#1012 2019 Singapore Grand Prix

2021-04-07 00:00

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#2019, Fulvio Conti, Giulia Mizzoni,

#1012 2019 Singapore Grand Prix

After a week break, Formula 1 moves to Marina Bay to contest the 15th race of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Singapore Grand Prix is the only r


After a week break, Formula 1 moves to Marina Bay to contest the 15th race of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Singapore Grand Prix is the only race in the World Championship to be held entirely at night, as well as one of the most physically tiring due to its duration, which is close to the two-hour mark, as well as the intense heat. The circuit is illuminated by as many as 1,600 floodlights and has 23 corners, the only point to be able to overtake is before Memorial Corner where the speed is close to 290 km/h and for this reason a third DRS area has been added, in the hope that it will give more overtaking opportunities, so in addition to the one on the pit straight and the second one on Raffles Boulevard, another one is added between turns 13 and 14. In the Italian Grand Prix there was the second consecutive victory of Charles Leclerc and therefore of the Scuderia Ferrari, which seems to have regained competitiveness after the summer break. The Maranello team is preparing to tackle the Asian track, which in theory is not favorable to the characteristics of the SF90. But it is still a street circuit, so there is a high possibility of error, on the part of the drivers, and of seeing the safety car enter the track. There are six races to go before the conclusion of the World Championship, and although it is impossible for Scuderia Ferrari to put itself back in the running for the title, the fight for second place is still open in both the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championship standings. In fact, the Maranello team has an impressive 85-point lead over Red Bull Racing, and both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel have a chance to catch up and overtake Valtteri Bottas, currently second in the standings with 221 points. Obviously, the Maranello team needs to reduce errors and bring it down to a minimum level. Part of the credit for this growth in results goes to Charles Leclerc, who has been competitive since the beginning of the season, with the narrow victory in Bahrain, the four pole positions and the wins in Belgium and Italy. The Monegasque aims to win at the Singapore circuit as well, despite the circuit's adversity. 


"Since these were two consecutive races there had been no way to celebrate in Belgium, while after the Italian GP I was able to celebrate in Milan and Monaco, but especially in Maranello, where there was a chance to hug the whole team, not just the people who came to the Grand Prix. These are more than a thousand guys with whom it was nice to make a toast. After two very positive weekends in Belgium and Italy, the Singapore circuit does not seem to be the most suitable for the characteristics of our car, because the track is quite different from those on which we have recently won: there are fewer straights and more slow corners, and this could complicate our lives. Singapore's is probably the most difficult race ever for us drivers, if only because of the heat and humidity level. From my point of view, though, it is always a nice place to go racing in; I love all city circuits and this one is no exception. In addition, I like that the racing happens at night, when, among other things, it feels like going much faster than during the day. In its own way it is a unique weekend and I am looking forward to being there. That said, we are more motivated than ever to get the best possible result. We have some new parts on the SF90 that we hope will help us close the gap to our rivals on these types of circuits. The target, as always, is to aim as high as possible, although we have to be realistic: it won't be easy".


Unlike his teammate, Sebastian Vettel is looking for redemption. The German driver's season is disappointing and the pressure from the media and fans is rising.


"It happens in a driver’s career that there are more or less positive periods. Clearly the weekend in Italy was not the best, but that’s in the past. I really like the Singapore track, here I won more than once and this weekend, so particular, is always very nice for us drivers. In theory we’re not the favourites, but fortunately we do not run on paper but on the asphalt, and between the walls: so everything can happen. After Spa-Francorchamps and Monza we move to a completely different circuit, but I love it very much. It is a street circuit with rough asphalt that does not allow room for error. In addition to this, it is one of the few night races of the season". 


And adds:


"It’s a bit 'special weekend, because usually us drivers, as well as most of the team, we continue to live with the European time zone, so with six hours difference, so it can happen to leave the circuit late at night, when it’s almost time for the locals to wake up. The layout of the track requires maximum downforce and we will have the three softest rubber compounds available. Making a prediction of this race is practically impossible because of the many variables for which we are ready to play our cards. This is not an easy two weeks, especially for the team, because immediately after this race there will be the Russian Grand Prix".


