Vettel wins in Singapore


It was the legendary Tottenham player, Jimmy Greaves, who famously described football as a "funny old game".

On the evidence thus far this weekend, the same might be said of Formula One, and certainly the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.

We were constantly informed that this would be the 'Max and Lewis Show', and that the best Ferrari could hope for was 'best of the rest' going Charles Leclerc's way, while the British media anticipated further twisting of the knife as the Vettel Saga continues.

Based on Friday's evidence it appeared they were right, Hamilton and Verstappen in a league of their own and the highest placed Ferrari (Vettel) almost a second off the pace.

The Italian team had brought a raft of updates, but it appeared that it was a case of too little, too late on this most demanding of circuits.

But then, like all the best dramas, came the twist, for on Saturday, Ferrari came into its own, and suddenly the Maranello outfit doesn't only appear to be on course for a third successive win, but, according to Toto Wolff, a major threat for the remainder of the season.

For once, the Austrian's annoying underdog stance appears to have an edge of genuine fear to it.

Of course, even if the Ferrari is not a good all round car, the Italian team has a reputation for shooting itself in the foot, but that aside, what wouldn't we all give for a serious challenge to Hamilton and his team in the remaining races.

Naturally, one can never write either Hamilton or Mercedes off, but that irregularity with the fuel temperature on the Briton's car at the start of the weekend was a possible hint that all may not be well.

As for Red Bull, even the team is at a loss to explain why it is not up where we all expected it to be.

That said, qualifying and the race are two entirely different things, and the Singapore script rarely goes to plan.

Once again, McLaren out-paced its engine supplier, Renault, the French team further frustrated by the stewards decision that relegates Daniel Ricciardo to the back of the grid, following an MGU-K issue that apparently gave him an advantage of one millionth of a second.

While Ferrari improved dramatically from Friday to Saturday, the likes of Haas didn't, and but for Williams the American outfit would be looking at a long, lonely evening ahead.

Assuming, Renault will battle McLaren, we can anticipate some fun and games behind as Racing Point, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo get stuck in.

Always good value for money, king of the late brakers, Ricciardo should be fun to watch as he seeks to carve his way through the field, however, with every running of this event having witnessed at least one safety car, nobody should be taking anything for granted and remember that no race can be won on the first lap... or even the second.

The theoretically fastest strategy for the race, which is likely to go to the full two hours, is a one-stopper - but with 18 safety cars since the first race in 2008, anything can, and usually does, happen.

The best way is to start on the softs for 16 to 20 laps and then switch to the mediums. An alternative strategy (for those starting outside the top 10), which is very closely matched on time, is to start on the mediums for 28 to 32 laps, and then go to hard. The slowest one-stopper is soft to hard, changing after 14 to 18 laps.

On paper, a two-stopper is definitely slower, but the way to do it would be two stints on the softs of 12 to 14 laps each, and a final run to the flag on mediums.

All that aside, with the last three Singapore Grands Prix having witnessed a safety car on the opening lap, all that could go out the window within moments of the race getting underway.

The pitlane opens and the cars begin to head out. Air temperature is currently 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37.3 degrees.

With ten minutes before the start, there's late drama involving Leclerc's car which is said to have an ECU issue. However, a thumbs-up suggests the matter has been resolved. Still, late dramas like this hardly boost your confidence.

All ten leading qualifiers are starting on the softs, however, the rest, including Giovinazzi, who takes Ricciardo's place in tenth, in on mediums, while Gasly is the sole runner on hards. At the back of the grid, Ricciardo is now on mediums.

Leclerc heads off on the parade lap, the rest of the field following obediently behind.

The grid forms.

They're away! Leclerc gets away well, as does Vettel behind, however, Hamilton is able to hold off the German into T1. Vettel is all over the Mercedes, first going to one side then the other, but the world champion keeps him at bay. The Ferrari has the speed, but the Briton the track position.

At the end of the opening lap, it's: Leclerc, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Albon, Norris, Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Gasly. Hulkenberg pits, with a front-left puncture following a collision with Sainz, as do Russell and the McLaren driver who also has a puncture. A new front wing for the Williams driver, while it is a disastrous stop for the Spaniard, who rejoins a lap down.

Ricciardo is already up to 15th.

Now 1.2s clear of Vettel, Hamilton posts a fastest lap (48.666) as he sets about closing the 1.6s gap to the race leader.

As the stewards confirm they are investigating the Hulkenberg/Sainz incident, Hamilton closes on Leclerc and Verstappen on Vettel. Ricciardo passes Perez for 14th.

"There is something wrong," warns Sainz, but he is told all is OK and that his suspension is not damaged.

Down in 18th, lap 5 sees Hulkenberg post a new fastest lap (48.645). The German is now on the hards, as are Russell and Sainz.

Norris remains best of the rest, ahead of Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Gasly.

Ricciardo passes the second of the Racing Points to claim 13th as the stewards decide that the Hulkenberg/Sainz clash was a racing incident.

