A start-line smash hogs the headlines, as Daniel Ricciardo goes oh-so-close yet again to achieving Singapore success.
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Lewis Hamilton: qualified 5th, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 6th, finished 3rd.
After qualifying fifth and over six-tenths of a second behind Vettel’s pole time, Hamilton felt Mercedes needed “a miracle” to stay in the same postcode as the Ferrari and Red Bull duos in the race, and that’s exactly how his start panned out. The Briton made a superb getaway to round up Ricciardo’s slow-starting Red Bull into the first corner, and was ahead of the Raikkonen-Verstappen-Alonso carnage that unfolded in the opening 10 seconds, and perfectly placed when Vettel hit the wall at Turn 3 seconds later.
From there, Hamilton was in control of the race in conditions wet or dry, and 58 gruelling laps later, had taken his third win in a row – and assumed a season-best 28-point championship lead on a circuit that shaped as Mercedes’ worst for the remainder of the year. Bottas was never a match for his teammate all weekend and suffered with a failed drinks bottle in his car for the two-hour duration, but rounded out the podium on a critical weekend that might just secure Hamilton the title once we get to Abu Dhabi in late November.
Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 2nd. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, did not finish.
Verstappen shone in qualifying again, out-performing teammate Ricciardo when it mattered most and slotting into second behind Vettel, but it was that starting position that was the beginning of the end for the Dutchman 24 hours later. Raikkonen, immediately behind him, made a blinding start and stormed down the inside, and as pole-sitter Vettel came across to cover, the Red Bull was steaming towards a gap that was closing rapidly, the contact seeing both Verstappen and Raikkonen out on the spot and Vettel last only a few corners more. In 14 races this season, Verstappen has now retired on seven occasions, three times on the first lap. If it was a familiar tale for the teenager, it was much the same for Ricciardo, who finished second in Singapore for the third year in a row, and on the podium at a track where so many from his native Perth come to watch for the fourth year in succession. The Australian had every reason to be bullish for another race win when he dominated Friday practice, but this wasn’t the usual swashbuckling Ricciardo rostrum result – his poor getaway saved him from the first-corner carnage, and while he kept Hamilton honest, he never looked like challenging the Mercedes for the top spot as he pushed on despite an oil pressure problem with his gearbox. “I can’t win the bloody thing, but I’m trying,” he half-grinned afterwards.
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, did not finish. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, did not finish.
Ferrari came to Singapore desperate to atone for being thrashed by Mercedes at its home race at Monza a fortnight before, and had every reason to be optimistic at a tight and twisty street circuit that most resembles Monaco of the other F1 tracks, where it finished 1-2 earlier this year. Instead, Singapore became a historical black eye for the Scuderia, who had two cars retire on the first lap of a race for the first time in its storied F1 history. While most pointed the finger of blame at Vettel, the team took a slightly different view …
Vettel said after the race that he was uncertain what happened at the start; what’s easier to ascertain is that with six races to go, the German’s chances of a fifth world title this year look more tenuous than ever. After his brilliant pole on Saturday with a lap many observers called one of the best of his career, it was quite the come-down.
Sergio Perez: qualified 12th, finished 5th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 14th, finished 10th.
Things looked dire for Force India on Saturday, where the team failed to get a car into the top 10 on the grid for just the third time all year at a circuit that plainly didn’t suit the car’s slippery straight-line strengths. But Perez was his usual canny self in the race, and despite having never made Q3 in Singapore, he’s now finished inside the top 10 seven times, Sunday’s fifth his best effort yet. It capped off a great day for the Mexican, who signed a contract extension to stay with the team for 2018 on race morning. Ocon, on his 21st birthday, found himself in a furious fight on the fringes of the top 10 with Massa and Magnussen mid-race, and continued his perfect finishing record in F1 to date (23 races, 23 times seeing the chequered flag) as he joined Hamilton as the only drivers to complete every race so far this year.
Felipe Massa: qualified 17th, finished 11th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 8th.