To the comments of the two drivers of the Maranello team is added the opinion of the team principal, Mattia Binotto, who on the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix says:


“We are coming from two wins in a row that have been good for the whole team and our fans. However, these successes are already in the past and for days now everyone's mind has been focused on Singapore. The track is completely different from that of the previous two races and has characteristics that are not exactly suited to our car. We will bring some new components to continue in our efforts to catch up with our rivals on circuits that feature slow corners, and we will also rediscover Pirelli's softer compounds, the Hypersofts, which we last had available in the Canadian GP. By its nature, the Singapore circuit, which both Sebastian and Charles love, lends itself to unpredictable results, as it does every time you race brushing against the walls, so we expect a complex, but also fun weekend of on-track action".


Lewis Hamilton comes to Singapore as the World Championship leader and full of confidence:


"This is one of the toughest races of the year physically and mentally, every year there is always a battle between us, Ferrari and Red Bull, although the strengths change from year to year. Red Bull have always been very strong on this kind of circuit and I expect them to be strong again this year. I have no idea about the Ferraris, I don't know if they will be as fast as they were in the last two races or not, let's just focus exclusively on ourselves and try to express the maximum potential. We didn't do so well in the last few years here, however, the final results were not bad, we hope to do well again this year".


A pitfall for Mercedes could also come from the heat in Singapore, although running at night should mitigate the problems, and even a few small rain showers are not ruled out: 


"Definitely something we pay attention to, but it won't be the hottest race of the year. We will see if it rains with possible temperature drop or something happening that could help us on the race weekend".


In 2018 Mercedes did not show up with the favorable odds in Singapore, but Lewis Hamilton stunned everyone with a great pole position, which was later turned into victory.


"I have a rather fuzzy memory, I wouldn't really know how to talk about it, it was a special lap on my part. On this track the tire temperatures are a huge problem, especially in the last sector where they start to drop and it becomes complicated since the lap is very long. It was a combination of factors, in the free practice sessions I had had ups and downs, I hadn't had a good lap all weekend, but then I was lucky enough to do it at the right time and there's little chance of that happening. Everything was at the right time, temperatures, smoothness, everything right. It is an intense experience to do qualifying here, positioning is key element, you have to take advantage of the evolution of the circuit and the potential you have in the car".


Responding to questions posed by reporters, the Briton also discusses a couple of topics about his life away from the circuits. The first is about Instagram:


"I simply wanted to start from scratch, make a clean slate. Social is an incredible platform but I noticed on my part, I don't know if it's the same for you, to get on Instagram as soon as I wake up and I decided to change that routine. Let's see if it will then make a difference in my life. I kind of miss seeing what my friends are going to do, but then there are people who say, follow me, follow him and don't follow me, so then they can't tell me anything anymore because I don't follow anybody. I miss knowing what my friends are doing, but this is an incentive to call them and look for them if I want to know what they are doing. However I still follow everyone closely, I look at my colleagues' accounts to see what they are doing, I don't think you have to follow someone to show them your support though".


The second question, however, again touches on his busy social life:


"If I didn't have this life off the track I think I would drive the same way. What I do off the track are outbursts, everyone prepares differently. However, they are things that have a positive effect".


Meanwhile, the driver market continues to develop. On Thursday, September 19, 2019, the renewal of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen's partnership with the Haas Racing Team is announced. Guenther Steiner confirms:


"The importance of the experience factor has been one of the key points of the Haas team since it has been in Formula 1, and with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen we will continue to have a tandem of drivers that guarantees us a solid platform on which to continue our growth. They know our reality very well, and their reappointment provides us with valuable continuity and a solid base to continue building our team".


And Romain Grosjean adds:


"The one with Haas has been a good story from the beginning and the story will continue. I'm obviously very happy, looking forward to continuing to race for this team. Despite what it may seem from the outside this has been an important season for us, even in 2017 we were struggling and then 2018 was positive, I hope to repeat this trend in 2020 after a 2019 below expectations".


As Robert Kubica bids farewell to the Williams Racing team during a press conference on Thursday, September 19, 2019:


"Next year I will look at different opportunities. I have decided next year not to continue with Williams, it's a decision I made and it opens up opportunities for different scenarios in the future, I will evaluate what's best for me. I have always said it took a lot to come back to the sport, and I have always said since I came back that I would like to stay. That was my goal this year so if there is an opportunity I will try to stay, but not at any cost. First of all, I have to do something to bring back the joy of racing, as this season has been very tough performance-wise and physically. That said, I have to thank the team for the opportunity and we will see what the future holds for me. To be back, going through what happened to me, on the F1 grid was the best ending I could have deserved and imagined".


