There is something about the streets of Singapore and Sebastian Vettel that form an irresistible combination.
As the fireworks lit up the night sky of Singapore it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that ignited the city streets with an electrifying victory. The four time world champion hit the ground running as he obliterated the field in Saturday’s qualifying to take pole position. There wasn’t much looking back after that as he commanded all of the sixty-one laps to the chequered flag.
A textbook getaway off the line and a blistering pace built the gap to second placed Daniel Ricciardo to five seconds within a handful of laps. The sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen kept the Aussie Red Bull driver within sight but was never able to make a move for the position. Raikkonen confirmed after the race that his tyres gave up quite early on his stints. The Finn expressed a bit of surprise at ending up in third given his tyre struggles.
For Seb Vettel there were no such worries as he expertly controlled his pace to secure career victory number 43. After such a dominating period with Red Bull, which yielded four world titles, some thought the move to Ferrari was odd. Yet, it turns out that it was arguably the best thing that could’ve happened to him and the Ferrari team. Many an observation has been made of Vettel’s work ethic and dedication behind the scenes and it is clear that the team are as infatuated with the German as he is with them.
In fourth place is where Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg finished the race after a dismal weekend for the team. The championship leading team were on the back foot from the outset on Friday as they appeared significantly off the pace. Many, including Daniel Ricciardo, expected the Silver Arrows to turn it on for qualifying but that never materialized. Instead, Hamilton and Rosberg were summarily spanked and relegated to the third row of the grid.
As if to add insult to a serious lack of pace unreliability hit Lewis Hamilton as the Brit suffered his first retirement of the season. No one from Mercedes were willing to point out why they were suddenly lacking in pace but they almost certainly have a good idea of how their advantage abruptly evaporated.
It is uncanny how this ultra dominant team seem to not be as good when they aren’t making the running. A warning of overheated brakes came early on from the pitwall to Rosberg and then a mysterious technical failure for Hamilton. There will be much to ponder on in the next couple of days for Mercedes but don’t expect them not to roar back to life in Japan. They will.
The safety car probability around the Marina Bay Circuit remains 100% as it was deployed on two occasions in the race. First it was to collect the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg after he smashed into the side of Williams driver Felipe Massa. The incident, into turn one, was investigated by stewards and Hulkenberg was, rightfully, slapped with a three place grid drop at the next race.
The second safety car period came about as result of a man strolling on the circuit seemingly without a care in the world. It’s always a spine chilling sight to see anyone on the track in the middle of a grand prix. Thankfully, the man didn’t cause any problems before jumping over the wall and off the circuit.
Valtteri Bottas made the best of a difficult weekend for Williams with fifth place ahead of Daniil Kvyat. The Russian started in fourth place but an issue in the pits dropped him down the order. Force India’s Sergio Perez came home in an anonymous seventh ahead of the feisty Max Verstappen in eighth. The second Toro Rosso, driver by Carlos Sainz, finished in ninth but much to the chagrin of the team who had ordered Verstappen to swop position with teammate Sainz. The 17-year-old flat out refused the team order and maintained his position.
As the youngest ever F1 driver Verstappen as already proven that he has enormous potential and that he can stand up for himself. Team orders is always a divisive point on which people often disagree but Verstappen would’ve won some fans with this move. “When we put on our helmets we are rivals,” said Verstappen after the race.
Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr completed a solid drive for Sauber to snatch the final point on offer in tenth. Along with the retirements of Hamilton and Hulkenberg was Felipe Massa with a suspected gearbox issue. The two McLaren’s also had to end their respective races prematurely.
A notable mention goes to American driver Alexander Rossi who made his F1 debut this weekend for the Manor Marussia team. Rossi has agreed terms to drive five of the last seven races of the season and performed impressively to finish ahead of Will Stevens who has been with the team since the start of the season.
Not many would’ve thought that with six races to go in the 2015 season that a Ferrari driver could be in with a shout of taking the title. Yes, Singapore and its characteristics complimented the Ferrari but the engine upgrade introduced for Monza has made a telling impact. Yes, Vettel sits forty-nine points adrift of Hamilton and yes Mercedes won’t suddenly disappear from the top of the timing sheets each weekend. But this was a stunning reminder that Ferrari will ready and able to pounce on the smallest of slips.