At around 3am local time in Singapore last night, Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from qualifying. Why? His Renault exceeded the MGU-K power limit of 120kW in Q1, giving him a 0.000001 second advantage. And this wasn’t even his fastest lap!
“The decision goes quite far into detailing that there was absolutely no advantage,” said the Renault team principal, Cyril Abiteboul. “I don’t think they [the stewards] feel extremely comfortable with their decision.”
Off the start, Charles Leclerc got away well from Lewis Hamilton. As Leclerc pulled away, Hamilton was defending fiercely against Sebastian Vettel, forcing the German to go to the outside line.
Further behind, Carlos Sainz received a right-rear puncture from contact made with Nico Hulkenberg at turn 5. Not a great start for two drivers who started in the top ten and expected to make good points in the race.
Daniel Ricciardo was charging through the field, making up four places on the opening lap. He made some very aggressive moves, bringing back memories of his drives up through the field when he was at Red Bull.
“We’re not f***ing around tonight. Let’s go boys!” said Ricciardo on team radio.
Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen were the first of the frontrunners to pit on lap 19. Leclerc pitted on the following lap but came out behind Vettel. The Monegasque driver made his disgruntlement known over team radio.
Hamilton stayed out for a few laps more but it wasn’t wise to go for the overcut as the predicted gap between Vettel and Hamilton after the Brit had made his pit stop kept increasing to Vettel’s advantage.
When Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 26, he came out behind Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen. The order remained like this for the remainder of the race.
When Hamilton came into the pits, Antonio Giovinazzi inherited the lead, becoming the first driver not driving for Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull to lead a grand prix since Felipe Massa led the 2015 British Grand Prix for Williams.
Daniel Ricciardo’s charge through the field was halted when his diving move up the inside of Giovinazzi into turn 7 resulted in contact between the two, giving Ricciardo a right-rear puncture.
Romain Grosjean’s overtaking was also a tad opportunistic as he made contact with George Russell’s rear left tyre as he attempted an overtake around the outside of turn 8, spinning the Williams into the wall and bringing out the first safety car of the race. This was George Russell’s and Williams’ first retirement of the season.
Not long after the first safety car period had concluded, we had another one as Sergio Perez’s Racing Point stopped with a mechanical failure on the Anderson Bridge. This had come just minutes after Lance Stroll clipped the inside wall at turn 17 resulting in a front left puncture for the Canadian.
On the second safety car restart, Ricciardo went back into aggressive mode. He tried to overtake Kvyat on the inside into turn 10 but ran out of room around the outside of the next corner meaning he lost a position to Romain Grosjean as well.
Ricciardo tried to get back at Grosjean up the inside of the turn 13 hairpin but couldn’t get past. Carlos Sainz also managed to get past the Australian on the inside into turn 16.
The safety car was deployed for a third time on lap 50 when Daniil Kvyat made contact with Kimi Raikkonen as the Russian tried to overtake him on the inside into turn 1. Both drivers went straight on at the corner. Kvyat was able to carry on but Raikkonen was left with a broken front-left suspension.
Max Verstappen did have to defend his third place against the advancing Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps but was able to hold on.
So, after 61 laps and nigh on two hours of racing, it was Sebastian Vettel who took the chequered flag. This was his fifth Singapore Grand Prix victory and his first win in 392 days. As Charles Leclerc finished second, this was also Ferrari’s first 1-2 finish since the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Vettel’s victory was Ferrari’s third in a row and Ferrari are now in great shape going into next week’s Russian Grand Prix.
They have won at a track where they were not predicted to do well so there shouldn’t be any reason why they cannot win in Sochi.
Ferrari have been reinvigorated after the summer break. Mercedes know that they have a fight on their hands for the rest of the season.
It’s an earlier start for the Russian Grand Prix next week. Qualifying gets underway on Saturday night from 10pm AEST while the race starts on Sunday night at 9:10pm AEST.
If that, and Ferrari’s resurgence, aren’t incentives to watch, I don’t know what is.
Classification (61 laps)
1: Sebastian Vettel: 1:58:33.667: 25pts
2: Charles Leclerc: +2.641s: 18pts
3: Max Verstappen: +3.821s: 15pts
4: Lewis Hamilton: +4.608s: 12pts
5: Valtteri Bottas: +6.119s: 11pts
6: Alexander Albon: +11.663s: 8pts
7: Lando Norris: +14.769s: 6pts
8: Pierre Gasly: +15.547s: 4pts
9: Nico Hulkenberg: +16.718s: 2pts
10: Antonio Giovinazzi: +17.855s: 1pt
11: Romain Grosjean: +35.436s
12: Carlos Sainz: +35.974s
13: Lance Stroll: +36.419s
14: Daniel Ricciardo: +37.660s
15: Daniil Kvyat: +38.178s
16: Robert Kubica: +47.024
17: Kevin Magnussen: +86.522s
DNF: Kimi Raikkonen: Lap 50
DNF: Sergio Perez: Lap 43
DNF: George Russell: Lap 35
1: Lewis Hamilton: 296
2: Valtteri Bottas: 232 (-64)
3: Charles Leclerc: 200 (-96)
4: Max Verstappen: 200 (-96)
5: Sebastian Vettel: 194 (-102)
6: Pierre Gasly: 69 (-227)
7: Carlos Sainz: 58 (-238)
8: Alexander Albon: 42 (-254)
9: Daniel Ricciardo: 34 (-262)
10: Daniil Kvyat: 33 (-263)
1: Mercedes: 527
2: Ferrari: 394 (-133)
3: Red Bull: 289 (-238)
4: McLaren: 89 (-438)
5: Renault: 67 (-460)
6: Toro Rosso: 55 (-472)
7: Racing Point: 46 (-481)
8: Alfa Romeo: 35 (-492)
9: Haas: 26 (-501)
10: Williams: 1 (-526)