Friday, September 13, 2019 Williams Racing agrees with Mercedes to extend its agreement to supply German power units until 2025. Mercedes has been powering the British manufacturer since 2014, a period in which Williams achieved a pole position, 2 fastest laps and 15 podiums. From this race and until the end of the season, Haas is entered in the Grand Prix under the sole name of Haas F1 Team, without the title sponsor Rich Energy, as, after the previous race, on Monday, September 9, 2019, the U.S. team breaks its sponsorship agreement with the energy drink. The livery of the car will not change. 


"Haas F1 and Rich Energy have amicably decided to end their partnership together in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship with immediate effect. Meanwhile enjoys substantial brand recognition and significant exposure through association with the Haas F1 team in 2019, a corporate restructuring process of Rich Energy will see the need to review the overall strategy. Subsequently, Haas F1 and Rich Energy conclude that ending the partnership is the best way for both to move forward. The Haas F1 team would like to thank Rich Energy and wish its shareholders the best".


Rich Energy, as early as the British Grand Prix, had announced its willingness to drop support for the team on the strength of poor sporting results. Later that statement had been denied by the company itself, so the sponsor remained on the liveries of the U.S. cars until the Italian Grand Prix. Compared to previous editions, for this Grand Prix the FIA establishes three zones where drivers can activate the Drag Reduction System: the first zone is set on Raffles Boulevard, the section between Turn 5 and Turn 7, with the point for determining the gap between drivers established at the exit of Turn 4; the second zone, introduced from this edition in order to facilitate overtaking, is set between Turn 13 and Turn 14, with detection point indicated before Turn 13; finally, the third zone is set on the pit straight, and detection point indicated before Turn 22. And, in conclusion, the Federation chooses former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo as assistant steward for the race. The Finn has served in this capacity before, most recently at the Monaco Grand Prix. For this race, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, is bringing C3, C4 and C5 compound tires, the three softest of those available. Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, said: 


"It is difficult to think of two tracks as different as Monza and Singapore. In Marina Bay the teams will have to start from scratch compared to the race in Italy, although the track is well known and there is a lot of representative data from past editions. It is quite difficult to overtake here, so teams will try to make the most of strategies to gain positions. In recent years the safety car has always entered, which is a factor to be considered and certainly affects the complexity of the race. It will be a very interesting weekend, as there are some differences in the teams' choice of sets, which could lead to a wide variety of strategies. We will see if anyone will try to qualify on medium tires instead of soft, to ensure more flexibility in race tactics".


On the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg will try to win additional points that will help him take fourth place in the World Constructors' Championship.


"The one at Marina Bay is a unique event because it is effectively the only real night race of the season. It is also probably the most physically testing because the lap time is long on a very twisty track where there are not so many straights to recharge on. Thanks to the great result in Monza we are back in the race for fourth place. To get there we need to continue to score points consistently, a goal in my opinion within our reach".


While Daniel Ricciardo is thinking more about the challenges that the Marina Bay circuit offers:


"Challenges excite me, and Singapore is undoubtedly a selective track in 2011 I realized that you have to show up more ready at Marina Bay than at other races. Touching the walls makes all the difference and during the Singapore weekend several times you hold your breath behind the wheel. I guess we will be expected to be on our toes after the result in Monza, a result that was more than deserved. I don't see why we should suffer a conspicuous drop in performance. We have to go after fourth place in the constructors' standings".


Carlos Sainz Jr. hopes, however, that McLaren can become competitive again:


"The last two European races have not gone according to plan, and now we need to make up lost ground in the long road trips ahead between now and Abu Dhabi. There is no reason not to stay positive. As always, we have to stay focused and fight to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. In 2017 for example in Singapore I finished fourth, and I know it is a special race where anything can happen. The challenge is always special, racing at night in the scorching heat on the streets of an incredible city".


While Lando Norris, clearly, will have to practice on a circuit he is unfamiliar with:


"I have prepared a lot for this weekend, everyone describes it as the toughest on the calendar. I'll be traveling earlier than I'm used to so I can acclimatize better in a definitely special place with very high humidity. I've been studying the track in the simulator and I'm looking forward to getting going for real on Friday in free practice".


Lance Stroll talks about the difficulties this circuit presents:


"It is a long race that tests concentration. The track is narrow, and with the walls so close together, there is no room for error. It's a technical circuit, so putting in the perfect lap is a challenge. You need confidence in the car and a balance that suits your driving style".


