Front to back: the Singapore Grand Prix

Reviewing every F1 team and driver after Sunday’s steamy race on the Singapore city streets.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 3rd, finished 3rd
Nico Rosberg: qualified 1st, finished 1st
The look on Rosberg’s face was part elation, part exhaustion and part relief when he arrived back in parc ferme after his third win in succession and first on the Singapore city streets, his eighth victory of the season seeing him re-take the championship lead. All three emotions were justified, the latter being the most dominant after Ricciardo’s late charge fell just 0.4 seconds short after two hours of racing, Rosberg battling brake issues and soft tyres that were well past their best to the chequered flag. The German was flawless on Sunday after being mesmerising on Saturday, rating his pole lap as “one of my three top laps ever”, while Mercedes admitted his performance had exceeded their expectations. Rosberg’s win in his 200th career start made it seven victors from pole in nine races in Singapore, while every other winner of this race has been a world champion – perhaps a good omen as he takes an eight-point lead into the next race in Malaysia. Hamilton had one of those occasional Hamilton weekends when the planets never really align, and the 0.7sec gap to his teammate in qualifying was indicative of a Grand Prix when he was never quite on it as he can be at his best. A 99th career podium was something, but losing the series lead – and all of the momentum built up before the mid-season break when he won six out of seven races – would be a concern with six Grands Prix left this season.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 22nd, finished 5th
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 4th
Did Ferrari gift Hamilton a podium? It certainly seemed that way after Mercedes elected to pit their driver with 15 laps to go, meaning he would have had to make up 30 seconds to Raikkonen while battling brake issues that had plagued both Mercedes drivers for much of the race. It was an all or nothing call by Mercedes, but Ferrari dithered on the pit wall, Raikkonen had to ask if he was pitting or not, and when he did a lap later, Hamilton was through and the Finn was condemned to fourth. Vettel made a miraculous recovery to finish behind his teammate after a broken suspension saw him qualify last on Saturday; armed with a new engine and on the more durable soft tyres, the German needed an early-race safety car to unlock his strategy from the back, which he got on lap one when Hulkenberg’s Force India speared into the barriers. Vettel has always been superb on the Singapore city streets, and Sunday was no exception; while snapping a six-year run of finishing either first or second in Singapore, fifth was akin to a podium given how far back he started. That was the good news – the bad was that Ferrari has now gone a full season without a win since their most recent one in Singapore last September, and continue to find new ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

Felipe Massa:
qualified 12th, finished 12th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 11th, did not finish
A nightmare weekend for Williams, who failed to score points with either car for just the second time this season, and again fell behind Force India in the constructors’ race. Bottas had a left rear puncture in the first-lap melee that necessitated an early stop, and then had to pit later in the race as his seatbelts had come loose, the lengthy stop boiling his engine and forcing a retirement soon after. The Finn had seen the chequered flag in the past 17 races before his early bath on Sunday. Teammate Massa started 12th and finished in the same spot after 61 laps at a circuit where Williams struggled for car balance all weekend, and on a layout that is the very antithesis of Monza, where Bottas in particular shone a fortnight earlier.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 2nd, finished 2nd
Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 6th
Ricciardo said ahead of the weekend that Singapore “is our chance” of a second win for the season, and he was very nearly right, finishing in Rosberg’s wheeltracks after an electrifying final stint on supersoft tyres over the final 15 laps. The Australian hacked a 24-second Rosberg lead to just five in seven laps after he pitted on lap 48, but some badly-timed traffic saw his progress stymied with five laps to go, and he ran out of laps to complete a Singapore sequence that saw him finish third in 2014 and second last year. Sunday’s podium was his fourth in the past five races, and the result gave the army of fans who made the short trip up from Ricciardo’s home town of Perth plenty to get excited about. “We will get a win this year, it’ll come,” was his optimistic outlook afterwards. Verstappen made a slow getaway from P4 and was arguably the reason for the chaos behind him that saw Sainz and Hulkenberg touch and the German into the wall within seconds of the start, the Force India spinning across Verstappen’s nose and miraculously missing him on its way to the fence. The Dutchman overtook plenty of cars in a feisty recovery drive, but getting bottled up behind Kvyat’s Toro Rosso in the second stint was costly, and he finished 71 seconds behind Rosberg on a weekend where a podium was a realistic target.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 8th, did not finish
Sergio Perez: qualified 10th, finished 8th
Hulkenberg’s race lasted about as long as it takes to say his name after being nerfed by Sainz after the start and smashing into the inside wall, but Perez’s eighth place after an eight-place grid penalty at a circuit where overtaking is difficult at the best of times helped Force India back to fourth in the constructors’ race. The Mexican was furious on Saturday after he was penalised twice for yellow flag offences in qualifying, and points looked a long way off when he was demoted to 17th on the grid. The early-race safety car prompted Force India to try a two-stop strategy for a driver who is kinder on his tyres than most, and while Perez’s pace dropped away and he had to cede positions to Verstappen and Alonso late, he had enough in reserve to repel Kvyat to take four precious points.

Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 19th, finished 15th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 10th
Magnussen picked a good time to score points for the second time this season with an opportunistic drive to 10th, the Dane making the most of the early-race confusion to slot himself into the points, and staying on the lead lap the rest of the way. It was a welcome result given his 2017 contract situation remains unresolved, and with Ocon firming as one of Renault’s two drivers for next season. By contrast, Palmer was about as anonymous as you can be driving the brightest car in the field around the Singapore city streets under floodlights, and is running out of races to secure his first point, and out of time to keep his seat next year.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 7th, finished 9th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 6th, finished 14th
“I loved racing today,” grinned Kvyat after finishing ninth on Sunday, and well he might – two points for ninth was his best result since being demoted back to Toro Rosso in round five in Spain, and keeping Verstappen in his mirrors in the second stint of the race had to be as sweet for the Russian as it was awkward for some in the Red Bull garage. Singapore was Toro Rosso’s 200th Grand Prix, and its most convincing for some time, its lack of grunt from its undeveloped 2015 Ferrari powerplant less of a handicap on a circuit with few straights of note. Sainz was a brilliant sixth in qualifying on Saturday after what he called “one of the best qualifying sessions of my career”, but everything unravelled on Sunday when he clashed with Hulkenberg off the start and was forced into an early pit stop with a barge board flapping around as a result of the contact.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 18th, finished 13th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, finished 17th
Nasr enjoyed his best result since Austria in round nine with a 13th-place finish, a timely return for the Brazilian whose future remains unclear; he’s being discussed as a candidate to take compatriot Massa’s seat at Williams in a possible return to the team where he was a test driver before heading to Sauber. Ericsson was the primary beneficiary of Vettel’s suspension failure in qualifying as he made it to Q2 for the first time since round three in China, but was the second-last finisher 24 hours later in his 50th Grand Prix, which he celebrated (as you do) with a watermelon adorned with Swedish flag-coloured balloons on race day.

Jenson Button:
qualified 13th, did not finish
Fernando Alonso: qualified 9th, finished 7th
Alonso’s penchant for brilliant starts no matter where he’s qualified or what he’s driving came to the fore on Sunday, the McLaren man storming into fifth at Turn 1 through the midfield carnage. It was a getaway that set up his race; while the two-time Singapore winner was never going to be able to go with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari over 61 laps, Alonso finished best of the rest in seventh, scoring six points for the third time in the past five races, and moving to within five points of old teammate Massa for 10th in the standings. Button had his third straight DNF in Singapore on a weekend that started badly with a fuel system issue in FP1 and never really improved. The Briton hit the wall in qualifying, lost part of his front wing on lap one of the race, and eventually retired on lap 45 with front right brake damage.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 20th, finished 16th
Esteban Ocon: qualified 21st, finished 18th
It was a baptism of fire (well, of heat and humidity) for both of Manor’s rookie drivers, neither of whom had driven in Singapore before the weekend. The sinuous layout took away Manor’s prodigious straight-line speed that was so evident last time out at Monza, and Ocon’s comment on Friday – “you never rest, you’re always turning” – summed up the team’s woes. The Frenchman copped a five-second penalty for overtaking under the early-race safety car and finished last in 18th, while Wehrlein hit the wall at Turn 11 in final practice and struggled to 16th in the race.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 15th, did not start
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 14th, finished 11th
Singapore was a nightmare for Grosjean; after an engine air leak saw him miss FP1, he spun into the wall in FP2, crashed in qualifying, took a five-place grid penalty for a new gearbox, and then had a brake-by-wire failure before the race even started on Sunday. It was left to teammate Gutierrez to get a read on the progress made by the team’s last big upgrade for the season, which featured a revised front wing, floor and brake ducts. The new kit produced, unfortunately for the Mexican, the same old result – Gutierrez was 11th on Sunday and just out of the points for, painfully, the fifth time this season.


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