For Williams to make the points with one car and just miss with the other was something of a save for a weekend that started out poorly and then got worse when both cars were ousted in Q1 for the fourth time in the past six races. The attrition rate of faster cars ahead of them certainly helped, but in conditions that caught out plenty of more experienced rivals, Stroll’s eighth at a circuit he’d never previously driven was commendable. Massa was one of the first drivers to move to slicks as the circuit dried on lap 24, and it didn’t quite work out, the veteran Brazilian finishing less than two seconds behind Ocon for the final point on offer.
Fernando Alonso: qualified 8th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 9th, finished 7th.
Vandoorne took a career-best result from his first visit to Singapore, which came after he and teammate Alonso had qualified inside the top 10 for just the second time all season. While the Belgian shone, it was yet another early shower for Alonso, who retired on lap nine after his car’s telemetry failed thanks to damage from the shunt at the first corner, the Spaniard finding himself in the firing line after a typically scorching start. Alonso has seen the chequered flag just once in the past six races, but at least has kept his sense of humour …
While Vandoorne’s Singapore race was strong and Alonso’s short, this will be a weekend remembered more for the divorce from a failed three-year marriage with Honda – and move to Renault power for 2018 – than anything McLaren’s drivers achieved on track. Convincing Alonso to stay is the next – and most vital – task.
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 13th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, finished 4th.
Singapore was a big weekend in Sainz’s career, confirmation coming that the Spaniard will be loaned to Renault for next season as part of the engine musical chairs that saw Toro Rosso’s Renault powerplant supply heading to McLaren, and Honda switching to STR. Sainz qualified 10th and felt he’d be fighting a rear-guard action in the race; instead, he was superbly opportunistic and finished a career-best fourth, making the most of a day where numerous big names barely lasted a few corners. His continued success contrasted sharply with Kvyat’s repeated woes, the Russian furious after missing Q3 on Saturday, and then stuffing his car into the fence at Turn 7 in the wet after 11 laps in the race, prompting the second of three safety car interventions. The last time Kvyat scored points? Barcelona, way back in May.
Romain Grosjean: qualified 15th, finished 9th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 16th, did not finish.
Things looked grim for Haas when the American team could only outpace backmarkers Sauber on Friday, and when Grosjean barely scraped into Q2 and Magnussen failed to join him, points looked like a pipedream. Plenty of incidents and accidents ahead of the pair changed all of that on Sunday, and Grosjean persevered to nab two points, while Magnussen had an MGU-K failure eight laps from the end that saw him become the eighth and final retirement of the race.
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 11th, finished 6th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, did not finish.
It’s been a miserable year for Palmer, outqualified by teammate Hulkenberg in every race and failing to score a point before Singapore, and his tenure in F1 was ended in the lead-up to the race when it was announced Sainz would take his seat for 2018 at the latest, and perhaps as early as the next round in Malaysia. The Briton’s response was impressive and surprising; after just missing Q3 on Saturday, Palmer was an excellent sixth on Sunday for a career-best result, his assuredness in the wet at the start a standout. Will it be his final race? Only time will tell. The news wasn’t as positive for Hulkenberg, who, after being pumped up by qualifying ahead of both McLarens on Saturday, had to retire with a hydraulics issue late in the race when running strongly inside the top 10. Speaking of bad news: the non-finish meant Hulkenberg broke the record for most starts in the history of F1 without a podium finish (129), previously held by his compatriot Adrian Sutil.
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 20th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, finished 12th.
Ericsson and Wehrlein continued their season-long race within a race at the back of the field, the Swede clouting the wall in practice and needing a new gearbox (the subsequent five-place grid penalty meaning little given he qualified last anyway), and then causing the final safety car period of the race when he crashed on the iconic Anderson Bridge with 20 laps left. Wehrlein was two laps down and last, and with Vandoorne’s seventh place extending McLaren’s lead over Sauber for last in the constructors’ championship to 12 points, it seems the Swiss squad is certain to finishing at the foot of the table.