F1 MAD­NESS TAKES ITS TOLL

SE­BAS­TIAN VET­TEL LAPSED INTO ANOTHER MO­MENT OF ILL-JUDGED OVERAGGRESSION WHEN HE TRIED TO BLOCK MAX VER­STAP­PEN OFF THE LINE IN SIN­GA­PORE. GAME OVER? EGMONT SIPPEL TAKES A LOOK.

Driven - - Motorsport - Re­port by EGMONT SIPPEL | Images © MERCEDES / GETTY IMAGES / RED BULL CON­TENT POOL

BOOM-SHAKALAKA! That now, from race-en­gi­neer Marco Matassa to Car­los Sainz when the lat­ter’s Toro Rosso crossed the fin­ish­ing line in Sin­ga­pore just one step away from the podium, Sainz’s best F1 re­sult to date.

“Vai, vai Car­los! P4! Boom-shakalaka!” At the op­po­site end of the Sin­ga­po­r­ian spec­trum, both in terms of time line and emo­tion, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel also heard a boom. Yet, sadly for the Ital­ian team, Seb’s “boom!” was nowhere near as “shakalaka!” as Sainz’s P4 or Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s P2 which, with­out a race long gear­box prob­lem, might have been P1.

He loves this track, af­ter all, does the Aussie. He’s a Ma­rina Bay ex­pert. Sec­ond in Sin­ga­pore he was in 2016. Sec­ond in 2015. And sec­ond it would have been in 2014, if not for the only guy in the field who is an even big­ger shave-it-right-upto-the-Sin­ga­po­r­ian-walls ex­pert than The Honey Bad­ger him­self.

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel is that man. In a year when Danni Ricc (as the ever-smil­ing Aussie is also re­ferred to in the pad­dock) out­drove and out­classed Vet­tel at Red Bull, Seb still beat him in Sin­ga­pore. Sec­ond and third they fin­ished in 2014, be­hind Hamil­ton.

“F1 IS A DRIVER’S CHAM­PI­ONSHIP, FAR MORE THAN A CONSTRUCTOR’S

CHAM­PI­ONSHIP. SO WHY NOT PUN­ISH THE TEAMS FOR TECH­NI­CAL SHORT­COM­INGS, BUT LET THE DRIVERS KEEP THEIR HARD-WON GRID SLOTS?”

Which was the one out­come Vet­tel was des­per­ate to keep off the score­board in Sin­ga­pore 2017: another Hamil­ton vic­tory. F1’s an­nual sum­mer break had come and gone and, in the open­ing salvos there­after, Mercedes had been run­ning amok on the high-speed cir­cuits at Spa and Monza.

HAM­MER TIME

Ham­mer Time it was then, with Lewis equalling Michael Schu­macher’s all-time record of 68 poles when he blitzed the field with a cou­ple of mes­meris­ing quali laps in Bel­gium.

Vet­tel pushed to the very edge as well, run­ning The Ham­mer closer than we thought a Fer­rari could, whilst the race pro­duced more of the same, the two ti­tle pro­tag­o­nists not only dic­ing nose to tail for most of the Grand Prix, but even side by side at times.

It was well within ex­pec­ta­tions, of course, for Mercedes to win on the power tracks, although Fer­rari had been con­fi­dent – given the Spa out­ing – that some of their car’s high-speed weak­nesses had been erad­i­cated since the wal­lop­ing they re­ceived at Sil­ver­stone.

The Scud­e­ria there­fore turned up at Monza har­bour­ing a cau­tious mea­sure of op­ti­mism.

Yet, the red chal­lenge faded alarm­ingly dur­ing a wet Q3 ses­sion, Räikkö­nen and Vet­tel lan­guish­ing in sev­enth and eighth, Hamil­ton again steal­ing the show by clinch­ing pole with a lap in ex­cess of a sec­ond quicker than young rain mas­ter, Ver­stap­pen.

So, was the Brit’s su­pe­ri­or­ity down to his car?

A bit of it, of course. But how to ex­plain then, the 2.3-sec­ond ad­van­tage Lewis en­joyed over the other Merc, in Q3?

Valt­teri Bot­tas must have re­alised at that point that his ti­tle chal­lenge for 2017 was over and Fer­rari would again have been re­minded about the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of a vic­tory, once the high speed cir­cuits had been dealt with and the F1 cir­cus moved on to Sin­ga­pore, com­monly re­garded as prime Vet­tel and SF70H ter­ri­tory.

RIC­CIA­RDO’S MONZA

SCORCHER

Count­ing on Red Bull to also per­form bet­ter in Sin­ga­pore than what al­ready turned out to be an ex­cel­lent show­ing in Italy, Maranello’s hope was that Danni Ricc and Max Ver­stap­pen could cre­ate a

Above Vet­tel clips his own wings as sparks fly from Räikkö­nen’s Fer­rari.

Top Right Hamil­ton in high spir­its in Sin­ga­pore as he takes his 7th Grand Prix win of the sea­son thus far, and his third in a row, af­ter Bel­gium and Italy. That makes it four wins out of the last five races for The Ham­mer.

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