Vettel Sublime In Singapore
Just two years ago, Sebastian Vettel dominated the Singapore Grand Prix to claim yet another win in the ever-impressive RB9, only to be booed upon arrival at the top step of the podium. During the weekend, Vettel rolled back the years, revitalized in Scuderia red, and claiming a well-received victory. For Ferrari, it was an event to savor, with Kimi Raikkonen joining his counterpart on the rostrum for what was the team’s first double podium finish since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013. On the contrary, Mercedes have been left scratching their heads, following a nightmare in which Lewis Hamilton failed to finish while Nico Rosberg crossed the line a full 24 seconds adrift of a dominant Vettel, to snatch an uninspiring 12 points for fourth.
Ferrari left the champions floundering – an anomaly in the context of the season perhaps – but with Vettel now just 49 points behind front-runner Hamilton, the German has renewed hope that a comeback to rival all comebacks could see him march to 2015 glory.
A Night To Remember
The Singapore weekend delivered an immeasurable shock to a Mercedes outfit who have otherwise been imperious since the start of their immense 2014 campaign. The squad have at times faced questions regarding reliability and strategic ideology, but in terms of raw performance, they have been untroubled for the duration of their current era. However, this weekend saw them cut 1.5 seconds adrift of the lead Ferrari in qualifying.
An inconceivable margin and one which the team are seemingly at a loss to fully explain.
Credit must be given to a rejuvenated Ferrari outfit. Unquestionably, Singapore offered them a golden opportunity to impress, with the circuit characteristics inducing engine parity (as poignantly evidenced by Red Bull), but the margin of victory is surely too sizable to be simply dictated by the route.
Ultimately, it comes down to two factors. Singapore has always been a circuit where Sebastian Vettel has shown exceptional form and throughout the weekend, he was at his wall-paint-stripping best. His assault of the Turn 21 exit wall on his fastest qualifying effort was the most obvious example of this brilliance. Meanwhile, Ferrari had brought several 2016 aerodynamic experiments to the circuit this weekend and combined with an engine which is now believed to be on a par with the Mercedes equivalent, made for a formidable package.
The question now, is whether Mercedes’ dip in form will permeate the remainder of the 2015 campaign. They will surely be stronger at Suzuka, but to endure such a tough event this time around, it is far from guaranteed that they will return to pre-eminence next week.
Two Tales of Aggression
While the dice for victory was fascinating, the battle for midfield honours was fierce throughout, with Lotus and Toro Rosso leading two separate tales of aggression.
Lotus attempted to lead the strategy, with Romain Grosjean making two early pit-stops with a view to undercut the opposition. Pastor Maldonado followed in a similar vain on both occasions, but in reality the Enstone squad were perhaps too optimistic regarding the duration of their final stint, as both Grosjean and Maldonado struggled for grip in the latter laps. Diffuser damage for the Venezuelan made matters worse, in what was a difficult afternoon for the pair.
Meanwhile, aggression in the form of race craft was required at Toro Rosso, as both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz had to recover from issues which compromised their respective evenings. Verstappen stalled on the grid, before being brought back into contention by the two Safety Car’s, while Sainz fell to the tail end of the field when his car briefly lost drive. Both sensationally battled back through the pack to earn unexpected points.
Driver of the Day
Ferrari’s new hero dominated the weekend, from topping the timesheet in FP3 to taking the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon. It was a sublime drive from the quadruple champion and one which serves to inspire new found optimism that a shock comeback could be on with six rounds left to complete.
Overtake of the Weekend
VERSTAPPEN vs Grosjean
Both Toro Rosso drivers took starring roles on Sunday, with numerous blockbuster overtakes. Max Verstappen’s move on Romain Grosjean was no exception – timed to perfection and executed in a similar vain.
Team of the Weekend
Red Bull’s weekend would also be well worthy of acclaim, but Ferrari’s strength compared to rivals Mercedes’ was simply awe-inspiring. Kimi Raikkonen’s set-up struggles was the leading factor preventing a famous 1-2 for the team. However, Sunday’s double podium has surely marked a crucial point in Ferrari’s road back to pre-eminence.