The Singapore Grand Prix was an eventful affair and a very welcome return to the F1 calendar. Though most action happened behind him, Sergio Perez won the race and was joined by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Rain had delayed the Singapore Grand Prix start by one hour and 5 minutes after the start was initially called off due to heavy rain. As rain eased off around the normally expected starting time, the safety car was sent out for a few reconnaissance laps after which the race director announced the start of the starting procedure at 20:35 local time, followed by the start of the installation lap at 21:05.
As so often the case, the delays by the race directors meant that by the time it was time to get racing, the track was dry enough to get going with intermediates. All drivers did so, as well as George Russell who started from the pitlane after a disappointing qualifying session and a power unit change.
As the lights went out, Perez made the best getaway and moved up into first place as pole sitter Leclerc slotted into second. Carlos Sainz managed to move up into third by passing Hamilton in Turn 2. The Mercedes driver did get a bit of a bumping by the Spaniard and had to move off-track as Sainz passed through.
Lando Norris moved up into 5th as Alonso made a difficult getaway, initially having to fight with Gasly. Verstappen meanwhile had an even more difficult start and dropped down to 12th after lots of slip on the grid. He had trouble getting past Magnussen during the first two laps but then quickly progressed to 9th by lap 4, behind Vettel and ahead of Tsunoda, Stroll and Magnussen.
Positions then seemed somewhat settled with the top two steadily running away from Sainz and Hamilton while Lando Norris already followed at a distant 12 seconds.
On lap 8 then Latifi clipped Zhou's front wheel as he "didn't see him". Zhou nicely parked his car near a mashall post and well out of the regular circuit, but still, after a minute of yellow flags the safety car was brought out, bringing the entire pack together again. Latifi retired in the pits due to the damage on his car while Magnussen was the only one to pit.
The safety car left the track at the end of lap 10. At he front nobody managed to gain a position. The only one who managed to do so was Verstappen as he passed Vettel on the straight section with Gasly also getting passed even before the end of that lap. Verstappen's pace was clearly a lot getter as he easily distanced himself from the AlphaTauri, on his way to the battling duo Norris-Alonso in the fight for 5th.
When Verstappen joined Alonso the Spaniard lost touch with Norris as he had to focus more on his mirrors. Traction for the Red Bull seemed a lot better out of the slow corners but a pass wasn't as easy as in the first lap after the safety car where some were still sleeping or Verstappen just had better tyre warmup.
10 laps later, Verstappen was still stuck behind Alonso until suddenly the Spaniard went off track and retired from the race with an engine problem. Just before the virtual safety car that started, Tsunoda had lost three positions by going very nearly into the wall. As it took him a while to get back into gear, Stroll, Ricciardo and Schumacher happily profited.
That VSC was the trigger for Russell to take a risk and switch to medium compound slick tyres. While accelerating out of Turn 3 though he nearly found himself in the wall. His first timed lap was 16s slower than Albon ahead of him. The performance proved that Verstappen and Alonso were making absolute sense when they reported it was too early for the switch just a lap earlier.
On lap 26 Albon went straight into a TecPro barrier and dropped his front wing. The Williams driver however kept his car going and returned to the pits while another virtual safety car period was initiated to remove the debris. As he pitted the Williams crew changed his tyres before signalling the race retirement.
Moments later Ocon came to a halt with smoke coming out of the engine bay as Hamilton questioned his team what to do as he felt he could go quicker than Sainz less than a second in front of him.
Three minutes later Ocon's car was cleared and the race went on again without anybody using the safety car period to make a stop, even though the Ferrari crew were ready, albeit strangely with fresh intermediate tyres.
As Hamilton sought for a way past Sainz, Verstappen was similarly seeking a way past Norris. The gap between these two fights was around 13s while Sainz trailed his second placed teammate by 17 seconds. Perez meanwhile continued out in front, 3s ahead of Leclerc.
Meanwhile at the back, George Russell got lapped but pretty much equalled the laptimes of the cars ahead of him, triggering a possible switch to slicks. The other Mercedes steered by Hamilton then found itself in the barrier. Hamilton had a fairly heavy straight-on impact with the TecPro barriers leading to some minor damage to his front wing. He reversed and returned to the track exactly in between Norris and Verstappen.
As the left hand side of Hamilton's front wing scraped the floor on the higher speed sections, Verstappen repeatedly called for the FIA to call him in. It proved unnecessary as Hamilton got pitted the next lap while also switching to medium compound slick tyres, moments after Leclerc had done the same.
As Russell then recorded the fastest lap many more stopped. The next lap Tsunoda ended up retiring in the barrier at which time only the McLaren cars of Norris and Ricciardo were still on intermediates. The safety car was brought out as a result, triggering McLaren to pit both their cars. Norris to mediums like almost everybody else while Ricciardo got fresh Softs, just like Bottas three laps before him.
On lap 40 the race was green flagged again with Perez leading Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton, Gasly, Schumacher Russell, Bottas and Magnussen. Halfway into this lap though Verstappen completely missed his braking, locked all wheels and went off. He returned to the track in 8th place, just ahead of Hamilton. The tyres were however badly damaged requiring an immediate pitstop. He switched to softs and soon moved up from last to 13th as Russell suffered a puncture after a touch with Schumacher in Turn 1. Schumacher pitted one lap later also to switch to soft tyres.
Out in front Leclerc was increasing the pressure on Perez with a fastest lap. The Mexican meanwhile was asking his team to check his engine as he struggled with performance under acceleration as well as while braking. Still, could be worse as race control decided to enable DRS on lap 44. Leclerc continued to follow closely as both drivers kept on increasing their pace but the Ferrari driver slowly lost ground as of lap 50.
Sainz meanwhile had a difficult few laps from 40-45 during which he saw the gap to Leclerc increase to nearly 10 seconds while Norris could close the gap. Sainz upped his pace again the following laps to make sure he didn't get attacked by the McLaren behind.
By lap 51 Verstappen had moved back into the points after passing Bottas for 10th. The Red Bull driver then breezed past Gasly 5 corners later and lapped 2s quicker than Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton, the trio 4s ahead of him.
As Verstappen joined Hamilton, Russell pitted to take on softs to complete the final 8 minutes of the race. Verstappen had trouble doing anything to pass Hamilton and it was the latter who eventually tried to get Vettel, only to go straight on due to the humidity off the line. Hamilton as such dropped to 9th.
On the very last lap, Verstappen still made it past Vettel to move finish in 7th place thanks to great overspeed on the back straight where Vettel went somewhat defensive, allowing Verstappen to make it past the Aston Martin and get back firmly on the dry line before braking. That rounded off an eventful race for Verstappen and pretty much everyone as the wet patches made it difficult for all drivers.
Once again, Singapore didn't disappoint.
|1||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||59||2:02:20.238||25|
|4||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||59||+21.133s||12|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||59||+53.282s||10|
|6||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||59||+56.330s||8|
|7||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||59||+58.825s||6|
|8||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||59||+60.032s||4|
|10||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||59||+69.576s||1|
|11||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||59||+88.844s||0|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||59||+92.610s||0|
|13||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||58||+1 lap||0|
|14||63||George Russell||Mercedes||57||+2 laps||0|
|NC||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||34||DNF||0|
|NC||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||26||DNF||0|
|NC||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||25||DNF||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||20||DNF||0|
|NC||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||7||DNF||0|
|NC||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||6||DNF||0|