F1 race strategists may use algorithms and ‘Latin hypercube sampling’, but tossing a coin would probably have got the same result on Sunday…
Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
Lewis maintained the high pedigree of the Singapore Grand Prix Winners Club by making it seven World Champions in seven races. Only he, Seb and Fernando have won at Marina Bay before and for much of the afternoon that looked like being the podium. Obviously his job became a lot easier the second he pulled away on the parade lap and left his team-mate searching for a gear.
Lewis’s biggest threat, after Vettel went backwards in the first stint, was a badly timed Safety Car and we almost got one. After the team made the decision to keep the No.44 car out, Lewis was constantly questioning the strategy, something that almost all the top ten drivers were doing in a race when (ironically) engineers were nervous about giving out too much information. In a race where drivers really did need to rely on what they were being told, there was a certain coyness about team radio.
Once the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 37 Hamilton produced a devastating series of laps to create his 25-second advantage. The gap to Vettel went: 3.2, 5.8, 7.6, 9.7, 11.5, 13.5, 15.3, 17.3, 18.7, 20.3, 21.1, 22.7, 24.0, 25.2 on Lap 51. Even when Lewis came in he was still putting in laps that were a second quicker than Vettel. But he was right to be jumpy about the possibility of a late Safety Car. We’ve now had ten in seven races.
Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 59: Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso on Kimi Raikkonen for P7
In the latter stages of the race Jean-Eric Vergne looked like a man on a mission, and we all know what that mission is… To remind other teams that last season he was a pretty good match for Daniel Ricciardo who is now embarrassing a four-time World Champion. In the closing stages of the race on fresher tyres he came up against the Bottas train and picked them off one by one. Hulkenberg’s Force India was a nadgy pass, but on Lap 59 he threw his Toro Rosso down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen into Turn One and got the car stopped with only a slight lock-up of tyres. He then dispensed with Bottas and managed to get five seconds clear of Perez to negate his five-second penalty, given to him, for going off track to pass Maldonado.
It looked to many as though Maldonado had forced him off the track, but JEV got a five-second penalty for it. Interestingly, Fernando Alonso, in a far more calculated run off the track limits, didn’t give up that amount of time to the cars behind when he did it on Lap 1.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2nd
With no Rosberg to interfere with his run to Turn 1, Sebastian got a flying start, which was briefly interrupted by Alonso taking the short-cut to P2. He had to hand the place back to Seb straight away. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was thinking that maybe he should have got a place back, too, but was too polite to say despite a lot of post-race prompts. After that Vettel was clearly the faster of the two Red Bull drivers thanks to what seemed like a recurring problem for Daniel’s energy recovery system. Vettel’s tyres started going away from Lap 9 when Hamilton’s lead suddenly went from 3.8 seconds to 5.1.
So right from early on it was clear that this was not going to be a race when Red Bull matched the Mercedes for pace despite a few people predicting that Vettel or Ricciardo might win.
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 3rd
Dan couldn’t get close to his team-mate all afternoon thanks to spending most of it in his role as IT manager for his hybrid system. It’s a credit that he could do all that and stay on the podium.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 4th
A tremendous bounce back from Alonso after Monza but it could have been so much better. He surrendered second place for a change of tyres during the Safety Car period, which seemed a brilliant move because Red Bull were going to run out of tyres. Before Perez lost his front wing, Seb had already been on the team radio and said he wanted supersofts for a final 12-lap dash to the line. But after the Safety Car Red Bull were reluctant to give up track position, and Alonso could close but not pass.
Felipe Massa, Williams, 5th
With Bottas acting as his rear gunner, Felipe was able to stay ahead of the late-race chargers with a useful buffer, and his 38-lap stint on the soft tyre succeeded. Valtteri’s gave up the ghost and punctured. From a team point of view it was very important to minimise losses to Ferrari.
