Last weekend the Formula 1 circus moved to the magical Singapore, which is the most mesmerising venue on the F1 calendar. The artificial lights cast by tens of thousands of lamps made the F1 cars look absolutely staggering - especially the red ones, of course! Even on TV the atmosphere seemed absolutely magical.
However, qualifying was everything but magical for the red team! Unfortunately, Sebastian’s qualifying was over already in Q1. The German had a broken rear anti-roll bar, which prevented him setting a competitive lap time. It was sad to watch how Sebastian was driving around on three wheels and there was nothing the team could do to fix the problem! This meant that Sebastian was going to start to the race from the very back of the grid.
Q2, once again, was all about tyre strategy. The Mercedes teammates came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres, whereas Red Bull’s Ricciardo and Verstappen opted for the more durable supersoft compound. Rosberg seemed to have gotten the upper hand on his teammate, as the German stormed on pole. Red Bull was almost able to challenge the Silver Arrows, as Ricciardo made it on the front row this time! Hamilton, who had suffered from technical issues in free practices, was only able to make it third. Red Bull’s Verstappen had been absolutely flying around Marina Bay in the free practices, but qualifying was a different story. In the end, the flying Dutchman had to settle for P4. Ferrari’s pace seemed quite impressive as well, but, after being third in the standings, Kimi fell to fifth at the end of the last segment.
Singapore GP has some interesting statistics. First of all, there has been a safety car in every single Singapore GP thus far. Secondly, in six races out of seven, the Singapore GP has been won from pole. In terms of these facts, this year’s GP was no exception. The start was eventful indeed. Rosberg kept his lead, but Verstappen in P4 got a poor start and lost four positions right away. Hulkenberg in his Force India (starting from P8) tried to find his way past the Dutchman, but ended up colliding with Toro Rosso’s Sainz. The impact made Hulkenberg crash into the wall, causing the German’s race to be over. This time, a safety car was deployed as soon as on the opening lap!
After safety car had come in, Rosberg was leading the race with Red Bull’s Ricciardo being second, Hamilton third and Kimi - fourth. Both Mercedes pilots were told on the team radio to manage their brakes due to overheating. Verstappen, who had started to the race on the supersoft tyres, was the first frontrunner to pit for a fresh set of supersoft tyres. Sebastian, who had started to the race on the yellow-marked soft compound (the hardest compound), had made his way through the field and was already in P10.
The tyre strategy was certainly interesting. Ricciardo opted for another set of supersoft tyres - similar to his teammate. Supersofts were also Kimi’s choice. Both Mercedes drivers, however, opted for soft tyres, which was the hardest compound in Singapore. Approaching the halfway point of the race, the Iceman had chased down Hamilton in P3 and got within DRS distance from the Briton. Kimi put serious pressure on Hamilton, who couldn’t drive flat out due to the brake issue. Overtaking seemed pretty hard at the Marina Bay street circuit until Hamilton locked up at the braking! The Iceman struck like a lightning and overtook the Briton! That was the true highlight of the race. I was cheering for Kimi and I was almost able to see him celebrating on the podium. But it was too early in the day to celebrate...
Towards the end of the race, Hamilton’s brake issue seemed to disappear. The team told Hamilton to push and close the gap on Kimi. Hamilton delivered like he was expected to, and soon the Briton was right at Kimi’s tail. 15 laps before the chequered flag Hamilton was called into the pits for the third time - this time for fresh supersoft tyres. However, the Iceman was called in not until a couple of laps later... Which turned out to be a wrong call! Hamilton benefitted from the undercut and jumped the Finn, as Kimi re-joined the track. What a frustrating moment, considering the phenomenal overtaking move, which Kimi had made on Hamilton earlier on in the race! After the last pit stops there was nothing Kimi could do to make it past Hamilton again.
Ricciardo, too, pitted for the third time in P2; the Australian opted for a fresh set of ultrasoft tyres. Race leader Rosberg, however, couldn’t afford making a third pit stop! Otherwise he would have lost the lead to the hungry Red Bull driver. Ricciardo started his chase and smelled Rosberg’s blood, but the Australian ran out of laps in the end. Like the statistics predicted, Rosberg won in the dark night of Singapore and took the lead in the drivers’ championship standings by 8 points. Ricciardo finished the runner-up only half a second behind Rosberg. Hamilton completed the podium and Kimi had to settle for P4. Outside the limelight, Sebastian finally finished 5th, which was a remarkable achievement, considering his starting position at the back of the grid. Sebastian was voted as the Driver of the Day by fans (me included), which was well-deserved! Sebastian offered some brilliant overtaking under the shining lights of Singapore.
After the race there has been a lot of talk about Ferrari’s pit stop strategy, which made the podium slip through Kimi’s fingers. It’s always easy to say "what if", but the truth is that the team wins together and loses together. Pit stop strategy is a part of it. There’s no use in pointing fingers at somebody and look for "the guilty". Surely the team will analyse everything that happened, and they will learn from it - together. I believe in the red team with all my heart. They will bounce back stronger - hopefully as soon as in Malaysia in a fortnight!
With passion for racing red,