The leading six are covered by 6s as Leclerc goes only as quickly as he needs, the Monegasque controlling the pace from the front.

Raikkonen feels that he too may have some damage from the first lap incident.

"I really can't go much slower," says Hamilton.

A great scrap between Ricciardo and Kvyat, with Stroll just behind. The Australian makes a typically bold move on the Russian at T13 and before Kvyat can recover he is passed by Stroll also.

Bottas is told to try and cool his front-left.

A lap after being passed by Ricciardo and Stroll, Kvyat loses out to Perez at T14.

"This pace is good," Grosjean is told, "people at the front on softs are starting to struggle."

Kvyat pits at the end of lap 12, rejoining in 18th on hards.

"Already we've seen some stops for the hard tyre," says Pirelli. "In theory, drivers will struggle to make it to the end of the race on this (we don't really have the data) but this is Singapore. Anything can happen."

Next time around, Perez pits, rejoining in 17th, just ahead of Kvyat.

Hamilton is told that other soft runners are feeling a drop in performance.

At the rear of the field, Kvyat is lapping 2s quicker than the leaders as he posts a new fastest lap (47.419).

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay, here.

Told to switch to race mode (?!?), Leclerc improves to 48.754 as Raikkonen pits. He rejoins in 16th.

Leclerc is now told to "push" as Perez posts a new fastest lap (46.683).

Now running in the low 48s, Leclerc builds a 1.9s cushion over Hamilton.

Hamilton now reports that his tyres are going off.

Raikkonen passes Kubica for 15th, with Perez and Kvyat now lined up behind the Williams.

A brave move sees Perez pass Kubica in T18, with Kvyat following through moments later.

Hulkenberg is still unable to get past Grosjean.

"No grip, mate," complains Verstappen, "no grip." The Dutchman has Bottas all over his rear end.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 19, as does Verstappen, the Red Bull driver leaving it very, very late.

As Magnussen is told to pit, he complains, "it's too late mate, too late."

Vettel has rejoined in 10th while Verstappen is 12th, behind Stroll.

"Let's undercut him," says Hamilton. However, as Leclerc pits the Briton stays out, having been told to do the opposite of what the leader. The Monegasque rejoins in 7th, behind Vettel, as Albon and Norris also pit.

"We need to push as much as you can," Leclerc is told, as Vettel posts a new fastest lap (45.453). Hamilton stays out, feeling that his tyres are now OK.

Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen trade fastest sector times as Bottas its at the end of lap 22. The Finn rejoins in 9th, behind the Ferraris and Verstappen.

Leclerc is not happy at the way in which the pit stops have worked out.

"Strategy still OK," asks Hamilton. "It's very close," he is told.

Leclerc is told that when Hamilton pits he will rejoin behind him and ahead of Verstappen.

"Keep talking to us about the tyres," Hamilton is told. "They're not great," he replies, "but I don't want you to stop me."

In the midst of all this, Giovinazzi is second, Gasly third and Ricciardo fourth.

Down in 9th, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (45.290).

"Valtteri, it's James, can you do 48.8 please." When Bottas questions the move he is told "we need to work as a team".

Meanwhile, Leclerc now fears that his tyres are going off.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 26, the Briton rejoins in 8th, behind Verstappen but ahead of his Mercedes teammate.

Giovinazzi leads, as Albon goes wide and explores the outer limits of the Marina Bay track.

Some breathing space for Vettel as he passes Stroll for fourth. Leclerc is behind the Racing Point in sixth.

As Leclerc is all over the rear of Stroll, so Verstappen is all over the back of the Ferrari.

As Vettel passes Ricciardo for third, so Leclerc grabs fifth from Stroll.

Alfa Romeo jokingly calls for the race to be stopped as its man continues to lead.

At half-time, it's: Giovinazzi, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Verstappen, Stroll, Hamilton, Bottas and Albon.

Vettel is taking no prisoners as he forces his way past Gasly to take second, the Frenchman having to run wide in order to avoid a clash.

As Vettel hunts down Giovinazzi, the German is told to take care of his rear tyres.

The race leader offers little opposition and Vettel duly takes the lead, the German now 3.7s clear of his Ferrari teammate, who still has Gasly and Giovinazzi to pass.

No investigation necessary in terms of that Vettel move on Gasly.

Stroll makes his stop at the end of lap 31, as Leclerc passes Gasly. Shortly after, Verstappen follows through.

Leclerc and Verstappen pass Giovinazzi for second and third, as Hamilton now closes on the Alfa.

The Briton sweeps by the Alfa as Bottas also closes in. further behind, Albon passes Ricciardo for seventh.

Following a short scrap with Bottas and Albon, Giovinazzi is under attack from Ricciardo. The pair clash, the Alfa runs wide while the Renault picks up a puncture.

A typically bold move that didn't quite work this time around.

Out front, as he seeks to close the 5.143s gap to Vettel, Leclerc posts a new fastest lap (45.250).

Giovinazzi and Ricciardo both pit, rejoining in 15th and 18th respectively.

