Fortunes change pretty quickly in Formula One, and this weekend has been a perfect example of how everything changes so fast in this sport. From Red Bull raging on Friday, Sebastian looked supreme on Saturday before Hamilton put in an untouchable performance on Sunday. It was a race in which Vettel was supposed to easily take back the lead of the championship. Instead he leaves Singapore 28 points behind the championship leader.
On Saturday night Lewis Hamilton said he needed a ‘miracle’ to maintain his championship lead come Sunday night. Fast forward 24 hours and bucketloads of rain later, and the miracle certainly came. Not only did he maintain his lead, he extended it.
The downpour ahead of the race brought Formula One into new territory with the first ever wet night race. It seems somewhat odd, given F1’s trigger happy form of pulling a Safety Car start, that this race wasn’t started under the Safety Car. It must have been a close call as no one knew what the visibility would be like, or how much grip would be available as there’d never been wet running under the lights at Marina Bay before today. Nevertheless, the race began normally and the result was all but decided in the opening three corners.
The start line incident involving Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen was messy but, in my opinion, was a racing incident. Vettel had every right to defend, just as Verstappen had every right to attack. It was unfortunate that Raikkonen was on the inside of the Red Bull, resulting in unavoidable contact between the three drivers. Vettel had no way of knowing his team-mate was there, Verstappen had nowhere to go and Raikkonen was in the wrong place at the wrong time. No penalties were needed – the damage was done by all three being taken out of the race. Ferrari’s blame game on Twitter after the race was wholly unnecessary.
Vettel retired from the race when he slipped on fluids coming from his own car on the run to Turn Five, throwing away what could have been a great race for his title hopes. It robbed us fans of a spectacle between Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen too. Today’s race could’ve been an unforgettable event had the start line incident not happened. Nonetheless, the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix provided entertainment throughout.
In the first lap melee, Lewis Hamilton managed to go from fifth to second, while Fernando Alonso made a sublime start to get up to third. It was a shame that he found himself helpless to being hit by Verstappen’s out of control car at Turn One. The impact all but ended his race and without it McLaren Honda’s first podium could have been there for the taking given the team’s impressive form this weekend. Stoffel Vandoorne had an impressive weekend on a track he’d never raced on before to come home in seventh – highlighting the Woking team’s form.
There was some feisty driving throughout the field today and no one got closer than Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa. The Dane got by the Brazilian with some ferocious overtaking which almost saw him shunted into the wall. It was a fruitless drive for the Haas driver though, as he retired from the race with mechanical issues.
Another driver retiring was Nico Hulkenberg, who sat in third during the opening stages of the race. A badly timed pit-stop from Renault dropped him down the order and he was eventually forced into retirement and was unable to stop himself from taking the unwanted record of most starts without a podium.
Jolyon Palmer in the other RS17 put in a great performance to come home sixth and record his best ever F1 finish on the weekend where it was announced he would be dropped from the Renault team at the end of the season. Time will tell if today’s performance was enough for any other team to take an interest in the British driver for a 2018 drive. Palmer’s replacement, Carlos Sainz, also performed well to get his best ever result, and Toro Rosso’s best ever finish at Singapore with fourth.
You’d have to say that the championship is now Hamilton’s to lose. With tracks which should suit Mercedes and a raft of races which Hamilton is notoriously strong at coming up, including Malaysia and Texas, his 28 point lead is likely to increase from here on in. It must be remembered, though, that fortunes can go either way in F1. You only have to consider last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, which Hamilton was dominantly leading until an engine blow-out prematurely ended his afternoon. The Constructors’ Championship looks more certain to go Mercedes’ way, with the reigning champions now over 100 points ahead of Ferrari after their double DNF.
As the Championship rolls into its closing stages, we head to Kuala Lumpur for Formula One’s final Malaysian Grand Prix. Can Lewis carry forward his momentum?
See you in two weeks,