collisions and failures that jumbled things up. Norris was the main beneficiary, seventh at the flag and the “best of the rest” followed by a solid performance from Gasly in eighth. Hulkenberg staged a great climb up the order after he had to pit at the end of the first lap with a puncture to finish ninth. The final points position belonged to Giovinazzi, despite a 10 second penalty for having driven too close to a crane that was removing Perez’s car.
Behind the top ten came Grosjean, Sainz, Stroll, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Kubica and Magnussen. The Dane had the consolation of setting the fastest race lap for the second consecutive year, but it did not mean much, as for the first time this season, no point was awarded as a driver has to be in the top ten to pick this up. There were three retirements, Perez with the aforementioned technical problems, Raikkonen and Russell as a result of collisions. The Englishman’s retirement also ended the only record held by the ROKiT Williams Team in that it was the only team to have got both its drivers to the finish of every round of the championship to date.
268,000 spectators attending the street race in Marina Bay over the weekend to watch the 12th edition of this Grand Prix, its second highest crowd figure ever. As usual, there was a stellar group of musicians to entertain the fans over the weekend, including Swedish House Mafia, Muse, Gwen Stefani, Fatboy Slim, Hans Zimmer, as well as Toots and the Maytals, with Red Hot Chili Peppers closing the action-packed weekend at the Padang Stage after the chequered flag was waved.
From the Drivers
Sebastian Vettel, 1st
"After yesterday, when I wasn’t able to get everything out of the car, I am pleased with the way everything went today. It was about time! The last few weeks have been far from simple for me, but in the end, I knew I could turn things around. I never stopped believing in myself and today, with the great help of the team here and in Maranello, we got the result we should always be aiming for. "I was playing a waiting game until I got the call on the radio to pit for new tyres. I had not expected to stay out so long but the decision was key, because I was able to rejoin with a clear track ahead of me and I could run at my own pace making up ground on all the others, to the extent that I was in the lead by almost five seconds at the time the Safety Car came out. From then on, the race was continually interrupted, with a further two restarts, but I still managed to maintain concentration and avoid making any mistakes. "It’s too early to say if this win means we can be competitive on all the coming tracks. Here, whoever is in front sets the pace, almost like in Monaco and on used tyres, Hamilton seemed stronger than us, which means we still have work to do when it comes to our race pace. Certainly the upgrades we brought here worked well and made us competitive, which means we are working in the right direction.
" Charles Leclerc, 2nd
“As a team, it was a positive weekend for us. Arriving in Singapore, we did not have high expectations, so bringing home a one-two finish is a pleasant surprise and also a sign that all of the hard work done by the team has paid off. "That said, of course I am a bit disappointed to finish in second place. But I am certain that our race was aimed at maximising our result as a team, which we did, and that is good. "We know that we have a lot of potential and will keep working in this direction to do the best job possible at the remaining six races. Now I look forward to the next one in Russia.
Max Verstappen, 3rd
“Of course we always want to win but finishing on the podium and gaining one place on a track where you can’t really overtake is positive. It’s true that we came here hoping for more but this is still a good result for us, especially with the pace that the others had yesterday in qualifying. Most of the race was about managing the pace to keep the tyres alive and luckily that worked out for me. Charles was managing his tyres out front and the pace was pretty slow but that kept everyone really close and allowed me to get the undercut on Lewis. We had good pace after the pit stop and I was comfortable in third even with all the safety car re-starts until the last few laps when Lewis was pushing hard to overtake me on newer tyres, but luckily we were able to hold on. "I wouldn’t say that today was that exciting from a racing perspective but Singapore has a lot of plus points being a street circuit, really tough on the body and just being a cool track to drive on. This wasn’t exactly the weekend we hoped for but we will keep pushing before next weekend.”
Alex Albon, 6th
“Most of that race was just managing my tyres so it was physically easier than I expected. It was only in the last 20 laps when I was really pushing it that I could feel the strain. So, I would call it a battle of management as I started P6 and finished P6. At times it felt more like a procession than a race for me. It was also a bit frustrating as I spent the whole race stuck behind a Mercedes. As I couldn’t overtake on the track I hoped that a pit stop would move me up the field but unfortunately that didn’t happen and then the safety car came out a few times. "In the middle stint I wanted to get past Valtteri but I didn’t have the pace to overtake the Mercedes. I spent the whole race staring at a silver rear wing which wasn’t that fun. When he pushed I pushed and when he saved his tyres I saved mine so I felt like I was just going backwards and forwards and it almost felt like he backed me up so Lewis could get ahead. All in all for my first time here it was a positive race. My pace was a lot better so I’m definitely making progress. Even during the race I was finding little tricks to improve my speed. I was amazed by how many Thai flags were out there in the crowd so it was great to be racing here.”
