Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 28° Track 32° Humidity 78% Wind 1.5 m/s
Rain Rain go away, come again another day! Or at least the spectacular collection of honed catchphrases in F1, chucking it down, heavens have opened etc.. feel free to play the drinking game every time you hear one, depending on your local time. To add to that spectacular headache Paul di Resta was in the midst of trying to explain how exciting Singapore could be and that it wasn’t just over after turn 1 when I flipped the telly on. That’s right, di Resta trying to make something sound exciting.
Nevertheless, it was undeniable that a piss mist of rain was hammering the paddock, unlike the thoroughly apocolyptic deluge that had earlier assaulted the start of the Porsche Super Cup race, inviting RoGro to already start beseeching Charlie Whiting to cancel the race on visibility grounds, the wounds of Monza apparently still fresh in his head.
A wet start to the GP was full of promise to most though and fair enough to all those who failed to check the forecast, as it almost always rains in Singapore, just rarely during the race. Hamilton and Verstappen were bound to to be happy about that, Vettel less so. In the midfield, look for Ocon to benefit and perhaps Stroll as well, based on their Monza showing.
The rain itself was gorgeous, sparkling in the artificial lights, adamantine points slanted diagonally across the horizon. According to reports, due to track temps probably Inters would be the choice. With 35 minutes more of rain predicted, it was the ultimate gamble for the drivers.
Vettel through Bottas were on the Inters as the cars headed off to the formation lap. Bottas through Alonso on full Wets and then back to Inters with Sainz, the last of the top 10 and a patchwork beyond that.
Lights Out!!!! It was a spectacular start by Raikkonen launched up the outside and almost entirely around Verstappen who was pinched in a Ferrari sandwich, Vettel having moved left for the squeeze play into T1. With Raikkonen against the wall his rear wheel overlapped Max and then made the inevitable contact with Verstappen’s front.
In an utterly ruthless display of the laws of physics, as Verstappen slid backwards Kimi pinballed off the wall and into Vettel, terminally wounding Sebastian’s radiator. Continuing the carnage, straight back into the side of Verstappen went Raikkonen, now an unguided missile with the extensive damage to his car, as young Max attempted to navigate T1. As a bonus Raikkonen collected Alonso as well, who had chosen precisely the wrong moment to dodge around the inside of the stricken Bull.
At the front, Hamilton momentarily was ahead of Vettel before Sebastian closed the door on his attempt up the inside, but into the straight that followed he suddenly lost traction. As the rears spun up Seb was launched into the wall, removing the entire front of his car. Rolling backwards around T3 he managed to get the car pointed the right direction, and as he set off for the pits buckets of brightly coloured fluid evacuated the rear of the vehicle. Game over, the team told him to park it and the stewards were left to sort through the mess at their leisure.
No doubt shaking his head at the improbability of the event, Hamilton suddenly found himself leading a race that he simply hoped to lose less badly. Ricciardo, too must’ve rapidly gone from cursing his poor start to thanking his lucky stars, as he found himself P2 and potentially the pace and strategy flexibility to hit the top step as the Safety Car emerged to take control of the race.
The Safety Car led the cars through the pits for what was a lengthy stint as the remarkable amount of debris and fluid left on the track was cleared. Lap 5 it was when racing resumed, Hamilton leading Ricciardo, then Hulkenberg Perez and Palmer!! Yes Palmer, just ahead of Bottas afer a spectacular pass on the napping Finn. Halfway through Lap 5 it was Hamilton nearly 2 seconds up on Ricciardo. Vandoorne, Ocon, Sainz and Magnussen rounded out the top 10.
The most astonishing sight was Alonso, who despite what looked like race ending damage from his collision, continued to circulate with what appeared to be wires and debris dangling from his floor.
Lap 6 and Sainz had an off bringing Magnussen into play as he took the proper route back onto the track. At the front it was nearly 4 seconds for Hamilton in 2 laps.
Further up, Sainz had recovered and had edged himself to within 1 second of Ocon, circulating ahead of him in P8. Alonso received more bad news, as Macca told him that they had lost all telemetry and he was on his own. The good news is they were going to watch all the fun on the telly.
Laptimes hovered in the 2:05’s at the front and as the track began dry Bottas was regaining his footing and had planted himself firmly on Palmer’s gearbox. But it was Sainz getting the job done first on lap 9 with a swift move up the inside. Alonso’s little adventure also came to a sad end, as the team told him it was time to call it of, having had a good look at the massive damage to the left side of his car.
Lewis, unaffected by the drama, continued to make more room for himself lap after lap, reporting that the front tyres were just starting to grain. Well, unaffected at least until Kvyat, running well in P10, reasserted his predilection for hitting things on lap 11, burying his car in the barriers just after he passed Magnussen and bringing out the Safety Car.
