Sebastian Vettel has won the Singapore Grand Prix in a race what ended up a tactical strategy battle. Vettel was the first to stop, and this decision got him ahead of everyone to take the win. Team mate Leclerc finished second as Verstappen completed the podium.
As the red lights went out, Leclerc set off for a solid start to maintain his advantage from pole position. Contrary to last year, the start was very "normal" and free of major incidents. Hamilton immediately went right to protect his position from Vettel, and had to continue to defend throughout the first lap as it appeared like the Ferraris had their tyres on temperature much more quickly.
Verstappen, Bottas and Albon maintained their positions.
In the midfield, Hulkenberg and Sainz got somewhat tangled up - in fact, it was Hulkenberg who bumped into Sainz and created a puncture, requiring a stop for both of them. Hulkenberg returned to the track after a quick stop, but Sainz ended up being stuck in the pitlane for quite a while. He did return to the race on hard tyres, but the lengthy stop had already lost him a lap.
The first phase of the race ended up being a stale affair. There were in fact no position changed at all, even though gaps, especially at the front, remained relatively small. At the start of lap 7, Albon in 6th was just 5.7s down on Leclerc. Especially Bottas was able to follow Verstappen closely, with the gap between them consistently less than a second.
Further back, it was Ricciardo who provided the action, as he attempted to fight his way back up to the top 10 after having been forced to start from the back of the grid due to a technical irregularity. By lap 8, the Australian had moved up into 13th.
Two laps later, Ricciardo moved up into 12th, and as he passed Kvyat, Stroll followed through to also gain a position himself as well. Kvyat further degrader another position to Perez one lap later, before deciding to exchange his medium compound Pirelli tyres to new hards in the pits.
At the end of lap 19, Vettel and Verstappen are the first front runners to make a stop. The two were about 2 seconds apart from one another, with Bottas less than half a second behind Verstappen. Both men switched to hards, returning to the track in 10th and 12th, with Hulkenberg stuck in between them.
Race leader Leclerc pitted the next lap, along with Albon and Norris. Hamilton was immediately called to pit the next lap, an action that was explained rapidly when Leclerc returned to the track, behind Vettel. That was unlikely what the Monegasque had hoped for.
Vettel upped the pace even more end recorded the fastest lap, making Mercedes cancel their planned pitstop for Hamilton, as the leading position would be lost already anyway.
Bottas was the first to pit next, returning to the track 6.2s behind Verstappen. The Finn soon started to reduce the gap while Hamilton continued out in front, with a pace that was nearly 1.5s slower than Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen and Bottas. Albon at the time was also within striking distance of Bottas.
Hamilton was eventually pitted on lap 26, coming back out in 8th, in between Verstappen and Bottas. At the same time, Albon missed a corner and dropped 2 seconds to give Bottas some breathing space.
The pit moved Giovinazzi into the lead, trailed by Gasly, Ricciardo and Stroll, as they continued on their first set of tyres. All these drivers came into the path of the front runners the next few laps, giving them an extra challenge in addition to the fights among themselves.
The moves Vettel made to get to the front of the race, and pass these four, showed how much under pressure he is. His pass on Gasly was especially daring, forcing Gasly to take the run-off as Vettel surprised him with a dive bomb.
Leclerc was clearly more careful, but thereby also lost 5 seconds to his leading team mate.
As everybody made their way past, Ricciardo tried to gain as well, but when he overtook Giovinazzi, they bumped wheels, creating a puncture for both. Giovinazzi could still return reasonable quickly to the pits, but a rear puncture for Ricciardo forced the Australian to go slow, annulling his strides and putting him back in 17th, 30s behind Giovinazzi.
Just one lap after that forced pitstop for Ricciardo, Russell ended up in the barriers after contact with Grosjean. The safety car that was brought out on track was handy for some, and annoying for others.
The result was that any gaps between cars were removed, enabling Leclerc to express his annoyance with the pitstop strategy once again.
On lap 40, the race got going again. Nobody did initially try to overtake, but as the lap progressed, some overtakes materialised in the midfield, ended up in a front left puncture for Lance Stroll. The Racing Point driver thereby saw a points scoring position converted into 19th, and dead last.
Two laps later, Perez parked his Racing Point RP19 due to a technical issue.
Moments after that, Ricciardo got into contact with Grosjean again, but without harm. The same couldn't be said of Kvyat passing attempt on Raikkonen, as Kvyat was somewhat over ambitious, and went straight on, taking Raikkonen off track and out of the race.
At the front, the gaps remained small, and fastest laps were set by alternating drivers, but nobody really managed to attempt a pass, leaving Vettel unthreatened until the finish, while Leclerc completes Ferrari's success by finishing in second. Whether Leclerc will think that is a great result too, is another matter.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||61||+3.821s||15|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||61||+4.608s||12|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||61||+6.119s||10|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||61||+11.663s||8|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||61||+14.769s||6|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||61||+15.547s||4|
|10||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||61||+17.855s||1|
|11||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||61||+35.436s||0|
|12||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||61||+35.974s||0|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||61||+36.419s||0|
|15||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||61||+38.178s||0|
|16||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||61||+47.024s||0|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||61||+86.522s||0|
|NC||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||49||DNF||0|
|NC||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||42||DNF||0|
|NC||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||34||DNF||0|