While, finally, Sergio Perez talks about the work done in the factory, which should provide more competitiveness for the Racing Points:


"The hard work in the factory is paying off, and we are also doing our best on the track. Over the years I have had good performances in Singapore. I like the layout of the track, and I have always liked city circuits. You have to be aggressive and precise, and it's a track where you can make a difference as a driver".


Friday, September 20, 2019 Max Verstappen sets the fastest time in the first free practice session. The Dutchman is ahead of Sebastian Vettel, by less than 0.2 seconds. The Ferrari driver, who in the first part of the session uses the car in the traditional aerodynamic conformation, then moves on to test the new solutions, first tried by his teammate, Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque, in turn, is forced to stop testing, about half an hour into the session, due to a gearbox problem. Lewis Hamilton sets the third fastest time, 0.7 seconds behind Max Verstappen's time; however, Hard tires are fitted on his car, thus confirming the competitiveness of Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas is the author of an accident at Turn 19. In the impact, the single-seater suffers damage to the left front suspension. The session is also interrupted with a red flag. The Finn finishes, however, marking the fourth time, ahead of Alexander Albon, Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. The Spaniard is the protagonist of an on-track misunderstanding with Lewis Hamilton, with the two coming close to colliding. During the session, the loss of electrical power at the Alfa Romeo garage does not allow the Swiss team to use telemetry. At the end of the first session, Mercedes is fined €5,000 because the gasoline loaded on Lewis Hamilton's car is colder, compared to the air temperature of 11 °C, which is not required by the rules. During FP2 Lewis Hamilton takes the lead in the time list. The Briton sets a time about 0.1 seconds higher than he did in the similar session in the previous year. He follows in second place Max Verstappen, 0.184 seconds behind. The Anglo-Austrian car is very competitive even in the race simulation. Sebastian Vettel is third, 0.8 seconds behind, while all the other drivers are more than a second behind Lewis Hamilton’s time. Valtteri Bottas is fourth, ahead of Alex Albon (who touches the wall with his car), while Charles Leclerc is sixth. The Ferrari driver lost the first twenty minutes of the session, due to the need of the technicians of his team to complete the work for the replacement of the transmission, damaged during the first session. Sergio Pérez suffered a reprimand from the commissioners for being held responsible for an accident of Kevin Magnussen that, to avoid the impact with the Mexican car, ends against the wall. At the end of the first day of practice, Sebastian Vettel says that the news brought by the Maranello team work. The German driver is therefore satisfied:


"I think the changes have worked, although I still have to find the right balance to put the car where I want, but we can work on it. The reference circuit for the car configuration we are using is Hungary, but today it was not easy to make comparisons. I think that tomorrow we will have a much more reliable picture of the values in the field and that there is room for improvement. Certainly the Mercedes appeared very fast, faster than us".


For Charles Leclerc, FP1 and FP2 were an ordeal:


"We struggled a little bit. We had a problem in FP1 and in FP2 I didn't feel good in the car. I still don't have as much confidence as I would like on this track. I need to work, not only on the car, but also on my driving. However, I will be okay for qualifying tomorrow. Then there are Mercedes and Red Bull who are very strong, it seems like we are a little further away from where we were in Budapest, but let's see tomorrow. After a day like today I wouldn't position myself very well on the grid. But I just have to work on driving and I think there is enough time. So tomorrow will definitely be better. The driving was much better toward the end of the run, so I have to figure out what I did differently and try to apply it tomorrow in qualifying, and hopefully it will be better".


While Scuderia Ferrari works to find the best possible performance, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes are studying each other and bidding for the role of possible winners of the Singapore Grand Prix. Concluding the first day of practice, Lewis Hamilton comments:


"I think they resurfaced the circuit in some places and that helped the tires to run better. We got into a rhythm and then when you can do that the lap is really really good, I had a good time today. The day was good, it was really hot. When you got into the car here it's always a bit of a shock. The track is twisty, the lap is extremely long, in the car it's kind of like being in a sauna. But it was a solid day. There are certainly areas where we can make progress, which is always good because nothing is ever perfect. I have to study what we can do at the car level and also me at the driving level. These are little pieces of the puzzle to put together to make a special lap, like last year's. We got off to a good start but we still have to put it all together tomorrow and it will be tough. I think the Red Bulls are very fast. I am excited about the challenge we have ahead of us, and I will find out how it will go later".