Ricciardo was into the pits straightaway, onto a new set of Inters and promoting Hulkenberg to P2. Perez and Ocon, too were in for new Inters as Lewis finally caught up to the Safety Car. Palmer and Hulkenberg were in the following lap and out on Inters, good for them as they were on the full wets. Vandoorne followed suit and Massa made a pass as he exited the pits, which was rapidly rectified as Stoffel had reached the SC line first. But not until after they banged wheels, causing everyone’s heart to stop. Still, Williams was at least in the last points paying position as the SC prepared to come in at the end of lap 14
Mercedes explained to Lewis that everyone behind was following a contra strategy, as had they come in everyone would’ve stayed out and taken track position. Hindsight being 20/20, the tale waited to be told as the restart loomed.
Off they went, Hamilton maintaining his lead into T1 and establishing a gap of over 1 second by time they reached the end of the first sector. Bottas, having stayed out, was running in P3 having inherited that position and prepared to defend it from Sainz now up to P4.
With his new tyres, it looked to be that Ricciardo was playing the long game, hoping that Hamilton’s tyres would force him to burn a pitstop under race conditions, a significant time loss
Lap 16 and a keen eyed Magnussen took advantage of Ocon who was looking to get round Massa. With a swift move up the inside he managed to get in front of both drivers. But not permanently, as Massa kept at it, leading to a multi-corner battle that only ended after several wheel banging moments and a firm defensive move by K-Mag. This left Massa vulnerable to Ocon and as the dust settled it was Ocon trailing Magnussen. Williams brought in the plucky Brazilian the next lap for a set of Inters, finally ditching the full Wets.
At the front, lap times were dropping closer and closer to the 2:00 flat mark, but according to a call from Lewis, the track was drying very slowly. With his tyres getting hotter, the waiting game of Red Bull was firmly on as they waited to see if Lewis ran out of tyres before the track reached the point of switching to slicks.
Lap 21 and a sudden lull enveloped the field as various strategies waited to play out. With no one willing to take risks, the waiting game for a dry track commenced at the front.
But not for too long, as Magnussen decided to make the play for slicks on lap 25, along with Marcus Ericsson. No sooner was that done, then Lewis dipped below 2 minutes for the first time. Now was the time for bold decisions, as the track was definitely starting to be part dry part wet. Williams were onto the slicks lap 28 but still, at the front, Hamilton was rocking faster and faster times.
Sainz was next to roll the dice, in and out and Vandoorne followed suit. All the slicks employed thus far were the Ultra’s, due to their thermal working range. Lap 29 and Ricciardo could wait no more. Bottas covered the move off, as did Hulkenberg and Perez. Magnificently, this left Palmer in P2 as Lewis banged out a 1:58.
Danny Ric could only do a 2:00 on the slicks to answer, with the additional problem that he would have to venture onto the wet part of the track to get round him.
Lap 29 and Hamilton was in for his Ultra’s followed by Palmer. On pit exit it was status quo ante, Hamilton, Ricciardo and Bottas, with Palmer dropped to P7. But not for long as Vandoorne was eating him alive and it was on. Stoffel all but had the job done, but Palmer was able to get the better traction out of the corner and shut the door on the Macca, as the battle of the underpowered PU’s was previewed for the following season.
Slightly further up the field, Perez had made good progress on Sainz, who was sporting a pair of SuperSofts, vulnerable to the power of the Force India on a drying track. Into T7 Sergio tried the outside only to think better and drop back for another look.
Hulkenberg continued to pare away the gap to Bottas, approaching 2s to a podium spot. Responding Valterri lifted his pace the following lap and clawed back nearly 0.7s. Slighlty more than halfway through the race, and Danny Ric was carving off tenths here and there, with an 8.5 second gap to clear. And then, on lap 33, Lewis set a 1:49.453, chunking more than a second onto the gap, and running it out to over 9 seconds.
The drying track was rapidly upsetting the order, as Bottas was suddenly right on it, taking fast lap away from Lewis. Ocon also managed to assert himself over Magnussen, taking aim at Grosjean, less than 2 seconds up the road and in the last points paying position. Only Sainz was still defending his position from Perez in the dry, against the superior power of the Force India the Spaniard was conducting a veritable masterclass in defensive driving.
AS the times dropped and laps ticked off the next brutal strategic question began to tick over in the brains of the strategy boffins. Would the Ultra’s last to the end of the race. And then, kaboom, Safety Car! as Ericsson managed to spin in a place that had never before been spun in before. Specifically on the bridge. Hamilton skipped the pits, as did Ricciardo.
The Hulk did come in, as did Massa. Ocon and K-Mag too took the opportunity for new boots as lap 39 came and went. Lewis was very curious as to the Safety Car call, as a Virtual Safety Car would have preserved his hard fought gap. Problems at Renault, as they had to repressurize the hydraulics. Goodbye P4, hello P10. Fortunately, Palmer continued in P6 and certainly there were no hard feelings over the events of the weekend.
Ericsson’s novel choice of locations to park the car in continued to create problems, as there were apparently no extant plans for how to extract a car from that spot, just before the end of the bridge. Given the fact they were going to roll a crane onto the track to retrieve the car from what amounts to a 1.5 lane bridge no real surprise that a Safety Car was called.
