Hamilton takes crucial victory to take 40 point lead: 2018 Singapore Grand Prix Review

Almost ten years after the Singapore Grand Prix made its maiden bow in 2008, the nighttime race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit did not disappoint with drama and twists that could have repercussions in the Championship battle and beyond.

Singapore had been a turning point last season when Sebastian Vettel crashed out 150 metres after the start with his teammate and Max Verstappen which allowed Lewis Hamilton to win from 6th. Hamilton gained momentum from there and his two previous victories to go on and secure his 4th title. Fast forward twelve months ad Hamilton smashed Vettel’s 2017 pole by almost three and a half seconds to put the unfancied Mercedes on pole.

On race day, Hamilton and Mercedes must have been wary of the threat from Vettel and Verstappen behind with their nearest title rival starting 3rd. Hamilton led from the start and Vettel found a way past Verstappen on the run down to turn five as he bided his time calmly. However, behind them, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon had made contact on the exit of turn two/three with the latter being sent into the wall. Ocon would be the only retirement from the race and the Safety car was out for the third successive race after an opening lap incident to maintain it’s 100% record in Singapore.

Lewis Hamilton led from the start in Singapore on his way to what could be a crucial victory. [Image from The Daily Mail].

From the restart, Hamilton seemed to be in control as he kept Vettel roughly a second behind and Verstappen was also in the battle. As Ferrari looked for a way to win the race, they pulled Vettel in lap 14 to try and force an undercut against Hamilton. They fitted the ultra-soft tyre but their plan was foiled as Vettel came out behind Perez on the circuit. That meant he wasn’t able to get the best out of the tyres and allowed Verstappen and Hamilton to pit and fit the more durable soft tyre on with the latter regaining 2nd through effectively overcutting Vettel. The challenge from the Ferrari man fell away as he needed to manage his tyres to the end. He came home in 3rd and despite coming across bad traffic with slower cars, Hamilton seemed to have enough in hand to win in Singapore for the 5th time and to extend his Championship lead to 40 points.

Behind Hamilton and Verstappen was Vettel in 3rd. Off the podium was Valtteri Bottas who did well to hold his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen behind on fresher tyres while Daniel Ricciardo finished a relatively distant 6th in the sister Red Bull. Fernando Alonso finished 7th and best of the rest as well as being the last driver to finish on the lead lap. His McLaren successor Carlos Sainz finished 8th with Charles Leclerc finishing 9th while Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top 10 finishing 10th as the only man outside the top 6 and starting in the top 10 to finish in the top 10.

Those who started in the top 10 starting on the hyper soft tyre were not as fortunate as the top 6 to be able to maintain position or stretch the tyres as far. Instead, the high wear on the tyre dropped Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean out of contention for points while the highest three drivers to go out in Q2 benefited from a fresh tyre choice to finish in the points.

Marcus Ericsson finished 11th for the third time this season followed by the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in 12th. Pierre gasly finished as the lead Toro Rosso in 13th and ahead of Lance Stroll in 14th. Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez capped off a disappointing race in 15th and 16th with Brendon Hartley finishing 17th. Kevin Magnussen and Sergey Sirotkin were the final two finishers; both two laps adrift though the former did take the fastest lap of the race and the lap record for that matter as well.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix results

Q1 1st Daniel Ricciardo 1:38.153……………15th Pierre Gasly 1;39.614
ELIMINATED: 16th Kevin Magnussen +0.030, 17th Brendon Hartley +0.195, 18th Stoffel Vandoorne +0.250, 19th Sergey Sirotkin +1.649, 20th Lance Stroll +1.720

Q2, 1st Kimi Raikkonen 1:37.194………….10th Esteban Ocon 1:38.534
ELIMINATED: 11th Fernando Alonso +0.107, 12th Carlos Sainz +0.182, 13th Charles Leclerc +0.213, 14th Marcus Ericsson +0.919, 15th Pierre Gasly +1.157

Q3, 1st Lewis Hamilton 1:36.015, 2nd Max Verstappen 0.319, 3rd Sebastian Vettel +0.613, 4th Valtteri Bottas +0.687, 5th Kimi Raikkonen 0.779, 6th Daniel Ricciardo +0.981, 7th Sergio Perez +1.970, 8th Romain Grosjean +2.305, 9th Esteban Ocon +2.350, 10th Nico Hulkenberg +2.573

Race Result
1st Lewis Hamilton 1:51:11.611, 2nd Max Verstappen +8.961, 3rd Sebastian Vettel +39.945, 4th Valtteri Bottas +51.930, 5th Kimi Raikkonen +53.001, 6th Daniel Ricciardo +53.982, 7th Fernando Alonso +103.11, 8th Carlos Sainz +1 lap, 9th Charles Leclerc +1 lap, 10th Nico Hulkenberg +1 lap, 11th Marcus Ericsson +1 lap, 12th Stoffel Vandoorne +1 lap, 13th Pierre Gasly +1 lap, 14th Lance Stroll +1 lap, 15th Romain Grosjean +1 lap, 16th Sergio Perez + 1 lap, 17th Brendon Hartley +1 lap, 18th Kevin Magnussen +2 laps, 19th Sergey Sirotkin +2 laps, Esteban Ocon DNF

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton 25, Max Verstappen 18, Sebastian Vettel 15, Valtteri Bottas 12, Kimi Raikkonen 10, Daniel Ricciardo 8, Fernando Alonso 6, Carlos Sainz 4, Charles Leclerc 2, Nico Hulkenberg 1

Constructors: Mercedes 37, Red Bull 26, Ferrari 25, McLaren 6, Renault 5, Sauber 2

2018 Singapore Grand Prix in stats

Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton

Difference to 2017 Pole: -3.476

Lap 1 leader: Lewis Hamilton

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton

Podium: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel

Constructors to score points: 5

Safety Car: 1

Cars finishing on the lead lap: 7

Cars finishing 1 lap down: 10

Cars finishing 2 laps down: 2

DNF’s: 1

DNS: 0

DSQ: 0

Lead changes: 5

Lap leaders: Lewis Hamilton 1-14, Max Verstappen 14-17, Kimi Raikkonen 18-21, Daniel Ricciardo 22-26, Lewis Hamilton 27-61

Fastest Race Lap: Kevin Magnussen 1:41.905* (Lap 50)

Difference to 2017 Fastest Lap: -3.098

Fans driver of the day: Max Verstappen

*new lap record

Team by Team Review.

Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton 1st, Valtteri Bottas 4th
Race Result: Lewis Hamilton 1st, Valtteri Bottas 4th
Drivers Points: Lewis Hamilton 25, Valtteri Bottas 12
Constructors Points: 37

If Mercedes had been offered the pole position and the race win before the Singapore Grand Prix weekend they would have snapped your hand off. The Marina Bay Street Circuit has not suited their car in recent years with Nikki Lauda last year saying they were ‘going to lose for sure’. The team were expecting a difficult weekend with Team Principal Toto Wolff commenting, ‘The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make the Marina Bay Street Circuit one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us’. While it looked like that would be the case again in 2018 in practice, they survived a scare in Q1 where both cars were perilously close to elimination and went on to secure pole position. Wolff described it as an ‘incredible, horrible session! Just a roller coaster of emotions from start to finish’. That was followed up by a masterclass in the race from Lewis Hamilton to deliver a win from pole on one of their bogey circuits which Wolff described as ‘a special feeling to come here and win this race on pace’. Indeed they did and after outscoring Ferrari again to boost their lead in the standings when they did not have necessarily the greatest car will be a big boost to the Brackley based team in securing a fifth consecutive double championship win.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in Singapore. [Image from formula1.com].

Lewis Hamilton started the weekend with a 30 point lead in the Driver’s Championship and it looked like that buffer would take a hit as he started the weekend 1.5 seconds off the pace. However, he brought himself into contention with his long run pace shown in second practice and in Qualifying opted to get through the opening session on the soft tyre. That nearly backfired with Hamilton finishing the session within two-tenths of a Q1 exit. From there though, he went from strength to strength and produced a stunning pole position lap in Q3 which Wolff described as ‘epic’. Hamilton described it as feeling ‘magical…one of the best if not the best lap I’ve ever done’. Overnight, the reigning champion worked on making sure his start is good and it paid off as he was well clear of Verstappen and Vettel’s duel in the opening few turns. After the Safety car restart, he was able to control the pace well, keeping the Ferrari roughly a second behind until he pitted on lap 15. Mercedes fitted the soft tyres onto Hamilton’s car and from there he regained the lead on lap 27. He did not look likely to lose it apart from when he was forced to defend deep from Verstappen when struggling to get past Grosjean and Sirotkin with Hamilton claiming post-race, ‘I always caught them at an unfortunate point’. However, apart from that scare, he was able to increase the lead to deliver his 6th victory of the season and stretch his championship advantage to 40 points.

Valtteri Bottas did nit have the greatest of weekends in Singapore but he was able to keep Kimi Raikkonen behind in the Ferrari to finish 4th. [Image from Race Fans.net].

Valtteri Bottas did not catch the same headlines that his teammate did in the Singapore night. The Finn did not have the same pace as Hamilton for much of the weekend going into Qualifying but if Mercedes paid the price with one of their cars for the gamble they took in Q1, Bottas would have progressed at Hamilton’s expense. After Q1 though, he still seemed nearer the pace but could not replicate it in Q3 when it mattered as he qualified 4th and nearly eight tenths adrift of Hamilton. After Q3, he bemoaned that, ‘the others could find big chunks in Q3 and I couldn’t, I just didn’t really feel the track improvement. Lewis put in a great lap, but seven-tenths is obviously a big gap’. In the end, that qualifying defined his race. Bottas held position at the start and pitted on lap 16 to change from his hypersoft tyres. He regained 4th when Raikkonen and Ricciardo pitted later in the race. From there, he held on to 4th despite having Raikkonen and Ricciardo close behind for large spells on fresher tyres. However, the fact he was not in contention for a podium will hurt Bottas who complained ‘There was not a whole lot happening in the race, I was hoping for more variables to come into play and shake the race up a little.’ However, he admitted, ‘I can’t be happy with P4, but a better result today was made very difficult by the qualifying result yesterday.

 Lewis Hamilton 10/10, Valtteri Bottas 6.5/10, Mercedes 9/10

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Qualifying: Max Verstappen 2nd, Daniel Ricciardo 6th
Race Result: max Verstappen 2nd, Daniel Ricciardo 6th
Drivers Points: Max Verstappen 18, Daniel Ricciardo 8
Constructors Points: 26

Red Bull arrived in Singapore in optimistic fashion. The twisty, slow corners of the Marina Bay Street Circuit typically favoured their car which is exemplified with Red Bull having the most podium finishes there in the 10 years of the event. Daniel Ricciardo was aiming for a victory in Singapore after finishing on the podium for four successive years while Max Verstappen could not be ruled out either who sensed ‘we have a real chance to have a good result here’. They started the weekend well with a 1-2 in opening practice but they could not keep up the pace. However, Verstappen did magnificently well to out-qualify Vettel to be on the front row which Team principal Christian Horner described as a ‘massive achievement’ but the sister Red Bull could only qualify 6th. In the race, it was a hard battle for the Red Bull drivers but after being outfoxed at the start, they managed to fight back and Verstappen was almost in a position to take the lead from Hamilton behind traffic. However, it was not to be as red Bull but Horner felt ‘Lewis always had a tenth or two in hand’. They did, however, get both cars to the finish for the first time since the French Grand Prix;…races and 4 months ago which Horner described as ‘encouraging’, as well as ‘our ninth consecutive podium in Singapore’.

Daniel Ricciardo was quickest in opening practice but that early pace did not convert into a podium finish as he started and finished 6th. [Image from BBC Sport].

Daniel Ricciardo had finished 2nd in Singapore for the past three years coming into the Grand Prix this year and he felt ‘it’s about time I win the damn thing’. It seemed to be going to plan for the Australian as he set the pace in the opening practice session but he seemed to be unable to match the rest of the top 6 when they found more time. Despite also going quickest in Q1, he could not find the pace again as Qualifying evolved and qualified 6th; almost a second adrift of pole position. Ricciardo described it as ‘a strange session’ as he expressed he had no ‘answers as to why that happened yet which is pretty frustrating. I honestly thought we had a really good chance of a front row and in the space of an hour we lost a second to our competitors’. Consequently, he had a rather uneventful race. He was unable to make any progress off the start and again after the safety car restart meaning he was still at the back end of the top 6 when it came to the start of the pit stop phase. Red Bull kept him out as long as possible and pitted the honey badger from the lead on lap 27. That put him back into 6th but on fresher tyres, it was hoped he could use that advantage to challenge for the podium. However, while he had been able to close up to the battle of the Finns for 4th and 5th while they were making their way through traffic, Ricciardo could not get close enough to trouble either. Describing it, he claimed he ‘could catch Kimi, I would stay close to him for a couple of laps and then I would have to back off.’. Ricciardo came home 6th in a disappointing result to a weekend that promised so much.

Max Verstappen did well to qualify 2nd ahead of Vettel and while the Ferrari man got ahead on the opening lap, it was Verstappen who had the last laugh effectively overcasting him to finish 2nd. [Image from formula1.com]

Max Verstappen shone in Singapore. While the Dutch driver started the weekend slower than his teammate, he was able to stay close with the honey badger through much of practice. After going within a whisker of being quickest in Q2, he was surely in contention for pole position. While his teammate struggled to find the pace, Verstappen put it all together to out-qualify Vettel and start on the front row. It was not enough for pole but still, it was enough for the man himself to describe it as ‘the best Qualifying session I’ve had in Formula 1’ having got onto the front row despite having ‘the odd false neutral’ and struggling with driveability issues. Twelve months ago he did not even get to turn 1 before his race was over. This year, he kept Vettel behind into turn 1 but the Ferrari found its way past before the safety car was called with Verstappen ‘unable to match his speed’. Despite being passed by Vettel, Verstappen was able to stick with Vettel and Hamilton after the restart and regained 2nd after effectively overcutting Vettel on lap 17 with the team putting him ‘on a great strategy and therefore managed to get me back into second place with a brilliant pit stop.’ He enjoyed that and even had a sniff of the lead as Hamilton struggled with traffic but did not want to take the risk and after that could not get close enough to take a second victory of the season. Overall though, it was a stellar and also mature performance from the youngster who also had to get past the driveability issues in the race.