Lewis Hamilton, 4th
"It's not been the weekend we wanted at all. I was all over Charles in the first stint and I think we had the pace to win the race today. We discussed the possibility of the undercut in the strategy meeting this morning and I wanted to take the risk but then Ferrari decided to box, so we did the opposite and I stayed out. I pushed hard and the tyres were feeling good, but after a few laps they started to drop off real quick. "We made mistakes tonight, but in this team, we win and we lose together. We don't point the finger at people, that's always been our philosophy and that won't change because of one race. We're fighting a Ferrari team who are super hungry and pushing very hard. It's on each one of us to do a better job. I believe we're the best team, but we've got to push on. We'll debrief tonight, put our heads back in the scrum, and then come back fighting at the next race."
Valtteri Bottas, 5th
"I was hoping for some action today, but there wasn't really a whole lot, so the race felt a bit like a long Sunday drive, just without air conditioning. We tried to create some opportunities by offsetting our tyres to the cars in front and maybe get a chance to attack at the end of the race, but it didn't work out. The car felt quick today, but you need a pace delta of almost two seconds to overtake in Singapore, so we couldn't really attack the cars ahead. "We have rules of engagement for our pit stops as we don't want to use them to swap position between our cars. The car ahead always gets the priority; so if the car behind stops early and undercuts, we will make sure that the other car still ends up in front. We can't be happy with our results this weekend, so we will analyse and review everything diligently as there's a lot that we can learn from qualifying and the race. We're going to Sochi next, a track that I'm usually strong at, but there are also very long straights, so we expect Ferrari to be quick again. It won't be easy, but I'm looking forward to the chance to fight again next week."
Lando Norris, 7th
“A good race in the end with decent points, and I don’t think there was a lot more I could've done. We did the best we could at the start but I was just getting held up by everyone ahead, which is part of the race because everyone is trying to save tyres. There were Safety Cars, sometimes helping but other times hindering, as it allowed Hülkenberg and Gasly to come behind me on the softer tyre - a much fresher tyre as well - and I was under quite a bit of pressure towards the last few laps. “I was having to push, which was fun, because for the rest of the race we were just driving around so slowly. It was a shame about Carlos getting hit by Hülkenberg at the beginning, because I think we could both have been in the points today. Massive thanks to the team and everyone back at the factory for their hard work.”
Nico Hulkenberg, 9th
“I’m happy we got something from the race, even if it’s not what we wanted today. After the contact on Lap 1 it was always going to be difficult, but we kept cool, patient and managed to take two points. We got a bit lucky with the first safety car, it ensured we could put the mediums on and then make some progress. It’s eventful here every year and you have to stay in the game. We did well to overtake – it’s so difficult here - so we can be pleased with that.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 14th
“It was a long one today and it’s a shame it ended up like that. The start was fun with some good overtakes and getting into a decent position. I gained some confidence there and got into a rhythm. We were ticking every box and really made the most of everyone being bunched up. Then it all came undone with the incident and the puncture meant our race was more or less over. We deserved a better outcome today.”
SIngapore Grand Prix Final Classification
1st Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari 61 1:58.33.667
2nd Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 61 +2.641
3rd Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 61 +3.821
4th Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 61 +4.608
5th Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 61 +6.119
6th Alexander Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 61 +11.663
7th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Racing 61 +14.769
8th Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 61 +15.547
9th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 61 +16.718
10th Antonio Giovinazzi* Alfa Romeo Racing 61 +27.855
11th Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 61 +35.436
12th Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 61 +35.974
13th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 61 +36.419
14th Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 61 +37.660
15th Danill Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 61 +38.178
16th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 61 +47.024
17th Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 61 +86.522
NC Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 49
DNF NC Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 42
DNF NC George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 34
Fastest lap: Kevin Magnussen (1.42.301 on lap 58)
1 L. Hamilton 296
2 V. Bottas 231
3 C. Leclerc 200
4 M. Verstappen 200
5 S. Vettel 194
6 P. Gasly 69
7 C. Sainz 58
8 A. Albon 42
9 D. Ricciardo 34
10 D. Kvyat 33
11 N. Hulkenberg 33
12 L. Norris 31
13 K. Raikkonen 31
14 S. Perez 27
15 L. Stroll 19
16 K. Magnussen 18
17 R. Grosjean 8
18 A. Giovinazzi 4
19 R. Kubica 1
20 G. Russell 0