Re­ports from Sin­ga­pore, Rus­sia and Ja­pan

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Fer­rari couldn’t take the heat in Sin­ga­pore, but for Lewis Hamil­ton it was no sweat at a track where Mercedes have pre­vi­ously strug­gled

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Lewis Hamil­ton and Mercedes swept to a vir­tu­ally un­chal­lenged win in the 2018 Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix as yet an­other Fer­rari tac­ti­cal blun­der cost Se­bas­tian Vet­tel the chance of vic­tory. On a week­end in which they could rea­son­ably have ex­pected to be dom­i­nant, Vet­tel and Fer­rari once again demon­strated their propen­sity to wob­ble un­der pres­sure.

In­stead, Vet­tel had to set­tle for third place be­hind Max Ver­stap­pen, even though Red Bull had strug­gled through­out the week­end with a ‘spec C’ Re­nault power unit that rarely ran cleanly in the hu­mid air.

QUAL­I­FY­ING

Vet­tel ar­guably laid the foun­da­tions for his un­do­ing dur­ing Fri­day sec­ond prac­tice, when a mo­ment’s inat­ten­tion led to a brush with the wall at Turn 21. This was the only prac­tice ses­sion in which both the time of day and track con­di­tions over­lapped with those of qual­i­fy­ing and the race, and Vet­tel spent 45 min­utes of it parked in the garage while me­chan­ics at­tended to an im­pact-in­duced leak.

Ini­tially Vet­tel waved off sug­ges­tions that this might prove crit­i­cal, say­ing he and Fer­rari had learned enough about the SF71H al­ready this sea­son to not miss that track time. But 24 hours later he would be rue­fully re­lat­ing a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive af­ter Hamil­ton and Ver­stap­pen plucked mega laps out of nowhere to oc­cupy the front row. Red Bull had been fastest in first prac­tice be­fore drop­ping off the pace as Kimi Räikkönen and Vet­tel dom­i­nated the times in the fol­low­ing ses­sions, but Hamil­ton was typ­i­cally peerless when it counted on Satur­day evening, an­nex­ing pole with a lap even he couldn’t beat on his sec­ond run.

The lead­ing trio left their de facto num­ber twos – Valt­teri Bot­tas, Räikkönen and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo trail­ing in third to sixth, while Ser­gio Perez claimed ‘class B’ pole for Force In­dia in sev­enth from the Haas of Ro­main Gros­jean.

RACE

Hamil­ton and Vet­tel made the best starts of the top three and the pole­sit­ting Mercedes cut cleanly through the first two cor­ners as sec­ond-placed Ver­stap­pen had to de­fend his po­si­tion from Vet­tel.

Be­hind them, Ser­gio Perez nudged Force In­dia team-mate Es­te­ban Ocon into the out­side wall at Turn 3, elim­i­nat­ing Ocon from the race and bring­ing out the Safety Car. But be­fore race con­trol took the de­ci­sion to neu­tralise the race, Vet­tel made use of a bet­ter exit from Turn 5 to draw along­side Ver­stap­pen and pass him on the out­side into Turn 7.

In their wake, the ma­jor­ity of the top 10 got away in grid or­der - Bot­tas in fourth fol­lowed by Räikkönen, Ric­cia­rdo, Perez and Gros­jean - but ul­tra­soft run­ners Fer­nando Alonso and Car­los Sainz each gained two po­si­tions, at the ex­pense of Nico Hulken­berg and the now-ab­sent Ocon.

The race got un­der way again at the end of lap 4 but the fron­trun­ners were run­ning cau­tiously, nearly 11 sec­onds off qual­i­fy­ing pace, so as to man­age their frag­ile hy­per­soft tyres and ex­tend the first stint as far as pos­si­ble.

As the lap count en­tered dou­ble fig­ures the fron­trun­ners lifted their pace in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the pit­stops. Vet­tel was the first to dive in, on lap 14, tak­ing on a set of ul­tra­softs. The stop would prove dis­as­trous for Vet­tel, since he emerged be­hind Perez and spent two laps bot­tled up be­hind him. Mean­while Hamil­ton and Ver­stap­pen pit­ted on suc­ces­sive laps to take on soft Pirellis with a clear strat­egy of run­ning to the end with no fur­ther stops.

Hamil­ton re­turned seam­lessly into the net lead, and al­though Ver­stap­pen’s engine stut­tered slightly as he left the pit apron, he just squeaked ahead of Vet­tel into Turn 3.

The ini­tial pit­stop phase left Hamil­ton with a 3s lead over Ver­stap­pen once Ric­cia­rdo be­came the last of the fron­trun­ners to change tyres, on lap 27. Vet­tel was a frus­trated third, telling his team “We will not make it to the end.”

As at the Monaco GP, driv­ers start­ing out­side

the top 10 with a free tyre choice ben­e­fit­ted as some of those ahead on softer rub­ber pit­ted first. Con­versely, when Perez, Nico Hülken­berg and Gros­jean shed their hy­per­soft boots they emerged be­hind the trundling tail-end Wil­liams pair­ing of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, who were on soft tyres and had no plans to stop promptly.

This prompted the race’s sec­ond sig­nif­i­cant in­ci­dent when Perez grew im­pa­tient with Sirotkin and swerved at him as he fi­nally went past at Turn 17 on lap 33, pick­ing up a punc­ture in the process and en­abling Hülken­berg to nip through. As Gros­jean tried to fol­low Hülken­berg through the pair baulked Hamil­ton as he came up to lap them, en­abling Ver­stap­pen to en­ter at­tack­ing range.

This came to noth­ing, though, and Hamil­ton stretched his mar­gin out to 3s, re­main­ing out of reach un­til the flag, even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing 8.9s clear – with Vet­tel a fur­ther 30.9s down the road.

While Hamil­ton, Ver­stap­pen, Vet­tel and Bot­tas nursed their tyres to the fin­ish, a bat­tle for fourth place erupted in the clos­ing laps as Ric­cia­rdo closed in on Räikkönen, who in turn crept up on Bot­tas. But noth­ing came of it and Bot­tas crossed the line 1s clear.

Alonso took sev­enth for Mclaren from 11th on the grid, us­ing a long first stint on the ul­tra­softs to gain track po­si­tion at Gros­jean’s ex­pense, and then re­buff­ing an at­tempted un­der­cut by Sainz when he made his sin­gle stop on lap 38. Charles Le­clerc, an­other to start out­side the top 10 on ul­tra­softs, fol­lowed Sainz home in ninth, while Hülken­berg com­pleted a re­cov­ery drive from his in­dif­fer­ent start to round out the top 10.

“ONCE CLEAR, THOUGH, HAMIL­TON STRETCHED HIS MAR­GIN OUT T“O 3S AND RE­MAINED OUT OF REACH UN­TIL THE CHE­QUERED FLAG, EVEN­TU­ALLY FIN­ISH­ING 8.9S CLEAR - WITH VET­TEL A FUR­THER 30.9S DOWN THE ROAD

Lewis pulls away at the start (above) for a fan­tas­tic win (be­low) as Seb, de­spite his early move on Max (left and right) loses out through strat­egy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.