 Daniel Ricciardo 6/10, Max Verstappen 9.5/10, Red Bull 7.5/10

Scuderia Ferrari
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel 3rd, Kimi Raikkonen 5th
Race Result: Sebastian Vettel 3rd, Kimi Raikkonen 5th
Drivers Points: Sebastian Vettel 15, Kimi Raikkonen 10
Constructors Points: 25

Coming into Singapore, Ferrari were considered the favourites to win the Grand Prix given the perceived weaknesses of Mercedes around the circuit. Indeed, the Scuderia were quicker than the silver arrows in all of the practice sessions and even secured a 1-2 in the final session. While the outright pace was there in Qualifying too with Raikkonen going quickest in Q2, it did not play out to Ferrari’s favour as neither car qualified on the front row. The team had a decent start which was much better than twelve months ago when the team’s race ended at turn 1. Vettel was up to 2nd and challenging for the win as anticipated but the strategy played out against them. Ferrari fitted Vettel with ultra-soft tyres to force an aggressive undercut against Hamilton but when the rest of the top 6 opted for the soft tyre, he had to manage them to the end. While twelve months ago, the now late Sergio Marchionne described Singapore as a disaster, this year Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene insisted that ‘Despite today’s result, not all is lost. Now, calmly and with determination, we will tackle the remaining six races, fighting all the way to the end’. The fight is still there from Ferrari but with them now 40 points adrift in the drivers and…adrift in the Constructors, there is still time for them to claw it back but it will need some effort.

Despite passing the Red Bull of Verstappen, an early pit stop and coming out behind Perez on track meant Verstappen was able to regain the position as Vettel finished 3rd at a race they were much fancied at. [Image from formula1.com].

Sebastian Vettel arrived in Singapore as the race favourite and 30 points adrift of Hamilton in the Drovers Championship even after hitting the wall in second practice was seen as just a hiccup. The German bounced back to top the final practice session but his challenged ebbed away in Qualifying as he went from 0.065 off the pace in Q1 to being over six tenths adrift in Q3. Vettel described his qualifying laps as ‘not ideal’ but was not phased by the gap. ‘partly because this is a very long track’. Still, he did not see third as a disaster and attacked from the start. The four-time champion had learnt from his lesson in Singapore twelve months ago and at least waited beyond turn 1 to go aggressive; making the move on Verstappen stick before the Safety car was deployed. After that, he was in prime position to attack for the win. After the restart, he played the patience game with Hamilton until Ferrari attempted an undercut by pitting their man on lap 14. It did not work out to plan as he emerged from the pit lane behind the Force India of Perez. That compromised him as when the tyres were at their freshest he could not push and Verstappen emerged ahead of him a couple of laps later. Ferrari had also fitted the ultra-soft tyre to the car while the top two had opted for the soft tyre. That meant Vettel had to nurse the tyres home as he finished a distant 3rd. Post-race, Vettel explained ‘I was happy and confident when I got the call to box, I knew I needed a mega out lap to try and challenge for the lead but it didn’t work…I fully support the team’s decision because…I can’t be aware of everything that goes on’.

Kimi Raikkonen showed glimpses of his raw pace in Singapore but yet again he was out-qualified by Vettel and finished further behind him in the race in a showing that might well parve Ferrari right to replace him for next season. [Image from FIA].

Fresh from the news he will not be retained by Ferrari for 2019, Kimi Raikkonen arrived in Singapore with somewhat of a point to prove. While the 2007 Champion was fairly consistent in his practice pace, it seemed he was well in the mix for pole position after going quickest in Q2. However, the Finn lost time in Q3 as he qualified 5th and over three-quarters of a second off pole as Raikkonen claimed, ‘we struggled to ‘switch on’ the tyres straight away and make them work as easily as it had been all weekend’. From 5th on the grid, Raikkonen held station at the start and was still 4th after the safety car restart. Ferrari tried to do something different with Raikkonen too as they split strategies. While Vettel pitted early, Raikkonen pitted on lap 23 as they stretched the hypersoft stint in the hope of another safety car. That did not happen and the stop brought him down to 6th but he was back to 5th after Ricciardo pitted a few laps later but even with the slightly fresher tyres than his compatriot which made for a thrilling end to the race. However, despite seeing that he could ‘see Bottas struggling with his front right tyre and locking it sometime’. he could not quite get close enough to make a move stick and finished 5th.

Sebastian Vettel 7.5/10, Kimi Raikkonen 6/10, Ferrari 7/10

Qualifying: Fernando Alonso 11th, Stoffel Vandoorne 18th
Race Result: Fernando Alonso 7th, Stoffel Vandoorne 12th
Drivers Points: Fernando Alonso 6, Stoffel Vandoorne 0
Constructors Points: 6

After a difficult doubleheader in Belgium and Italy in which they were the only Constructor not to score a single point, McLaren came into Singapore with their Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran feeling ‘optimistic that our package should perform better on this type of track’. While their 2019 line up has now been confirmed, on the track in Singapore it was the same 2018 narrative from their current drivers as Fernando Alonso outshone Stoffel Vandoorne with the Belgian still yet to out-qualify Alonso. Still, the Spaniard got into Q2 leaving them in a hopeful position for the race. With the grid positions, the team were feeling ‘good about our chances to score points in the race, not just because of our grid slots, but given our free tyre choice’. Alonso duly delivered as he got the car into the points in the race with 7th representing their best finish since Baku. De Ferran was more than happy with that result after ‘a very positive weekend. The car showed great pace in the race and our strategy team executed the job perfectly…At one point, we had the fastest lap of the race, which is a great reward for all the hard work that has been going on behind the scenes not only by everybody here trackside but also back at the factory.”

Fernando Alonso shone in Singapore for McLaren as he finished 7th in the race, their best result since Baku. [Image from Red Bull].

Two-time Singapore winner Fernando Alonso started the weekend rather slowly but his practice pace going into Qualifying suggested he would be able to challenge for the top 10 in Qualifying. Indeed, he was able to challenge but ultimately fell short by a tenth as he qualified 11th. That was his best Qualifying since… and a qualifying result Alonso declared as ‘good. We got back to our normal competitiveness and I’m happy about that’. From 11th on the grid, Alonso made a good start and was up to 9th when the Safety car was deployed. McLaren had started Alonso on the ultra soft tyre and as the first man down the grid with a free tyre choice, he was able to take the tyre to lap 36 before pitting and be in a prime position for points. That meant after the two Force India’s pitted after him, he was able to finish 7th and best of the rest behind the top six as well as being the last to finish on the lead lap. Alonso noted that in his post-race comments; ‘P7, behind the top six cars, is a small win for us.’ It is a shame given this performance from Alonso he won’t be in F1 next year but maybe after such a performance is not challenging further up the field is perhaps a reason behind the decision too.

