Singapore GP: Ferrari pain, Hamilton gain

2017-09-20 06:00

IN 2008 Singapore became part of Formula 1 as the first night race on the calendar. Fast forward a decade and delivered another first by becoming F1’s first-ever night race in the rain.

As uncertainty ran rampant, the rain wasn’t enough to induce a safety-car start. Sebastian Vettel, after producing a scintillating lap on Saturday, lined up in pole position with Max Verstappen alongside.

The Singapore Grand Prix should’ve been one where Ferrari could inflict serious damage, in terms of points, on Mercedes given that Hamilton and Bottas were fifth and sixth respectively. But yet again Formula 1 has proved itself to be the most unpredictable sport in the world.

Both the front-row starters, Vettel and Verstappen, were solid if unspectacular off the start-line.

In contrast, the fourth-place starting Raikkonen hooked up his start perfectly and rocketed to the front. However, Vettel, in trying to cover his position swept across the track to block Verstappen not realising that Raikkonen was on the other side of the Dutchman.

It resulted in an enormous crash which brought an end to all three’s prospects and collected Fernando Alonso for good measure.

After the fact the crash was deemed a racing incident, and rightly so.

While many would cast Vettel as the villain for cutting across the circuit, this reasoning would be tenuous, at best.

Firstly, Vettel wouldn’t have known that Raikkonen had made an amazing start and was on the other side of Verstappen.

Some would argue too that Vettel shouldn’t have cut across the circuit in the manner that he did but consider the fact that any driver, in any conditions, in any race, would have done the same.

In fact, cast your mind back two weeks to Hamilton cutting across the track in Italy, in exactly the same manner, to cover the Williams of Lance Stroll.

Whatever your opinion on the incident, the one thing everyone would agree on is that it was a disastrous day for Vettel and Ferrari.

Where he was expected to take back the lead in the driver’s standings, Vettel leaves Singapore significantly on the back foot. Because through all the chaos Lewis Hamilton emerged in P1 and was never troubled on his way to the chequered flag.

The expectation that Daniel Ricciardo could take the fight to the Merc was nipped in the bud early on as the Aussie had to manage an oil leak from as early as lap 15.

Valtteri Bottas may have finished an uninspiring third but with it has ensured a more than 100-point lead for Mercedes in the constructor’s standings.

In fourth, Carlos Sainz delivered the drive of the day while Sergio Perez in the Force India snapped up fifth place. In sixth, and scoring his first points of the season, was Renault’s Jolyon Palmer who is to be replaced by Sainz in 2018. Stoffel Vandoorne was able to translate his good form to a seventh place finish for McLaren while Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten.

As Ferrari rue what might have been Hamilton’s victory, has gained him a 28-point lead in the driver’s standings with six races remaining. On such things do world championships turn.

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