A lot can happen in 24 hours in the Formula 1 world and that was abundantly evident in Singapore this weekend.
Starting from pole and set to grab a bagful of points, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel spectacularly crashed with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to hand victory to title-challenger Lewis Hamilton.
It was a race that had everything – three safety cars, wet and dry weather and scintillating racing. But Hamilton was more than up to the challenge and comfortably withstood an attack from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who ended 4.507 seconds behind.
Also benefiting from the opening lap chaos was Valtteri Bottas who avoided the carnage to take third, almost 9 seconds behind Hamilton, to secure crucial constructor’s points for Mercedes.
The raft of accidents and retirements proved helpful for the mid-table teams. Carlos Sainz took fourth place ahead of Sergio Perez’s Force India and, rather ironically, Jolyon Palmer ended sixth to get his best finish in Formula 1 only days after being dumped by Renault for 2018.
Crazy Opening To Singapore Grand Prix
The leading drivers arrived at the Marina Bay Circuit on Sunday afternoon with very different mindsets. For Vettel, his focus was on taking the win and regaining the championship lead, while Hamilton was intent on limiting the damage to his title prospects.
All that changed within seconds of the Singapore Grand Prix starting.
Verstappen got a strong getaway to draw alongside pole-sitter Vettel and Raikkonen stormed from fourth to make it three across.
Vettel made an aggressive swerve to his left to block Verstappen not knowing that his team-mate was on the other side of the Red Bull. Raikkonen also pushed into Verstappen at the same time and the Dutchman was smacked on both sides by the Ferrari’s forcing the Finn to spin and collect Vettel.
Raikkonen and Verstappen then ploughed into Fernando Alonso who made a fantastic start to briefly get up to third. The McLaren was flung into the air and the damage to his floor and sidepod forced the Spaniard into retirement a few laps later.
Meanwhile, Vettel had attempted to continue but spun on Turn 3 due to the damage and was out of the race. It is the first time that both Ferrari’s have retired at the first corner.
All three drivers were dragged into the race stewards office to explain the incident but officials decided that no one person was predominantly to blame.
Vettel said: “I had an average start and then I moved slightly to the left trying to defend my position from Max. Then I got bumped on one side as Kimi’s car hit me. I’m not sure what happened.”
But the situation was a little clearer for Verstappen.
“I think it wasn’t the smartest move and you can’t make excuses for it when you are fighting for a world championship.”
“We all lost out in the end.”
Hamilton Gets Handy Points Lead
Hamilton was wishing for a miracle ahead of the race and Ferrari promptly delivered that with a remarkable opening lap incident.
But it may also shape the entire title contest with the Englishman picking up a vital 25 points on a track that is less inclined to suit the Mercedes setup.
Hamilton indeed drove a masterful race to pull away from Ricciardo who had hoped before the race to challenge for the win. The Red Bull could never close the gap on the Silver Arrow and it was later revealed that mechanical problems hampered Ricciardo’s race.
“Even when we pitted and had fresher tyres, we couldn’t really make an impact on Lewis,” said the Australian.
“The team was asking me to manage the gears through the race and after I learned we had a leak and were losing oil pressure in the gearbox from early on.”
For Hamilton, the race could not have delivered a better outcome and he carries a huge 28 point lead into the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“It is still soaking in. My 60th grand prix win and also the (points) gap – it is hard to believe.”