Stoffel Vandoorne finished 12th in Singapore but his performance in relation to his teammate left much to be desired. [Image from formula1.com].

Fresh from the announcement he will not be racing for the team in 2019, Stoffel Vandoorne really needed a strong performance to try and show why he deserves to remain in F1. That did not really materialise in Singapore as he was around seven-tenths adrift of Alonso in the practice timesheets and then qualified a second slower than his teammate in Q1 after hitting ‘the wall about four times I think’ on his final run. The Belgian is still yet to out-qualify Alonso this season. The race was even more frustrating for Vandoorne. After getting passed Sirotkin off the line, he was 17th at the safety car restart. Vandoorne had climbed up to 10th on the road before he pitted for fresh tyres on lap 43 having started on the ultra-soft tyre. In the end, Vandoorne finished 12th. Post-race, Vandoorne felt he had ‘a decent race today considering not a lot of action happened during the race and there were no Safety Cars after the start’. Despite finishing 12th though, he was still more than a minute behind Alonso on the road in a result that will not have helped his chances for 2019.

Fernando Alonso 9/10, Stoffel Vandoorne 5/10, McLaren 7.5/10

Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg 10th, Carlos Sainz 12th
Race Result: Carlos Sainz 8th, Nico Hulkenberg 10th
Drivers Points: Carlos Sainz 4, Nico Hulkenberg 1
Constructors Points: 5

Renault arrived in Singapore with 4th place in the Constructors Championship intact following Grosjean’s disqualification in Italy. However, they were hoping to maintain and strengthen that position on track as Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul believed the circuit ‘should suit our package’. Both drivers enjoy the Singapore circuit with Sainz getting his best result for Toro Rosso there last year. The pace looked promising for Renault in practice as they were well into the top 10 but hopes of getting both cars into Q3 were dashed with Sainz dropping out in Q2. Hulkenberg qualified 10th in a result Sporting Director Alan Permane admitted ‘isn’t where we wanted to be after promising pace yesterday. The car is not quick enough on a track that should have played to our strengths’. After the slightly disappointing Qualifying, Renault recovered with what Abiteboul described as ‘a strong performance today and both drivers and the engineers on the pit wall delivered what was required’. Despite the drivers contrasting strategies, they both managed to finish in the points which were hailed as ‘a useful benefit to our battle in the Constructors Championship, as we know it will be very tight in the next six rounds’ while Abiteboul was also happy with Verstappen’s performance on the engine unit front.

Nico Hulkenberg had a better time in Singapore than in recent years but even then he was still disappointed as he came home 10th after a solid performance. [Image from RaceFans.net].

Nico Hulkenberg was marking his 150th Grand Prix weekend in Singapore, becoming the 36th driver to achieve that feat on the location where he took the record for most starts without a podium from Adrian Sutil last year. It is a record he does not deserve but stretches on. The signs were he was the man to get the most out of the Renault package judging by his practice pace as he outshone Sainz. The German maintained around a two tenth gap to his teammate in the timesheets and progressed into Q3 while Sainz did not. He qualified 10th which he described as ‘a little frustrating because we had the potential to be higher up on the grid…Seventh or eight was probably possible today’. Hulkenberg did not have an ideal start to the race as a slow getaway saw him passed by both Alonso and his teammate. With him starting on the hyper soft tyre that proved costly as he would be pitting before them and that defined his race position. Renault pitted the German on lap 15 which dropped him down to 18th. From there, he managed his ultrasoft tyres well and passed both Williams cars on track as he climbed his way back into the top 10. Post-race, the German again cut a disappointing figure as he felt ‘it could have been better’. While on the surface it looks a disappointing result for Hulkenberg and it is true it could have been more, he was the only driver to qualify in the top 10 (excluding the top 6) to finish in the points which is a testament to his ability and that mega second stint.

After being out-qualified by his teammate, Carlos Sainz used the option of a free tyre choice to finish 8th and ahead of Hulkenberg. [Image from fomrula1.com].

Carlos Sainz did not seem to have the same pace as Hulkenberg for large parts of the weekend with the McLaren bound Spaniard only getting the better of the German in second practice. That trend continued into Qualifying where he missed out on the top 10 by less than two tenths. Sainz qualified 12th which he described as ‘a disappointing result in the end as the car felt good in Q1 and little by little we lost grip from the rear tyres’. That did, however, mean he had a free tyre choice to start the race on and starting on the ultrasoft tyre, he used the extra grip to get past his teammate off the line. With the slightly more durable tyre, he could go longer into the race and Renault pitted him on lap 27. The stop brought him down to 10th but with the saubers in front yet to pit that all but guaranteed the points scoring finish as but he could not get close enough to his compatriot to finish any higher than 8th. Post-race, Sainz said, ‘Eighth isn’t bad for today, but I would have preferred to finish higher up the order…In general, I’m happy with today as we executed a good race’.

Nico Hulkenberg 7/10, Carlos Sainz 7.5/10, Renault 7.5/10.

Alfa Romeo Sauber
Qualifying: Charles Leclerc 13th, Marcus Ericsson 14th
Race Result: Charles Leclerc 9th, Marcus Ericsson 11th
Drivers Points: Charles Leclerc 2, Marcus Ericsson 0
Constructors Points: 2

As a team, Sauber were looking to bounce back from their horror show in Italy with a good result in Singapore. Ferrari bound Charles Leclerc had never raced at the Marina Bay Street Circuit before so it was a new experience for him while Marcus Ericsson reiterated the teams desire ‘to fight for a good result again’. While there were teething issues for their Monegasque driver, Sauber did manage to get both cars into Q2. From their qualifying positions for the race, the free tyre choice worked to their advantage as both drivers were battling for the top 10 positions but it was Leclerc who secured the points in 9th. All in all, Team Principal Frederic Vasseur was ‘satisfied with our result today. After a tricky start to the weekend, we recovered well and qualified in decent positions. Our strategy was good and both drivers gave a strong and consistent performance in a very demanding race.

Despite never racing in Singapore before, Charles Leclerc recovered from hitting the wall in practice to out-qualifying his teammate and finished in the points. [Image from formula1.com].

The fact Charles Leclerc had never driven the Marina Bay Circuit showed in practice as he had heavy contact with the wall after the Alexander Bridge in second practice. Despite that setback, he bounced back to out-qualify his teammate by seven-tenths despite being 19th in the final practice timesheets. That was good enough for 13th after what the driver described as ‘a positive day overall’. From 13th on the grid, he was passed by Gasly on the opening lap but maintained position with Ocon’s DNF. From the restart, Leclerc climbed to 8th before pitting on lap 38. Being able to go further into the race on the ultra soft allowed him to effectively overcut Hulkenberg but not get close enough to battle the other Renault of Sainz as he finished 9th having driven a race that ‘was quite close to being perfect’.

