Singapore Grand Prix: Race Analysis

The sixth Singapore Grand Prix encapsulated all of the positive aspects of the previous night races, making for a fine spectacle. However, audiences were engrossed by the fierce, strategic duel for second place, as P1 was never in doubt for a truly dominant Sebastian Vettel. In what has been acclaimed as his greatest ever performance, the German demolished the competition, running at a pace which was at times, a whole two seconds faster than his nearest challengers. Fernando Alonso made another scintillating start, en route to yet another P2, while Kimi Raikkonen fought through the pain barrier to clinch a well earned P3. Vettel was in a different league.
In fact, the first corner was the only point of concern for Sebastian. Nico Rosberg launched off of the line in superb fashion and consequently pulled alongside a defensive Sebastian. Rosberg attempted a move into Turn 1 – only to run deep and allow Sebastian back through. After this point, Vettel controlled proceedings, extending his lead to a mighty 7 seconds in just 4 laps. After maintaining his tyres through the rest of the opening stint, Red Bull accepted that the two stop would inevitably allude them. Consequently, Vettel’s middle stint on the mediums was also about controlling the gap. The safety car which Vettel had feared came at an awkward time for the two stoppers – they were forced into pitting early for their final stop. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s 20 second advantage had been destroyed and with the German having to make an additional stop compared to the likes of Alonso and Raikkonen, the German acknowledged that his pace would have to be unleashed at the restart in order to rebuild a margin big enough for a stop.
This was the point at which Vettel demonstrated incredible pace. Posting times which surprised even the pit wall, Vettel screamed away, taking 2 seconds a lap out of his competitors. Consequently, strategy did not prove as critical for Vettel as he was able to comfortably win the race by over 30 seconds, despite making an extra stop compared to Alonso and Raikkonen.
“It’s just been a fantastic weekend,” Vettel stated. “The start was close, but then we had strong race pace, especially when the safety car came in, and we pushed very hard to try to build up a gap. You never know what’s coming up and what can happen. The last ten laps seemed to go on forever inside the car. I kept my concentration by reminding myself how easily you can make a mistake around here, the walls are close and if you don’t pay enough attention it can go wrong pretty quickly. I focused on hitting the brakes correctly and on saving the tyres.”
He continued; “We didn’t expect to be that strong, but it’s a team effort. Everyone is pushing hard and I think the secret, if there is one, is that we love what we do and we’re so passionate. The conditions aren’t great here with the heat, but the team always pushes hard and I think that’s what makes the difference. I’d like to say to everyone working for team that it’s a privilege for me to be driving the car you have built.”
However, in a juxtaposition of triumph and anguish at Red Bull, Mark Webber could not complete the race, as his car ground to a fiery halt on the final lap of the race. The team had spotted a significant drop in water level from the telemetry within the final five laps. They consequently told Mark to short-shift in order to control the issue. However, the leak was too significant to handle. Webber began to slow significantly in the final two laps, as both Mercedes’ powered past the defenceless Aussie. At Turn 7 on the last lap, the engine blew as it had totally run out of water. Ironically, the moment at which Webber’s engine terminally failed, Vettel rounded the final two corners to take the chequered flag.
A reflective Mark announced; “it’s annoying but someone’s had a tougher day than me somewhere and that’s the way it goes. I was having to short shift, but then, unlike Monza, we started to lose a lot of power. We were just trying to get home at that point but then on the last lap we caught fire.” Prior to the issue, Webber had been impressively fighting his way back past the two stopping cars, along with the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton. He was in a respectable P4, before the loss of water curtailed his progress.
Webber’s day did not improve after the race, as the stewards took a dim view of his ride back to the paddock with Fernando Alonso. In typical Mansell/Senna style, the Spaniard picked Mark up en route to parc ferme, which the stewards deemed to contravene the sporting regulations, which state that a driver cannot pick anything up between the end of the race and parc ferme. For this Alonso received a reprimand – the same penalty which was applied to Webber for entering the track without the marshal’s permission. However, this is more poignant in Webber’s case, as it is his third reprimand, meaning that he incurs a ten place grid drop for the Korean Grand Prix.
Aside from the penalty, it was another stand out performance from Fernando Alonso. His third P2 behind Vettel in succession demonstrates his determination – never before have two drivers from two different teams finished P1 and P2 three times consecutively. Alonso managed to stretch his medium compound tyres for 30 laps – a figure which Pirelli claim was the higher limit of tyre life. Even Ferrari were impressed by Alonso’s tyre management, as they predicted the cliff would arrive at lap 58 of 61.
After the race, Alonso gave an honest opinion on his title credentials. “Now the gap to the championship leaders has increased and apart from congratulating them, because they deserve to be where they are, we must be realistic, because to win the title now, we would need a lot of luck. Sure, we cannot think of giving up right now because if that luck does show up, then we will be there to take it”.
Rounding out the podium was Kimi Raikkonen. After his disastrous qualifying, the Finn battled against the odds to make the podium, despite the trapped nerve in his back. Kimi made the most of an early stop, to jump a number of cars in the first round of stops, which brought him into contention. He followed Alonso home on a similar strategy, with only Lotus and Ferrari benefiting from the two stop strategy.
Raikkonen acknowledged; “It’s been a difficult weekend, so to finish on the podium is a good result. The car felt good and it could have been even better if I’d been able to do more work in practice, but even with a better qualifying performance I think third was the maximum we could achieve today. The problem with my back hasn’t been ideal, but it felt much better than yesterday and I didn’t really notice it in the race, only afterwards. I have some time to recover before Korea and we were pretty strong there last year, so let’s see what we can do next time out.”
It was a particularly bad day for Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie suffered a poor launch and dropped several positions early on. Then, a mistake heading into Turn 19 sent him into the barriers and brought out the safety car. Meanwhile, Paul Di Resta suffered a similar fate late on, as the pressure of Singapore caused the Scot to make an unforced error resulting in an unwelcome trip to the barriers. His retirement marks his third in succession.

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