Sunday noticebook – Singapore Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Singapore, Marina Bay Street Circuitsg

There were not many who could have predicted that Scuderia Ferrari would be the dominant force of the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix weekend. After Charles Leclerc celebrated his fifth career pole position, the Scuderia secured a one-two finish in today’s exciting, strategy-dominated race.

Positive surprise – Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto was caught by surprise that his squad managed to turn things around at Singapore, on a track which was supposed to work against strengths of Ferrari’s SF90. “The 1-2 today is very important to us because we achieved it in a different scenario, on a very different type of circuit to Spa-Francorchamps or Monza.” The Swiss admitted that the aerodynamic upgrade that the team introduced for the 15th round of the championship was very important in fighting on a race track dominated by slow- and medium-speed corners. “The team managed the situation, the strategy and the pit stops very well. The aero update we brought here worked well and, combined with our drivers’ confidence around here and the tyres, that we managed to get to work properly, we actually got more than we expected today,” he said.

An average result - Red Bull ended the weekend with a result which did not fully meet its expectations. Ahead of the weekend, the energy drink company-owned team thought that the Marina Bay Circuit would be one of its golden opportunities based on the track characteristics and the strengths of its car. However, the weekend turned out to be different to the expectations. Max Verstappen thinks that considering Ferrari’s and Mercedes’ superior pace his third-place finish was a good result. “Of course we always want to win but finishing on the podium and gaining one place on a track where you can’t really overtake is positive. It’s true that we came here hoping for more but this is still a good result for us, especially with the pace that the others had yesterday in qualifying. Most of the race was about managing the pace to keep the tyres alive and luckily that worked out for me.”

Hard racing – Race stewards were rather lenient in today’s race. George Russell was involved in a clash with Romain Grosjean which led to the first safety car period in today’s race. Later on, Kimi Räikkönen and Daniil Kvyat came together, triggering the third safety car period of the race. The Stewards reviewed video evidence and heard from the drivers, but decided to take no further action in any of the two incidents.

Music festival - As usual, there was a stellar group of musicians to entertain the fans over the weekend, including Swedish House Mafia, Muse, Gwen Stefani, Fatboy Slim, Hans Zimmer, as well as Toots and the Maytals, with Red Hot Chili Peppers closing the action-packed weekend at the Padang Stage after the chequered flag was waved.

Penalty without consequences – Antonio Giovinazzi was found guilty of ignoring instructions to stay to the right of the incident while marshals worked to recover Russell's car, and was given a 10-second post-race time penalty as a result. However, the Italian had an advantage of over ten seconds ahead of Romain Grosjean which meant that he could keep the one championship point with his tenth-place finish.

Strategy error – Mercedes chief engineer Andrew Shovlin explained the reasons behind Mercedes’ strategy decision which cost the team the chance to win the Singapore Grand Prix. As the top cars were circling around at a reduced pace to save tyres, everyone waited for who blinks first. At the end, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen were the first drivers to dive into the pit lane for fresh tyres on lap 19. The then race leader Charles Leclerc followed them on the very next lap. As the undercut was very powerful due to the big difference in grip levels, Mercedes lost out to its rival and had to adjust its strategy. “We missed an open goal today by not taking the undercut on lap 19. We had talked about it but didn’t really react quickly enough to how fast Charles’ tyres were dropping. We decided to call Valtteri to do the opposite to Verstappen on the lap that mattered but obviously we should have made that call with Lewis, and made it late enough that they would not be able to react. That was our opportunity to win and it’s upsetting when you let something like that slip through your fingers,” explained Shovlin.

Frustration – Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff labelled his outfit’s weekend as disappointing after neither of his drivers could secure a podium finish in the Singapore Grand Prix. The Austrian admitted that his team has made crucial mistakes over the weekend which they have review ahead of the next race which takes place in Russia in just a week’s time. “I think we had a car capable for pole yesterday and we had an opportunity to win today, but we made too many mistakes. We’re aware that we didn’t deliver to the standards that we set ourselves this weekend, so we will review it and see where we can improve for Russia,” he said. Lewis Hamilton was also unhappy with Mercedes’ strategy claiming that “I knew that we should have undercut. I kinda knew it this morning in the brief, I was like, ‘Let’s just take the risk’. But they didn’t. We win and we lose together as a team. We all take this on our chins.”