Conclusions from the Singapore Grand Prix

Date published: September 17 2018

Conclusions from the Singapore Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton found another gear, Singapore did not favour Ferrari and Max Verstappen came alive…

Hamilton finds another gear

The race result has a lot to do with Sebastian Vettel’s failure to string together an optimal lap in qualifying. Max Verstappen’s overcut strategy, which relegated Vettel to third from second, also stands out as a key moment.

Then there was Ferrari’s horrific call to put Vettel on ultrasofts when everyone else took softs. This combination of factors prompted Vettel himself to say that Ferrari had beaten themselves at the Singapore Grand Prix. This is true.

It is also true that Lewis Hamilton was untouchable all weekend. His pole lap was inch perfect; beautiful in its control and speed.

At the lights, Hamilton got off the line well enough and once the window opened for pits stop, he surged into a three-second lead, effectively forcing the Scuderia to respond. Ferrari and Vettel just couldn’t match the Mercedes.

And the errors this weekend were a result not so much of Ferrari or Vettel’s ineptitude, but the sheer weight of a thousand tons of pressure exerted by the unstoppable Silver Arrows machine and an irrepressibly excellent Hamilton, the official Champion-elect given his 40-point lead in the standings.

Singapore far from a Ferrari favourite

Long said to be a track best suited to Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes have now claimed a hat-trick of wins at the street circuit. For Ferrari, 2018 is as galling, albeit less dramatic, than 2017. And of course who could forget Fernando Alonso in 2011, then driving for the Scuderia, ceding the title to Vettel in the Red Bull.

As in 2017, Ferrari’s season is unraveling. Vettel is no doubt rueing the numerous errors that have cost him points across the campaign. Singapore was supposed to present an opportunity for redemption but instead the German finds himself even further behind.

Max comes alive on the streets

Max Verstappen was the victim of an excellent passing move by Vettel on lap 1 – perhaps the one bright moment for the Ferrari man all weekend. As for Verstappen, he then put his head down.

Helped by Red Bull’s strategists, the youngster would reclaim second after his pit stop and even came close to having a cheeky run up the inside of Hamilton when the Mercedes driver came up to a Sergey Sirotkin and co. traffic jam.

Verstappen had the measure of Daniel Ricciardo all weekend and despite facing intermittent issues with his Renault power unit executed when it mattered and did what he could to keep Hamilton honest.

Sirotkin grabs some screentime

Running an offset strategy was always going to mean Williams would be on the defensive. And boy did Sirotkin defend, first against Sergio Perez and then against Romain Grosjean and Brendon Hartley. It was a dogged display, though the frustration boiled over when the Russian drove Hartley off the road and received a penalty for his efforts.

Although Sirotkin largely out-raced Lance Stroll this weekend, it is a sad indictment on Williams that none of this racing put them in a position to score a point.

Checo-mate

Sergio Perez had a crazy race, which meant that Force India had a weekend even more dire than Ferrari’s…indeed even more dire than that of Williams.

There’s not much the Mexican could have done to avoid contact with his team-mate on lap 1, but the wheel bashing between the Force Indias did leave Esteban Ocon in the wall and out of the race.

Then there was his moment of madness in which he drove across Sirotkin. Yes, the Williams driver had severely compromised Perez’s race. Nonetheless, Perez’s manoeuvre was reckless as they come and perhaps a drive-through penalty was a light punishment.

Watch: Perez smashes into Sirotkin

Alonso wins division 2

Fernando Alonso remains as opinionated as ever, recently suggesting that proposals to modernise F1 are mere copies of IndyCar concepts. However, his showing in Singapore shows that he still has the speed to back up the attitude, and seventh is his and McLaren’s best result since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix back in April.

The Spaniard will be pleased that only cars from the big three finished ahead of him. On that note, remember that for many years McLaren would’ve formed part of any such frontrunning cartel.

For more reaction of the Singapore Grand Prix, join The F1 Word for the post-race debrief:

 

Richard F Rose