Lewis Hamilton won yesterday’s 15th race of the World Championship at the spectacular urban circuit of Marina Bay in Singapore. It was the icing on the cake to a perfect weekend for the British champion, who demonstrated a level of skill, concentration and performance well above the rest of the grid. This is Hamiton’s 69th F1 victory and the fourth over the last five races. He is now 40 points ahead of Vettel, and his grip on the title is tighter than ever.
Runner-up Vettel fell victim to another of Ferrari’s strategic miscalculations. The German driver only managed to finish in the third position behind Verstappen, despite Ferrari coming to Singapore as favourites. The prancing horse team had the fastest vehicle at a favourable circuit, making the result yet more painful. Not even Mercedes expected to rise above them in Singapore: “We knew that they (The Ferraries) would be spectacular here this weekend and so it was going to take something quite special for us to leapfrog them,” – Hamilton said – “Definitely didn’t expect to come to Singapore with 10 points more [in the lead of the title]. But I’m very grateful for those points and for all the hard work the team have put in.”
In a street circuit like Singapore, where it is particularly difficult to overtake, a good starting position is key to success. Hamilton did take a spectacular pole, and after holding onto his leading position during the first lap was thereafter unthreatened by his rivals. Both his performance and that of all of the Mercedes team were impeccable.
Vettel managed to take over Verstappen on the first lap, but on lap 14, in a strategic miscalculation, he was called to boxes where he was given ultra-soft tyres. What was meant to be an aggressive strategy to enable Vettel to catch up with Hamilton became a fatal mistake. The Briton pitted on the following lap for a more durable set of soft tyres and reappeared in front of Vettel. Not long afterwards, Perez also emerged from boxes in front of the German driver, blocking his way. Vettel soon realised the mistake as he spoke to his team on the radio: “There is no chance. We are again too late. The tyres will not make it to the end.”
When Verstappen finally pitted on lap 18 he also came back up before Vettel and managed to keep his second position right until the end.
Another performance to note was that of Fernando Alonso who did a wonderful job climbing back from the eleventh to the seventh position.
Drivers now have a well deserved two-week break after which they will meet again at the SochiGP, followed the week after by the SuzukaGP. With six races left and 150 points up for grabs, there is still time to turn things around, but if Ferrari wants to keep their title options open they have to start winning some races ASAP.
By T.C. | Photo: Evening Standard