COLLISIONS, safety cars, a touch of something close to sabotage, along with some processional racing made the Singapore Grand Prix the least exciting, but simultaneously interesting, races of the season.

At the end of 61 laps of the Marina Bay circuit, it was Ferrari’s night, with a 1-2 win.

It should have been great, but Charles Leclerc, who finished second, should have won.

That would have given the 21-year-old Monegasque a his third straight win after dominating performances in Belgium and Italy.

However, the Ferrari pit called Leclerc in for a tyre change ahead of schedule and allowed teammate Sebastien Vettel to undercut him and take over the lead.

Was it a mistake, or was it a way for their lead driver, who hadn’t won a race in more than a year — to save face?

We’ll never know, but young Leclerc was not a happy lad, and let his team know that for many laps.

Renault had a torrid time, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg getting top 10 qualifying times.

But Ricciardo was disqualified  after stewards ruled his car’s energy recovery system had deployed too much power.

What?

It emerged he had slightly exceeded his 120kW power limit in the first qualifying segment.

The team  argued that the technicality gave no benefit, but rules are rules and he had to start from the back of the grid.

 It was a tough call, especially on a track known for its difficulty in overtaking.

“They’ve definitely taken a big opportunity away,” Ricciardo, who qualified 8th, said.

“I am not impressed at all.”

To top that, both he and teammate Nico Hulkenberg were involved in first lap crashes. 

Hulkenberg tangled with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz  and Ricciardo with the Williams of George Russell — both Renaults got punctures. 

And later in the race, Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly made contact, as did Ricciardo with Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo.

Hulkenberg went on to finish in the points with a solid 9th place, while Ricciardo ended up 14th after running as high as third when the frontrunners pitted.

But, at the end of 61 laps of the 23 corner Marina Bay Street circuit — with 76 gear changes per lap — third place went to Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, followed by the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Sixth was the Red Bull of Thai driver Alexander Albon, ahead of Lando Norris in the McLaren and Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso, then came Hulkenberg in the Renault and Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo.

Alfa teammate Kimi Raikkonen retired on lap 50 after being hit by Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso and George Russell’s race came to an end after being shunted into the wall by Romain Grosjean in the Haas.

It was a bad night out for several teams, including Mercedes, the latter apologising to Lewis Hamilton following a strategy blunder. 

Hamilton had been running in second place, but was left in no-man’s land when Mercedes elected to ignore an early pit stop by Vettel – one that gave the German the jump on team-mate Leclerc, who was leading from the start.

Hamilton, on well worn tyres, battled on for seven laps longer than the Ferraris and by the time he did pit for fresh rubber, it left him in fourth, and no hope of victory.

“It’s painful for us because we could have easily won today,” Hamilton said. 

“I was asking them to do the undercut, to take the risk, and go for it, but they didn’t. Two other teams got it right today and leapfrogged us.”​

Meanwhile the furious Leclerc told his crew he didn’t “understand the undercut” that gave his lead to Vettel, adding “I won’t do anything stupid, but I just think it’s unfair.”​

The best racing action was in the midfield, where there was a long and entertaining dogfight involving Ricciardo, the two Haases, the Racing Points and the Toro Rossos.

Ricciardo said it was a shame his race ended as it did.

“The start was fun with some good overtakes and getting into a decent position,” he said. 

“We were ticking every box and really made the most of everyone being bunched up.

“Then it all came undone with the incident and the puncture, which meant our race was more or less over. We deserved a better outcome.”

Team principal Cyril Abiteboul summed it up: 

“There is obviously a sense of ‘what could have been’ today. 

“After showing decent pace all weekend, two points for Nico seems a poor reward for both him and the team even if he was last after the first-lap contact with Carlos. 

“The race was marred by many incidents, which we didn’t benefit from. 

“Daniel’s comeback after his disqualification was remarkable on a track like this. Contact sent him back to square one. 

“It was encouraging, however, to be back at this competitiveness level.”

 Next week is the Russian Grand Prix.

Nastarovya.

Results

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
15Sebastian VettelFERRARI611:58:33.66725
216Charles LeclercFERRARI61+2.641s18
333Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA61+3.821s15
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES61+4.608s12
577Valtteri BottasMERCEDES61+6.119s10
623Alexander AlbonRED BULL RACING HONDA61+11.663s8
74Lando NorrisMCLAREN RENAULT61+14.769s6
810Pierre GaslySCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA61+15.547s4
927Nico HulkenbergRENAULT61+16.718s2
1099Antonio GiovinazziALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI61+27.855s1
118Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI61+35.436s0
1255Carlos SainzMCLAREN RENAULT61+35.974s0
1318Lance StrollRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES61+36.419s0
143Daniel RicciardoRENAULT61+37.660s0
1526Daniil KvyatSCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA61+38.178s0
1688Robert KubicaWILLIAMS MERCEDES61+47.024s0
1720Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI61+86.522s0
NC7Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI49DNF0
NC11Sergio PerezRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES42DNF0
NC63George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES34DNF0

Note – Giovinazzi received a post-race, 10-second time penalty for failing to follow the Race Director’s instructions.

CHECKOUT: Vettel skating on thin ice

CHECKOUT: Fairytale finish for Leclerc at Monza

Vettel saves face under lights

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.
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