This weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay ended what has been a 392-day Formula One victory drought for Sebastian Vettel. It must have also been a huge relief for the four-time world champion.
Many people thought that the spoils of victory would go to either Mercedes or Red Bull this weekend, but it was the Italian team that came away with what was a shock victory on this tight flood-lit road circuit raced under the cover of darkness.
Teammate Charles Leclerc secured his third consecutive pole position the day before, but it was Vettel’s pit stop that put him into the lead with a clever undercut and from that point on he looked unstoppable. Needless to say, Leclerc was understandably furious at the team. However, his second place takes him to 200 championship points and puts him equal to Max Verstappen in overall third place in the Drivers’ Championship.
This was Vettel’s 53rd career victory and his first since the Belgian Grand Prix last summer. It is also his 52nd podium finish for Ferrari and is the fifth time he has won the Singapore Grand Prix – a first for the German.
Not only was it the Italian teams first one-two of the season, it was also the first time Ferrari have won three races in succession since 2008. It was however their 84th one-two finish in Formula 1.
Vettel commented, “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 re-join 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.”
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen said following his third-place finish, having started fourth on the grid, “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.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
There’s no doubt that Mercedes were taken back by the sheer pace of the Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix and their one-two finish. This was only the second time this season that either driver failed to get onto the podium.
There is no doubt that Mercedes were outwitted on the race strategy front and that meant that Lewis Hamilton only managed a fourth-place finish and Valtteri Bottas coming home just behind his teammate in fifth. Whilst Mercedes still lead the Constructors’ Championship, their lead has been reduced to 133 points, with 258 points still up for grabs before the end of the season.
Lewis Hamilton said after the race, “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.”
Haas F1 Team
The Haas team just missed out scoring some points at the Singapore Grand Prix, with Romain Grosjean crossing the finishing line in 11th whilst teammate Kevin Magnussen, who looked like he might well score points, running in the top 10 for much of the race, was hindered by the Safety Cars and an unfortunate incident with a plastic bag that got stuck on his front wing forcing him to pit. He ended up finishing down in 17th.
Magnussen summed his race by saying: “Unfortunately setting the fastest lap wasn’t worth anything for me. We were fighting in the top ten but got unlucky with the safety cars. We’d been working so hard, we were doing such a good job to get into the top ten on merit – it was not with luck or lucky pitstops or anything. We had a good first lap and good pace in the car. Then we just had all these safety cars work against us. On top of that we had a plastic bag over the front wing, we had to pit to remove that. It was a disaster from there. I really feel bad as it had been a good race and the whole team did such a good job, then we get it taken away from us in a cruel way.”
The top ten finishers at the Singapore Grand Prix were: Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Alexnder Albon, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg, with the last point going to Antonio Giovinazzi in his Alfa Romeo.
The next round of the championship takes place at Sochi in Russia this coming weekend.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool and Haas F1 Team