Marcus Ericsson put in a decent performance in the Sauber as he finished just short of the points but was out performed by his teammate. [Image from Sky Sports].

Marcus Ericsson will rue not being able to make his experience of the Singapore circuit count against his teammate. The Swede was quicker than Leclerc in two of the three practice sessions but as soon as it came to his Achilles heel (Qualifying) he was never a match for him. Still, he managed to get the car in Q2 and qualified right behind him. Despite feeling ‘good in the car, but couldn’t seem to improve enough to make it to Q3’, he was still a rather embarrassing seven tenths slower. That defined his race almost as both Saubers were passed by gasly off the line as he trailed his teammate for the duration of the race. Sauber kept him out longer than Leclerc and pitted him on lap 44. That brought him out behind the Renault of Hulkenberg and despite having much fresher tyres he was unable to challenge the Renault due to the blue flags as he said post-race, ‘could not fight for P10 anymore after coming back out onto the track behind the leading cars following our pitstop’. Ericsson, he finished 11th for the third time this season.

 Charles Leclerc 9/10, Marcus Ericsson 6/10, Sauber 7/10

Scuderia Toro Rosso
Qualifying: Pierre Gasly 15th, Brendon Hartley 17th
Race Result: Pierre Gasly 13th, Brendon Hartley 17th
Drivers Points: Pierre Gasly 0, Brendon Hartley 0
Constructors Points: 0

Toro Rosso arrived in Singapore off the back of a difficult weekend in Italy but were optimistic of a good showing after Carlos Sainz finished 4th there last year. Neither of their two drivers had raced in Singapore before but they were looking forward to the challenge with Pierre Gasly saying, ‘I can see it’s the sort of circuit I like, where you can get into a rhythm with a lot of corners’ while adding it ‘is one of my favourite tracks to drive on the video games’ as the team felt it was an opportunity to do well. However, it turned into another difficult weekend for Toro Rosso who lost one car in Q1 and the other in Q2 despite the latter having issues in the car. It was a result Head of Vehicle Performance, Guillaume Dezoteux expressed some disappointment as ‘We were definitely expecting something more from the Qualifying session here in Singapore’. For the race, the team went aggressive from the start but having started both of their drivers on the hypersoft tyre they just did not have the pace to challenge for the top 10 which was the assessment of team Principal Franz Tost who spoke post-race, ‘We were quite optimistic about arriving in Singapore that we could score some points because we have been quite competitive here in previous years. However, we didn’t show the pace required to finish inside the top 10′.

Pierre Gasly got as much out of the Toro Rosso package as he could but that was only good enough for 13th as Toro Rosso did not have the pace they expected. [Image from formula1.com].

Pierre Gasly could turn his head away from the video game experience and eventually drive the real thing and it seemed he enjoyed the circuit more than Hartley in the practice sessions. While Toro Rosso struggled for pace in Friday Practice, the pace gasly had in the final practice session made them feel they could challenge for the top 10. That challenge did not materialise as the French driver struggled with issues with rear stability to get through to Q2 but 0.030 seconds. After Qualifying, Gasly said, ‘Today was a bit better but there wasn’t much we could do to compete with the other teams for Q3’. That is where his qualifying ended as he finished 15th. Starting on the hypersoft tyres, he used the extra grip to pass both saubers off the line and was 12th when the Safety car was called. Gasly was able to run as high as 9th as he stretched the stint to lap 26. His pit stop though dropped him down to 18th and into traffic with his teammate who had yet to pit and the Williams pair. He managed to make his way by all three as he finished 13th. Describing his race, Gasly felt the gamble to start on the hypersoft ‘was much more difficult than we thought and I really struggled to make them last at the end of the stint’ and lamented blue flags for losing him time.

Brendon Hartley struggled in Singapore as 17th was the number that defined his weekend. [Image from formula1.com].

For Brendon Hartley, the number in Singapore seemed to be 17th. The New Zealander finished each of the practice sessions 17th in the timesheets before he qualified, guess where? 17th. It was a disappointing outcome to a day that promised more. Post-Qualifying, Hartley felt, ‘It was pretty close to Q2; I had some traffic in my first run, my second run was clean but I made a couple of small mistakes in the middle sector which cost me time.’ In the race, Hartley kept himself out of trouble at the start and was 16th when the safety car came out. When it returned to the pit lane, Hartley could not take the hypersoft tyre as far as his teammate and pitted as early as lap 14. Toro Rosso put the Kiwi on to the ultrasoft tyre and in his second stint he enjoyed a good fight with the Haas of Magnussen before he was forced to pit again on lap 36. He had been unable to pass Magnussen and the team attempted to undercut the yet to pit Haas which paid off as he made his way past but conceded 16th to Perez two laps from the end. Post-race, Hartley did not feel the strategy played into their hands especially the first stop as ‘We changed to the Ultrasoft and a lot of people covered us which put us back in traffic, so it didn’t really work out.

 Pierre Gasly 6/10, Brendon Hartley 5/10, Toro Rosso 5.5/10

Qualifying: Sergey Sirotkin 19th, Lance Stroll 20th
Race Result: Lance Stroll 14th, Sergey Sirotkin 19th
Drivers Points: Lance Stroll 0, Sergey Sirotkin 0
Constructors Points: 0

Williams arrived in Singapore in high spirits off the back of their first double points finish of the season. Though as Chief Technical officer, Paddy Lowe admitted, ‘whilst it would have been great to have secured the result on track’ he insisted ‘both drivers deserved those points, and it was great for Sergey to achieve his first of what we hope are many Formula One championship points’. Both the drivers were looking forward to the challenge of Singapore, however, the team as a whole struggled for pace throughout the weekend meaning that challenge was perhaps not an enjoyable one. They were off the pace and naturally propped up the field in Qualifying with the back row to themselves which Lowe explained, ‘The cars are inconsistent and very unstable for the drivers, which doesn’t allow them to push consistently to the limit’. The race saw a slight improvement as strategy propelled Stroll up the grid but only as far as 14th while Sergey Sirotkin had a very eventful, hard thought race but was last of the finishers in 19th. While the result was not so good for Williams, Lowe looked on the positives as they got ‘another two cars home in a very tough race’ and praised the drivers for ‘driving at the maximum for nearly two hours and got the best they could from the car.

Lance Stroll had a long weekend in the Williams that lacked pace but managed to bring the car home in 14th. [Image from formula1.com].

Lance Stroll’s future has still to be rubber-stamped with the speculation linking him to Force India and the performance in Singapore should perhaps be a slight concern to the Silverstone outfit. While it seemed the Canadian was getting the best out of the disappointing Williams in Friday practice, he propped up the timesheets in Saturday Practice and that followed into Q1 where he finished 0.070 seconds adrift of Sirotkin. Judging by his post-qualifying comments he was not looking forward to the race; ‘Looking at the timesheets today, tomorrow is likely to be a misery, but perhaps some rain could help.’ Starting from the back, Williams went with a totally different strategy compared to the rest of the grid with Stroll. Starting on the soft tyres, he did not have the characteristic lighting start we have come accustomed to from the Canadian. However, he had climbed up to 12th before Hulkenberg passed him on lap 38, two laps before pitting on lap 40. With fresher tyres for a shorter final stint, he was unable to get past the Toro Rosso of Gasly as he finished 14th as a result of Grosjean’s penalty. Stroll was happy with 14th which he hailed as ‘a great result for the pace we had yesterday, and throughout the weekend.

