F1 – Singapore GP – Race
Hai, MiniFans! The day kicked off with a torrential downpour and the race needed to be delayed in order to make sure it’d be safe to race. However, it was determined that it would kick off an hour later than predicted and complaints rose about the FIA and Race Direction management of the event, due to drivers leaving the pitlane towards the grid with intermediate tyres, instead of full wets.
A very brief yellow flag in the second sector was the most notable incident among the sea of spray, sparks and exchange of positions at the start. Pérez overtook Leclerc for the lead, as Sainz did the same to Hamilton. Alonso, usually known for his good starts, was slower than those behind him, making him lose a couple of places until he started fighting back and stood his ground in sixth. He was not the worst off at the start, as Verstappen lost a handful of places and needed to start gaining them back from the very beginning.
Humidity and new asphalt both contributed to the track being very slow to dry up, opening up the chance at a one-stop race. The competition seemed to settle quite early, barely seven laps in, but Zhou and Latifi came to the rescue with a yellow flag at first and a full safety car a bit after that. The Chinese driver managed to leave his Alfa Romeo far away from the track after contact with Latifi, who would also retire from damage to his rear left suspension, and the safety car was brought out to gather all the drivers together and allow the marshals to clean up the debris left on the track, but it was too soon for it to be considered as a stopping opportunity.
After the race was restarted, Leclerc managed to stay close to Pérez, setting the fastest lap in the process and trying to keep the difference to a minimum, while Verstappen wasn’t able to overtake Alonso, despite being faster than the Spaniard. Dry patches were starting to become very obvious on the driving and conflicting opinions were coming from different drivers, but most agreed on it still being too early for slicks. Almost at the halfway point (according to the time limit), a second safety car came out, this time a virtual one, due to Alonso’s engine giving up on him. The first brave one to for slicks, in his case mediums, was Russell, as he had nothing to lose and the team had been looking ready to give them to him even before the safety car, but the grip was nowhere to be seen.
The next virtual safety car was prompted by Albon, who crashed into a wall, albeit slowly, and his front wing detached from the nose of the car, which needed cleaning up. He was the only one to go into the pits and he got a brand new set of mediums, but he retired. Yet another virtual safety car came out as Ocon’s car gave up on him and the car had to be retrieved from the asphalt runoff the Alpine driver had managed to park it in. Interest rose back up when Hamilton crashed into a wall, soft enough to back up from it but hard enough to break part of the front wing. He rejoined right in front of Verstappen, who made clear the Mercedes could easily lose this endplate.
It as at this moment that Russell started pulling some purple sectors and didn’t take long to set the fastest lap of the race, prompting Ferrari to pit Leclerc for mediums, among others, but not Pérez, who was still on the lead. Following the change of tyres for most of the grid, a full safety car came out after Tsunoda crashed into the tecpro barriers. McLaren, the only team that still hadn’t pitted, gave Norris the same tyres as everyone else, but Ricciardo joined Bottas with softs and they settled in fourth and sixth.
The restart was bad for Red Bull. Verstappen blocked his tyres in his attempt to overtake Norris, and he pitted for softs due to the flat spots on his mediums, and Pérez would be investigated after the race for a safety car infringement. Russell earned himself a flat tyre after a small touch with Schumacher, and both would pit for softs. At the front, Leclerc seemed to have the best pace and Pérez reported some driveability problems with his engine, closing the space between them. DRS was finally enabled and Leclerc tried to take full advantage of it, using it to stay glued to Pérez’s rear wing. However, little by little, Pérez’s problem seemed to go away and he easily remained in front.
Ferrari did one thing right for the first time when sending messages to their drivers, notifying Leclerc that a penalty might be coming Pérez’s way and that he should stay within five seconds, but the Mexican driver got a similar one and the distance opened up between them to the point that a basic penalty wouldn’t change the result. Sainz closed the podium positions, with two very surprising McLarens following him, thanks to the last safety car. Verstappen finished just one place higher than he started, thanks to one late overtake over Vettel, meaning he will have to wait to repeat a world championship victory.
After Saturday’s squeaky clean qualifying session, most hoped for a similar race, but adding Singapore’s history with safety cars to the wet track that took some time to dry meant that it was all in vain. Both safety cars and virtual safety cars came out, but none of them truly changed anything, save for the last one, but that had more to do with Russell setting the fastest lap for the first time in slicks a couple of laps before it came out and only truly favoured McLaren. By his part, Verstappen couldn’t close this year’s championship here, but the return to Japan could see him crowning himself with other four races to go.