Lap 41 and the race was on!! Hamilton got the jump and suddenly it was Ricciardo under pressure from Bottas. By the end of S1 the situation had settled and it was the same order as they went into the restart. By the end of the lap it was almost 2 seconds for Lewis.
Sainz was again under pressure from Perez, while further back it was Ocon being lively on Hulkenberg, and the gaps between the cars from P9 to P13 were all under a second. Bottas was keeping the pressure up on Ricciardo, lingering just under 1 second astern while Magnussen managed to miss his braking, and was detached from the melee at the back.
Interesting strategy call from Mercedes, telling Hamilton to not stretch the field out, as they didn’t wish to gift anyone (Ricciardo) a free pit stop in the event of another Safety Car. Also, this would help preserve his tyres as the time limited end of the race approached, less than 20 minutes left as lap 46 ticked over.
Even hearing himself referred to by inference caused Danny Ric to lift his pace and with a 2 second gap it was a seesaw teetering by tenths between the top 2 places. Sainz in P4 began to lose touch with Bottas, but had managed to stem the attack from Perez, who was loitering just out of DRS of the Toro Rosso.
Stroll led the train in P8 leading a trio that included Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Ocon, and they were all separated by mere tenths as the time ticked inexorably off the clock. Clearly there would be some action to come from this group before the checquers flew.
Ouch, lap 49 and Hulkenberg’s day was done as whatever they had tried to fix on his car had turned terminal. Lewis picked up some sort of debris on his tyre, perhaps a tear off, that stubbornly refused to come off for a bit, leading to a slightly anxious radio message from the race leader.
Magnussen was next to suffer the slings and arrows, his MGU-K having decided not to be was the better choice with just 10 minutes left in the race. 11 minutes left and it was going to be slow down and box, game over. This left Wehrlein as the lanterne rouge, running 2 laps down as the gaps between everyone left on track had stabilised at greater than 1 second.
Only Ocon showed some signs of life as he attempted to reel in Grosjean with 6 minutes left in the race. At the front, Lewis rocked in a 1:45 and put paid to any ideas Ricciardo might’ve had about a late run. Perez, too, was on the radio wanting to have one more go at Sainz as time ran out, and with 5 minutes left and 2 seconds between them, perhaps a little entertainment was left in the GP.
Perez was told there were 3 laps left on time and it was, well, off to the races, with Perez slicing several tenths out of the gap to Sainz. Hamilton continued to make his point, taking fast lap away from Bottas and just about dipping into the 1:44’s, just a hundredth off. Good news, with 2 laps left he might very well get there.
Lap 57 was to be the last, as the 2 hour mark was hit with Hamilton just exiting T13. No dice for Perez or Ocon as neither wound up making any progress on their rivals. As the checquers fell, or wait a minute, despite 2 hours having flown by on the timing app, no checquers so onto lap 58 it was. Well, perhaps a trip to the regs will sort that one out as lap 58 was a carbon copy and as the checquers fell, it was Hamilton with a full race lead on Vettel thanks to the cruel and fickle racing gods. Or perhaps it was karma for his bad behaviour in Baku, who knows, I’ll happily leave that to be sorted in the comments, as long as you all promise to play nice! Massive result for Perez after resigning his contract with Force India, 5 places up on his suddenly very rookie looking teammate.
Sainz was even better as that Toro Rosso had no reason at all to be able to stay in front of the Mercedes powered Force India, and finishing a career best P4 simply confirmed the reasons why his name had been on everyone’s tongues all season long. Masterful drive from the Spaniard and despite Palmer’s P6, Renault will be happy to be acquiring the Spaniard for the 2018 season.
A best finish for Vandoorne as well, P7 not bad for the Stoffel and happy days for McLaren, despite Alonso’s tragedy. And not to overlook Palmer, who despite leading the too little too late category with his P6, had to take it as a sweet balm to what had to be a fairly bruising weekend from a personal point of view.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the fact that the Ferrari drivers Barcelona-ed themselves into T1 has completely changed the championship and it is now Ferrari under pressure. With Vettel only 22 points clear of Bottas, it’s time for Raikkonen to stop up his game and start defending the points Vettel did have.
And irony of ironies, Ricciardo’s poor start led directly to his podium appearance as it kept him fully out of the chaos at the start. He expressed frustration with his inability to climb to the top step in interviews post race, but having been afflicted with gearbox issues it was by far the most he could’ve hoped for. Horner revealed post race that they started losing oil pressure in the gearbox 30 minutes into the race, making Danny Ric’s podium all the more amazing. Verstappen’s run of exceedingly foul luck continues, and rumours that he might work as a cooler in casinos during the off season are most certainly untrue, if not entertaining.
But hater or no, you do have to hand it to Lewis, once he found himself in the lead he maintained it masterfully through changing conditions and multiple Safety Car restarts. A bit sad for the WDC as it momentarily removes much of the drama remaining in the season. But if today’s race was proof of anything, it’s that it can all change in a heartbeat and there are 6 races left before we can look backwards and start looking for where it all went wrong for (insert name of driver here).
Thanks, as always, for stopping by.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!