After first picking up debris on his front wing and having to pit early, Sergey Sirotkin had a long afternoon despite battling hard and picked up a penalty for his troubles after sending Hartley wide. [Image from formula1.com].

Sergey Sirotkin had an entertaining weekend in Singapore. Although he struggled for pace in Friday practice he bounced back to out-qualify his teammate. That was still only worth 19th on the grid as he described the mindset post-session as ‘The way we have to approach each lap is to try and finish with as little damage and losses rather than attacking as a qualifying lap’. Despite out-qualifying Stroll which can be his only barometer of success in the struggling Williams, he was disappointed with the result. However, the race did not go to plan for Sirotkin either as he described it as ‘a fight’. He was unfortunate to catch a piece of Ocon’s wheel trim from the lap 1 incident on his front wing which forced the team to pit him behind the safety car. Williams attempted to turn this to their advantage by fitting the soft tyre and taking that to the end. The Russian battled hard with Perez before the Mexican seemingly turned into him on lap 33 which ‘caused a lot of damage to my car and after that, it was more about survival’. Several laps later, he too was penalised for forcing Hartley off the track at turn 14. The five-second penalty contributed to the Williams finishing 19th and last of the finishers. Despite the low finish, Sirotkin believes he ‘gave everything in terms of myself and with the car to bring the best performance home’. His effort and battling nature cannot be doubted off the back of this performance with the car ‘falling apart’, that is true. However, with reference to the incident with Hartley, he should perhaps pick and choose his battles more wisely.

Lance Stroll 6.5/10, Sergey Sirotkin 6.5/10, Williams 6.5/10.

Qualifying: Romain Grosjean 8th, Kevin Magnussen 16th
Race Result: Romain Grosjean 15th, Kevin Magnussen 18th
Drivers Points: 0
Constructors Points: 0

After the disappointment of having 6th taken away from them by the stewards at Monza, Haas looked at Singapore to bounce back. Team Principal Gunther Steiner was ‘confident we’ll have a good result in Singapore’. Both drivers agreed with Steiner’s assessment with them aiming to be the front of the midfield pack at the Marina Bay Circuit. As the weekend progressed, Romain Grosjean was able to deliver that level of pace consistently as he got the car into Q3 before qualifying 8th while Kevin Magnussen struggled for pace throughout. It was a ‘case of mixed feelings’ for Steiner who was looking forward to the race with optimism. However, the end result in the race though was disastrous as they failed to finish in the top 10 as Renault spread the gap in the Constructors Championship battle for 4th by a further five points. Both Steiner and Grosjean lamented the tyre selection by Pirelli with the former saying, ‘If you have to start on these tyres, and the other ones are so much superior, if you qualify outside of the top 10, you have such an advantage, which you cannot make up in the race.

Romain Grosjean qualified in the top 10 but complained about the difference in the tyre compounds as he later had the blue mist. [Image from Autosport].

Romain Grosjean had driven magnificently in Italy to have the 6th place finish and 8 points taken away from him. While the appeal is yet to be heard, the French driver did not seem to let it get to him as he was in the top 10 throughout the practice sessions and into Qualifying. While his teammate had been unable to get out of Q1, Grosjean got into Q3 and qualified 8th though he was slightly disappointed with his final effort. In the race, he was on the inside of the turn 1 incident between the Force Indias and was still 8th after the safety car restart behind Perez. Having set hisQ2 time on the hypersoft tyre, Haas had to pit Grosjean on lap 16 and the relatively early stop dropped the French driver down to 18th. That meant he was behind the Williams pair and although he had the pace advantage, he struggled t get past Sirotkin. This became a talking point in the race as he received a five-second time penalty for impeding the race leader when he came through to lap them by continuing his on-track battle with the Russian for too long. Consequently, although he finished 13th on the road, the five-second penalty meant he finished 15th in the final classification. Post-race, the French driver was subject of much discussion for the blue flag situation which he apologized for but his attention was with the tyres; ‘Maybe we need to think about that a little bit because I felt like I pushed really hard in qualifying and in the race every single lap. I did the best I could but, in the end, I had no chance of being in the top 10.

Kevin Magnussen had a difficult weekend in Singapore as he was out-qualified by his teammate, had to it three times in the race and finished two laps adrift of the leaders but he still came out with the lap record. [Image from Haas F1 Team].

Kevin Magnussen had a relatively difficult weekend in Singapore from start to finish as he was at worst almost 8 tenths of a second adrift of his teammate’s pace. In Q1, the difference was nine-tenths as the Danish driver fell out of Qualifying at the first hurdle by 0.030 seconds. While the pace had been lacking all weekend, he was explained, ‘It’s really strange. I don’t really have any answers as to why I’m suddenly a second off the pace.’ Starting that far back, Haas started Magnussen on the ultrasoft tyre in a bid to go long on the opening stint. He was able to take the tyres to lap 26 before pitting but something did not feel right when they put the soft tyre on. The tyre should have lasted far more than the 10 laps Magnussen did on them before pitting again on lap 36 and it was made worse as was the only man to require a third pit stop. That tyre change on lap 48 for the hypersoft tyre though did allow Magnussen to take a first ever fastest lap of the race for Haas. That said, the three stops though meant he finished 18th on the road and two laps adrift in a poor result. Post-race, Magnussen summarised it well, ‘It was a long day at the office…I guess a slight highlight was getting the track record. It’s not really worth anything but perhaps a smile.’

 Romain Grosjean 4.5/10, Kevin Magnussen 4.5/10, Haas 5/10

Racing Point Force India
Qualifying: Sergio Perez 7th, Esteban Ocon 9th
Race Result: Sergio Perez 16th, Esteban Ocon DNF
Drivers Points: Sergio Perez 0, Esteban Ocon 0
Constructors Points: 0

After the team entered administration and came back out, the new Racing Point Force India had a stellar start collecting 32 points in their first two race weekends. They were looking forward to continuing the pace they had in Belgium and Italy with the team bringing a few upgrades to Singapore which Esteban Ocon was looking ‘forward to testing it on Friday’. Sergio Perez had scored in each of his seven previous visits to Singapore so they looked set for a good weekend. After a difficult Friday practice in which the update did not seem to work so well, they delivered in Qualifying as they got both cars into Q3 with Perez qualifying 7th and ‘best of the rest’. It looked promising going into the race but it turned out to be a disaster. Perez and Esteban Ocon collided at turn 2 with the latter retiring from the race and Perez had a few more adventures later on as he finished a highly disappointing 16th. Team principal Otmar Szafneaur was not impressed stating ‘It’s unacceptable for teammates to hit each other and it has cost us dearly’ and while he did not want to attribute blame he declared, ‘We will, therefore, reinstate the rules of engagement we operated last year after similar incidents, which means they cannot race each other.’ The repercussions of which could be huge further down the line…

Sergio Perez had a frustrating race in Singapore but did have an impact on proceedings at the front as he was able to keep Vettel behind him while the Ferrari man was on his crucial out lap. [Image from RaceFans.net].