Sergio Perez, Force India, 7th
An amazing result for Checo, who’d have thought you could be tooling around in 18th place on Lap 39 and make it through to P6? He put in some robust moves towards the end, including one on his team-mate. But the fact that he could get as far as he did in the closing stages justified the aggression.
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 10th
Kevin Magnussen did a heroic job fighting off cramp and burns from an overheating cockpit, which went some of the way to atone for his first lap errors. Just like Spa he put his own interests in front of the team’s and tried to block Button coming through on Lap 1. The result? If he’d let Jenson go, McLaren would have finished the opening lap in 6th and 7th places. As it was, Massa was able to get past Jenson and so they finished the opening lap in 7th and 9th instead. Button’s car failure meant that they have now dropped behind Force India in the constructor’s championship so they really can’t afford to chuck places away.
Lotus, 12th and 13th
Considering the Qualifying session that Lotus endured, and the year they’re having, it should be noted both cars finished, unlike McLaren and Mercedes. It allowed Pastor to get a bit more combative than usual and do what he does best as the boy scout of F1 – helping older drivers across kerbs.
Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 15thHaving been outpaced by both the one-shot drivers that Caterham have brought in for the race at Spa and Monza practice, Marcus got the better of both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in Singapore. However there wasn’t the kind of late-race drop-off to capitalise on.
It was a rare moment when you heard the crowd roar in F1 races of old. The cheers that Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton got in Qualifying and the race have brought a new dimension to the sport and it’s simply great to hear. Deaf octogenarians with a distant contact of reality should take note.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, DNF
Nico Rosberg was probably aware when engineer Tony Ross radioed through that: “the only thing working on your dash is the gearshift pedals.” And even then they seemed to be shifting up two at a time. Nico’s racing demise may have helped Lewis regain the World Championship lead, but both men will be nervous that the same thing doesn’t recur in the closely-packed races ahead. Imagine the anti-climax before the double points last race in Abu Dhabi should it happen there.
The score of wins to DNFs for Mercedes is now – Rosberg 4/2 – Hamilton 7/3 not including two technical failures in Qualifying for Lewis and one severe glitch in Canada for Nico. So we’re getting towards parity. Rosberg took the blow squarely on the shoulders. More than ever this World Championship looks like it will be decided by stuff such as a wiring loom failure and less by wheel-to-wheel action.
Jenson Button, McLaren, DNF
A strong opening lap for Jenson. Given what happened with Bottas at the end he would probably have been duelling it out with Kimi and Jean-Eric instead he was looking for a scooter.
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 14th
Singapore is always tough for rookies, but even more so when their drinks bottle packs up before the race even starts. As he let his team know: “Without a drink, I’m dying here!” Sauber’s Adrian Sutil has been known to go without a drinks bottle before now to save weight but not even he would attempt Marina Bay without one. So, heroic to get to the end. Drivers have stopped for lesser reasons than that, but were the team wise to leave him out there…?
It’s always a pleasure to listen to ex-Honda, Red Bull and Toro Rosso communications director Eric Silbermann in the Radio 5 commentary box. They should give Allan McNish the weekend off more often.
Eric Silbermann: “Jenny, you’re standing in an F1 pitlane. So if they’re moving their lips then they’re probably lying.”
Eric Silbermann in response to the question about how the stewards judge what is and what isn’t driver coaching: “Maybe we should bring someone along from the old Jim Russell driving school at Snetterton to get his training manual out to work out what is coaching and what is not.”
James Allen “We look at Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost looking up at about 14 data screens. Does he understand all that, Eric?”
Eric Silbermann: “Every team principal understands everything about everything in F1. That’s the golden rule…” (said with the Martini driest of wits)
For once Eddie Jordan was tub-thumping for the small independent teams who are under threat from his mate Bernie. “No, I think it’s the fault of the manufacturers. They’re the ones who have left In Formula 1 days.”
The STBO Award
Radio 5’s Jenny Gow has completely got the hang of night racing. “It’s pitch black here. Very dark.”