Out come the yellows as Russell is in the wall in T8, after tangling with Grosjean. Replay shows it was a typically aggressive and unnecessary move from the Haas driver.

Asked if he is OK, Russell makes his feeling about the move quite clear.

At which point the safety car is deployed.

Hulkenberg is the first driver to take advantage of the safety car, with Kvyat following suit. Giovinazzi and Sainz also stop.

Having questioned the strategy, Leclerc is told to keep his head down and that he's doing a good job. "My head is down and it will be down for the rest of the race," he replies. "I just want to let you know my feeling.

"I don't understand at all the undercut," he adds. "We will discuss after the race."

After 39 laps, still behind the safety car, it's: Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Albon, Norris, Magnussen, Raikkonen and Perez.

Incidentally, that is Williams first retirement of the season.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 41.

The race resumes, and while Vettel is quick out of the blocks, Hamilton is all over Verstappen. Further back, Stroll and Gasly bang wheels as they battle for 11th.

Having lost out to Gasly, Stroll is passed by Hulkenberg. Moments later the Canadian has picked up a puncture after clouting wall and has to pit.

As Gasly and Hulkenberg battle for 11th, Leclerc is upping his pace, closing to within 0.8s of his teammate.

Perez suddenly slows and grinds to a halt in T14, bringing out the yellows.

Once again, the safety car is deployed as the Racing Point is removed.

As Kubica pits, so too does Stroll.

"I want everything," says Leclerc when told the instructions for the re-start. When told to bring the car home, he responds, "I won't do anything stupid, it's not my goal, I want us to finish 1-2. It's just not fair."

The safety car is withdrawn (again) at the end of lap 48.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay, here.

Ahead of the re-start, Leclerc is almost alongside Vettel. However, the German holds his position. Further back Gasly is all over Magnussen, as Ricciardo is all over Kvyat.

Gasly and Hulkenberg pass Magnussen in one move, the Dane slipping down to tenth in the process. Behind the Haas are the Alfa duo.

A kamikaze move by Kvyat on Raikkonen sees the pair clash, and while the Russian is able to continue, the Finn's front-left suspension is askew, his race over.

The safety car is deployed for the third time.

Climbing from the Alfa, The Iceman is understandably angry.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 52.

Not for the first time this afternoon, Vettel uses all his experience to control the re-start. Meanwhile, Hamilton is hard on Verstappen's heels.

Norris, Gasly and Hulkenberg is a great scrap for 7th, as Ricciardo passes Magnussen for 13th.

Stroll complains that there is something wrong with his car. "I feel like I'm going to crash". He is currently 16th.

Magnussen has cars on either side of him, Stroll on one side, Kvyat the other, as his tyres almost visibly go off the cliff.

As Stroll and then Kvyat pass Magnussen, the Dane slips to last position as he is subsequently passed by Kubica also. The indignity.

A new fastest lap for Vettel (44.943) as he builds a 1.360s lead.

At the end of lap 57, Magnussen pits for softs. He's last so fastest lap won't score him a point. However, having posted the fastest lap last year, it maintains the tradition.

Now 2s down on Vettel, Leclerc appears to have accepted his fate.

Down in 15th, Kvyat goes quickest (44.371). However, moments later, Bottas responds with a 43.534.

A 42.301 sees Magnussen go quickest.

"I need more power," urges Verstappen, who has Hamilton all over his gearbox. "Negative," comes the reply.

Hamilton is pushing Verstappen until the very last corner, but he just can't a way past.

Vettel takes the flag, his first win since Spa 2018, thereby no doubt kick-starting a major sulk from those sections of the media that have written him off.

Leclerc takes second, the youngster clearly feeling that "he was robbed", while Verstappen holds off Hamilton for the final podium place.

Bottas is fifth, ahead of Albon, Norris, Gasly, Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi.

Grosjean is eleventh, ahead of Sainz, Stroll, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Kubica and Magnussen.

While Vettel's response to the win is measured, there is total silence from Leclerc, no reaction to Mattia Binotto's message of congratulation.

A major confidence boost for Vettel, while Ferrari scores a 1-2 on a track on which it was meant to struggle.

Whatever on might think of Leclerc's stance, one only has to think back two weeks to Seb's face at the team's post-race photo-op, the German looked broken.

The four-time champion's handling of traffic today was excellent and a clear sign that he wanted the win.

And while Leclerc can barely look his teammate in the eyes, Hamilton, at least will be glad to see his great rival back on form.

This was a good win not only for the German and Ferrari, but for the sport.

The safety cars, especially the duration, were a pain, but nonetheless we saw lots of action - and some silliness - throughout the entire field.

"You lost?" says Vettel to his teammate in the ante-room before the podium ceremony, and as the (British) media looks to seize on his comment it is clear the German is actually referring to weight in these difficult conditions.

That said, there is little conversation between the three podium finishers.

While it is a much needed boost for Vettel, one feels that his battle has only just begun, and it isn't with a Mercedes or Red Bull driver.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Marina Bay, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 22/09/2019
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