Sergio Perez was looking for an 8th successive points finish in Singapore and while his pace in practice was short of the top 10, he was still in contention ahead of his teammate. However, on Saturday the team had found a bit more pace and from there on the Mexican did not look back as he got into the top 10 by just under three tenths. He qualified 7th and ‘best of the rest’ in Q3; a result he described as ‘incredible’ having ‘produced a nearly perfect lap on a track where it is hard to achieve it’. The race though would be more eventful for Perez. From the race start, at turn 2 he made contact with his teammate on the outside sending him into the wall. Speaking of the incident post-race, Perez claimed he could not see nor knew it was Ocon but that is debatable [more on that later]. The Mexican retained 7th and was able to have an impact on the race by holding Vettel behind him on the Germans crucial out-lap before he himself pitted on lap 17. The stop brought him out behind the Williams of Sirotkin and the fierce battle between the pair ended on lap 33 when Perez appeared to sweep left into him before turn 18. Perez accused him of moving under braking and ‘When I finally got alongside him, I tried to close the door a bit too early and we made contact.’ The contact gave him a puncture and five second time penalty from the stewards. However, he still managed to recover to finish ahead of the Russian in 16th. That is needless to say it was ‘a weekend to forget’ for Perez.

Esteban Ocon’s race ended in the wall after contact with his teammate on the opening lap. [Image from formula1.com].

Much has been said on the future of Esteban Ocon in the paddock during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend with speculation over his F1 future [again, more on that later] and he really needed to deliver a result. While he struggled with the car in Friday practice more than his teammate, Ocon was quicker than the Mexican going into Qualifying. The French driver could not maintain that as he snook into the top 10 but qualified behind Perez in 9th. Now, Ocon needed a strong race. The French driver had a strong start and was alongside his teammate going into turn 2. However, that is where his race came to an abrupt end as the pair collided and Ocon’s car went into the wall. That was his race over and he was right to call it ‘a huge disappointment to be out fo the race early when we had such strong pace’ post-race. The Frenchman described the incident, ‘I got off the line well and I saw an opportunity to go past Sergio. I had good grip on the outside, but then I felt a hit and I was in the wall’. Hopefully, it will not be the defining moment to cut his F1 career short.

 Sergio Perez 4/10, Esteban Ocon 5/10, Force India 5/10

Talking Points from Singapore.

In this post, there are two talking points I want to discuss with a third one being addressed in my next post which will preview the race in Russia. Both of these points focus on Esteban Ocon with the first being his F1 future and the second being his DNF after contact with his teammate.
Esteban Ocon and 2019

The French drivers future in F1 has been in doubt now for the past few weeks but things came to the fore in Singapore with some explosive comments from Mercedes CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff. The Austrian said;

In July, (Ocon) had two offers on the table with contracts and it was just a case of choosing the right one and he ended up not having any any more because people just simply don’t have the balls to stick to what they say. But it is no problem, we have to sort it out with Esteban. He is a strong guy, he has been through difficult moments in his career and we will fix this one as well.

It is believed these comments and the ‘two offers’ referred concern, Renault and McLaren. Before they made their respective driver announcements, Ocon was thought to have been in contention at both teams. However, Renault signed Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull and retained Nico Hulkenberg while McLaren then announced the signing of Carlos Sainz having been released from his Red Bull deal and will partner the promoted Lando Norris in 2019.

Ocon’s situation at Force India or should I now say Racing Point Force India is precarious. With Lawrence Stroll being behind the consortium that brought the team out of administration it is expected that he will bring his son Lance from Williams to drive one of the cars next season. That has yet to be confirmed but comments from the driver in Italy suggest it is going to happen. After qualifying 3rd in Belgium he reportedly had the following conversation with Sebastian Vettel:

Vettel: Next year? Still nothing?
Ocon: No.
Vettel: Will you be here [at Force India]? No?
Ocon: No, no. The seat is taken.
Vettel: Oh yeah? Who?
Ocon: Have a guess – the one who bought it!
Vettel: Yes, but the other one?
Ocon: Well, the other one [Sergio Perez] brings money.

Esteban Ocon reportedly told Sebastian Vettel ‘the one who bought it’ will have his seat at Force India in 2019. [Image from planetf1.com].

Unfortunately, it seems to be a case of when and not if it happens. That leaves Ocon and Sergio Perez to battle it out for the remaining seat with the Frenchman expecting the Mexican to remain at the team and leaving him looking for a seat. There is slightly more to this dynamic later…

Wolff’s Red Bull counterpart, Christian Horner has suggested that Mercedes need to let Ocon go from their programme in order to keep him on the grid. Horner said,I am sure if Toto [Wolff] writes a cheque I am sure he could get a seat at Williams. There are three super talented kids, and two very strong ones I think in [Esteban] Ocon, it would be great to see him stay in Formula 1, and George Russell. Toto might have to cut them free at the end of the day. It would be a shame to see those guys not get a Formula 1 seat just because of who they’re contracted to. However, that is something Wolff is not in the mood for entertaining as he added in Singapore, ‘Not in a million years because one day he is going to be in a Mercedes and win races and championships and show all the others out there that they made a mistake.

Coincidentally, Pascal Werhlein will not be the reserve driver at Mercedes next season having cut his ties in the lead up to Singapore. The German had a good spell in F1 before the politics of Ferrari at Sauber and Ericsson’s financial backing saw Charles Leclerc replace him this season. He has since been linked with a drive for Toro Rosso for next season; the same drive Horner would naturally not give to Ocon.

Mercedes do have Williams as a customer team for their engines. If they wished, they could ensure Ocon gets the seat that theoretically, Stroll will vacate. However, Willaims are thought to be reluctant to take on a Mercedes driver. Though as Horner said, Wolff would only need to write them a big enough to cheque to guarantee the seat. It all becomes baffling as to how Ocon being a Mercedes Development Driver and coming through their set up while the Ferrari equivalent is bearing fruit in Leclerc that the Mercedes one just isn’t keeping drivers in F1. As Ocon said himself in Singapore…

What should be taken into account is the results and the work the driver puts in, and the efforts he puts in to perform. Those extra things [i.e. his Mercedes connections] should not be taken into account. That’s why I’m a bit disappointed with how things have turned out.

It will be a poor day for Formula One if Esteban Ocon is not on the grid in 2019. While I questioned his ability when Force India took him on initially for the 2017 season, he has more than proved his worth and ability to the team. The French driver delivered his own brand of consistency; oconsistency as he finished all but one race last season; 18 of those finishes in the points. This is a man in my view, belongs on the F1 field and the fact that money and politics between the teams could see another driver off the field sickens me.

