Formula 1

Rosberg Wins Singapore Thriller

Nico Rosberg has won the Singapore Grand Prix to take back the championship lead after a climatic end to the race around the Marina Bay Circuit under the floodlights.

The Mercedes driver remained calm during the near two hour long race in the sweltering conditions to take victory by just over four tenths of a second from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg’s third win since the summer break means he now has an eight point advantage over his team mate and closest championship rival Lewis Hamilton, with just six races remaining and the momentum well and truly behind him. Both Rosberg and Hamilton were hindered by brake issues during the opening third of the race. Though Rosberg was still able to pull out a significant lead over Ricciardo before the las round of stops.

Ricciardo had to settle for 2nd today after a stunning final stint brought him to just over four tenths of second from the win, while Hamilton trailed home in 3rd on what he described as a “bad weekend.” The race could have played out oh so differently though if Hamilton didn’t switch to a three stop strategy on lap 45 of the race. With Rosberg comfortably in front, Mercedes turned their attention to Hamilton, who was still locked in a fight for the final podium position with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. His pit stop and change onto the supersoft tyres trigger a chain reaction Steps could be proud of, as Raikkonen came in after a lot of dithering from Ferrari on lap 46. However the result was the undercut worked and Hamilton was now 3rd.

Ironically, it was Hamilton’s stop which triggered Ricciardo’s unexpected switch to supersoft tyres and nearly cost Mercedes the victory. By pitting Hamilton and assuring him the last podium position with the undercut, Mercedes opened the door for Red Bull to go for a similarly aggressive strategy with Ricciardo. Thanks to the pit stops there was a guarantee their driver would finish no lower than 3rd. As a result the team pitted the Australian on lap 47, switching him onto fresh supersoft tyres for him to hunt down and attack Rosberg with. Rosberg would have followed Ricciardo in but after a lap caught in traffic Mercedes opted for the German to remain out and hope Ricciardo wasn’t able to overtake round the twisty street circuit. Ultimately they were right to leave Rosberg out as Ricciardo wasn’t able to overtake with the laps remaining.

“It was so close at the end, how it should be in Formula 1,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said after the race. “Four really great cars, different strategies and I must take my hat off to Red Bull with strategy by pitting him, we couldn’t do that.”

Raikkonen had to settle for 4th in the end behind Hamilton, after arguably another Ferrari strategy blunder. The team seemed to panic and dither about over whether to pit Raikkonen the lap after Hamilton, with the Finn only getting the call to pit in the final sector. Had he not pitted, Raikkonen would have been in a similar situation to Rosberg, on old soft tyres but 25 seconds up the road from Hamilton. Raikkonen was lapping in a similar lap time to Rosberg prior to the stops, so arguably Raikkonen could have stayed out and might have finished the race in 3rd thought it would have been pretty marginal like it was with Ricciardo and Rosberg.

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said, “To be 100 per cent sure you have to look at the data. I think it was the right decision to take because at that point keeping the soft, it had huge degradation. If you think about the opposite, having huge degradation and Mercedes attacking us, it would have been crazy. So we took a decision looking at our data. Now what we have to do is verify if our data was right.”

The second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel finished in 5th after a titanic fight back through the field from his 22nd grid position. Vettel treated us to a masterclass in overtaking as he cut his way through the field, culminating in a double overtake of Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. The result means that Vettel has never failed to finish outside of the top 5 in Singapore. Meanwhile it was a less than stellar drive from Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver struggled off the line with a very tardy start, before eventually having to do battle with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. The result was Kvyat finally getting a chance to deliver some sweet, sweet vengeance on the driver who usurped him at Red Bull. It was only after the second round of stops Verstappen was able to pass him and from then on in had a quiet race.

Behind Verstappen was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who finished the race 7th after another bold drive from the Spaniard. Showing us all he still has it. Perez finished 8th for Force India, and since the Williams failed to score a point this weekend, Force India once again are 4th in the constructors championship by a single point. Behind Perez in 9th and 10th were Kvyat, and the Renault of Kevin Magnussen, in what should be seen as drives for their careers right now. Both were able to earn points for their respective teams which can only add to the attractiveness of them right now.

The race started out in dramatic fashion for the Haas of Romain Grosjean, who suffered a break by wire fault on the way to the grid and as a result was not able to even start the race. Though as soon as the lights went out Nico Hulkenberg managed 20 meters before he crashed off line into the wall after a tag from Sainz, who was avoiding the slow starting Verstappen. The stewards investigated, but deemed it a racing incident. The incident brought out the safety car, meaning it keeps it’s 100% record of being seen at every Singapore Grand Prix.

Overall this was definitely a race that had you on the edge of your seat till the final lap. Especially as you tried to work out what the hell was going on with the strategy and wondering if Mercedes had shot themselves in the foot with their call to pit Hamilton. As our NASCAR reporter and boss at Overtake Jordan Groves pointed out, “The start was the usual F1 loss of identity; trying to be a boring endurance race. Hamilton’s pit-stop ignited a fantastic finish, just wish that it was like that for all 61 laps.”

I’m a little less sceptical, with the Verstappen/Kvyat battle and Vettel coming through the field there were plenty of overtakes to keep you entertained. However he is right. Hamilton’s pit stop and the chain reaction it caused really brought another dimension to the race and kept it gripping right up till the end. I’ll leave you know with my highlight of the race weekend. And as tempting as it was to choose the lizard on the track in FP2, there was a certain irony not lost on me by the decision to pit the safety car while Marshals were still on track. For an organisation like the FIA who preach road safety, this wasn’t very safe of them. And seriously someone check to see if that Marshal needs some new overalls…

Singapore GP result
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:55:48.950
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull,
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes,
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari,
5. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari,
6. Max Verstappen, Red Bull,
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren,
8. Sergio Perez, Force India,
9. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso,
10. Kevin Magnussen, Renault,
11. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, +1 Lap
12. Felipe Massa, Williams, +1 Lap
13. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +1 Lap
14. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +1 Lap
15. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, +1 Lap
16. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, +1 Lap
17. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +1 Lap
18. Esteban Ocon, Manor, +2 Laps
19. Jenson Button, McLaren, DNF
20. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, DNF
21: Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, DNF
22. Romain Grosjean, Haas, DNS

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release

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