Lewis Hamilton has jumped to the defence of Ocon as well. If Ocon is not in F1 next year then it has other repercussions for Mercedes. Another one of their development drivers; George Russell is currently leading the F2 Championship and knocking on the door of F1. Meanwhile, his rival in that Championship, Lando Norris has a seat secured at McLaren for next year.

It is still plausible despite the driver’s opinion himself, that he could stay at Force India and partner Stroll. That would mean Perez leaving the team and with the sponsorship money he brings would be guaranteed a seat somewhere. That is where a theory of mine would come into play. As Mark Hughes argued on Sky Sports, his performance in Singapore could cost the Mexican his drive at Force India…

Sergio Perez in Singapore…

The opening lap of the race in Singapore saw the Force India drivers of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon make contact at turn two. The contact sent Ocon into the wall and while Perez continued his race was littered with other more aggressive moments. In the aftermath of the race, the drivers explained what happened…

Sergio Perez,On lap one I was coming out of turn three, picking up the power and all of a sudden I felt a hit. I didn’t know who it was and then the team told me it was Esteban’.

Esteban Ocon, ‘I am not going to analyse what happened at the start. All I will say is that I got off the line well and I saw an opportunity to go past Sergio. I had good grip on the outside, but then I felt a hit and I was in the wall.’

The two Force India drivers collide in Singapore. [Image from Sky Sports].

The team were not impressed and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer had this to say, ‘It’s unacceptable for teammates to hit each other and it has cost us dearly. They didn’t leave each other enough room and the contact put Esteban into the wall. We will, therefore, reinstate the rules of engagement we operated last year after similar incidents, which means they cannot race each other’.

It is clear the team did not want to attribute blame to either one driver but instead hold them both accountable for the contact. That was also the view the stewards took with them viewing the contact as a racing incident. However, after looking at the onboard footage, Anthony Davidson on Sky Sports F1 argued otherwise.

It does raise the question, was it an oversteer or deliberate turn to the right? Only Sergio Perez himself knows the answer to that question and even if it was deliberate, he is not likely to admit that publically is he? However, that argument does take on some credibility when put into context with the incident he later in the race with Sergey Sirotkin.

Sergio Perez turned into Sergey Sirotkin. [Image from GPfans.com].

After battling with the Russian for 15 laps after coming out of his pit stop on lap 18 behind the Russian, Perez looked to have eventually found a way past the Williams driver on the exit of turn 17. Then, on the same stretch of circuit Nelson Piquet Jnr deliberately crashed at ten years ago, he seemingly swiped across the Williams car. The drivers both had their say after the race. Perez claimed it was accidental and criticised Sirotkin for moving under braking which is not allowed in F1 while the Russian did not want to get too drawn on the contact that severely impacted on his race.

Sergio Perez,I think we underestimated how difficult it would be to overtake the Williams and Sirotkin was defending very hard and moving around under braking. When I finally got alongside him, I tried to close the door a bit too early and we made contact.’

Sergey Sirotkin, ‘We were in a good position at the beginning of the race, and up to the point of contact with the Force India car. This caused a lot of damage to my car and after that, it was more about survival.’

Paddy Lowe,Sergey did a fantastic job, managing the tyre and his pace, keeping traffic behind him under a lot of pressure. He ultimately got caught up in an impact with Perez, and that ruined his race otherwise he could have been looking at quite a good finishing position.’

Perez picked up a puncture and a five second time penalty from the stewards for his trouble. Personally, the five second time penalty is a bit of a joke. A driver of the calibre, ability and experience of Perez would surely know where the guy he is racing is. Also, looking at his comments of closing ‘the door a bit too early’, a bit? That is miles too early. He is nowhere near the turn. There is absolutely no need to turn in sharply there other than to deliberately cause a collision. It was a weekend to forget for Perez but that should have been more than a five second time penalty and potentially could even have been a black flag for dangerous driving as there is no need for it.

While he finished ahead of Sirotkin, he failed to score points and as Hughes argued, it could put his F1 future in doubt. His argument follows that with Lawrence Stroll promising funding for the team, their need to rely on the sponsorship money Perez brings will no longer be as crucial to the survival of the Silverstone based team as it was under the previous regime. Now, if you’re Lawrence Stroll and you put your son in the car, do you want a driver likely to crash into his teammate and your son if he tries to get ahead? That is where the Ocon incident, in particular, could go against the Mexican and into the French driver’s favour.

It is not like Perez would find it difficult to find a seat elsewhere. While Williams do not want to take on a Mercedes development driver if they can help it if Sergio Perez were to become available would they be able to refuse him? While Sirotkin won the seat against Robert Kubica on merit, the potential return of the Polish driver would be popular with the fans, With the Russians future still up in the air as well, could Perez head to Williams to partner Kubica or Sirotkin next term and provide the Grove team with a financial boost to go with it? Time will tell, but that is my theory at present.

Championship standings after Singapore…

Drivers Championship after the Singapore Grand Prix. [Image from BBC Sport].

After the action in the Singapore night, Lewis Hamilton left with an enhanced lead in the driver’s championship having expected to take a hit. The reigning champion leads his nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by 40 points; 281 points to 241. It is the largest points advantage he has held since last year when he won the title and it could prove to be a big weekend in the destiny of the championship. Behind them in the standings is their respective Finnish teammates as Kimi Raikkonen sitting 3rd with 174 points to Bottas on 171. Max Verstappen now enjoys a 22 point advantage over Ricciardo in the standings in 5th after he finished 2nd in Singapore. Nico Hulkenberg remains best of the rest in the standings in 7th while courtesy of him finishing 7th in Singapore, Fernando Alonso is now in the top 10 with 50 points. That top 10 is rounded off by Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez with Esteban Ocon 11th and one point adrift off his teammate. After finishing 9th, Charles Leclerc is now on 15 points in 15th while the bottom of the standings is unchanged.

Constructors Championship after Singapore. [Image from BBC Sport].

In the Constructors Championship, Mercedes now enjoy a 37 point advantage over Ferrari as they look to make it a fifth successive championship success. The Silver Arrows have 452 points to the Scuderia’s 415. Red Bull are a comfortably 3rd on 274 points while Renault has built a bit of a gap in the battle for 4th. They have 91 points and lead Haas by 18 points. McLaren now has 58 points in 6th while Sauber now have 21 points in 9th. They are now nine points behind Toro Rosso and having scored points in two of the past three races, could they surpass the Red Bull junior team? Williams remain bottom of the standings with 7 points.

Next time…

After the night of Singapore, it is another European race. While the traditional European part of the Championship ended at Monza; there is still the race in Sochi. That still counts as Europe as it is the turn of the Russian Grand Prix which was moved to the last weekend of September slot so the country could focus on hosting the FIFA World Cup in the summer. That is the first leg of another doubleheader as the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka takes place the following weekend as the title race heats up further…

It’s Sochi next for the Russian Grand Prix. [Image from Sky Sports].

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