While, on the other hand, Valtteri Bottas is forced to point out all the problems that have affected him:


"It was a difficult day. I lost the rear end in Turn 19 and on this track you pay the bill right away. Later I lacked pace on both compounds, so I'm not sure if everything was right in the car. I felt like I couldn't go any faster than that, so we'll have to take a look at that. I had some friction in the steering system, and I struggled to feel the car properly. Tomorrow will be a battle between three teams and we will have to push, especially in Q3".


As well as Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen is also enthusiastic about the work so far:


"It was a good day, we tried some new things that worked. We seemed competitive, clearly Lewis is also very fast but overall I'm happy. When does qualifying count here? Ninety-five percent".


He had more difficulty Alex Albon, the Thai driver who has been running for Red Bull Racing for only two races. His confidence with the car and the circuit was affected by a little contact with the barriers. 


"It was not my easiest day. The tires were a little difficult to handle, especially in the long runs. I'm focused on my performance and I'm slowly getting used to the car, feeling comfortable. The crucial thing for me now is to find the right pace, although this is not an easy start. I've never been on this circuit before, but with the simulator I've always done quite well. This is a very technical track, with a lot of corners, so if you make a mistake you are out. You have to have a clean ride, try to push beyond the limit as well. My hope for tomorrow is to qualify on the second row, but we'll see".


While Nico Hulkenberg warns fans of the French team:


"As expected it will be a tight weekend, but we have a competitive package to fight for points. This circuit is always difficult because it is crowded and wet. With low fuel I felt comfortable, the car did what I wanted and I had a good pace. I struggled more in the long runs and suffered a bit in FP2. We will investigate to see what's going on".


After some subdued performances, Carlos Sainz Jr.'s first impressions at Marina Bay are encouraging:


"I improved my feeling with the car step by step, making the right set-up decisions and finishing the day twice in the top 10. We have to be careful, the conditions here change a lot from Friday to Saturday, and tomorrow we might find a different track. Tonight we will work to optimize the car and maximize our chances of doing a good qualifying".


Despite testing for the first time on the Singapore circuit, Lando Norris did an excellent job on the first day of practice:


"In FP1 we started working on the car and making some improvements, which was good. In FP2, however, we focused on simulations with high fuel load and race pace. We collected data to see what was good, what went wrong and what we need to improve, but overall it was a decent and enjoyable day".


For the Alfa Romeo team, the day was extremely negative. As Antonio Giovinazzi pointed out:


"It was not an easy day, especially having lost time in FP1, but in the end we managed to do a good job in the second session. As I expected the conditions in the car are very difficult and I really suffered from the humidity, especially in FP2. We are pretty close to our rivals, so the rest of the weekend should bring a close battle. Starting in the top ten will be really important: overtaking is difficult and if we start in the front we have a good chance of staying there".


And confirmed by Kimi Raikkonen:


"It's hard to say where we are because our first session was quite messy. We lost all electrical power and therefore also lost telemetry data in the pits. I had to sit still for almost an hour and lost valuable time. In FP2 we tried to recover and improved, but there is a lot of work to do tomorrow".


Unlike what happened to the Swiss team, Scuderia Toro Rosso executed its work perfectly and managed to accomplish its goals. In this regard, Pierre Gasly said:


"It was a positive first day for us in Singapore. We had some good practices, but we still have work to do tonight to improve. Finishing in the top 10 in both sessions was a good start and the race pace is not bad. I think it will be a very close battle in qualifying, so it will be important to put every detail together overnight to give us the best chance tomorrow. I feel good in the car, and that is encouraging".


Daniil Kvyat adds:


"We had a quiet Friday, we managed to complete the program for both sessions although we are aware that there is still work to be done to improve our balance for tomorrow. I am happy with how things went today and I am sure we will be able to refine the car even more. I think we still have something to show in our pockets and we will do our best to bring it out".


Nothing was different for the Racing Point team, which was busy like almost all the teams doing long run tests. Sergio Perez emphasizes:


"It was a day as we expected. There is a lot to understand. There is some information we have to chase to make sure we make the best choices. When there are updates it is always a good thing. Tonight we will have to figure out what is the best way to make them work. I expect we will be in the fight for Q3 tomorrow. Diatribe with Magnussen? Mah, basically there is no real rule, but there is a gentleman's agreement. Everyone is looking for lap space. I had I think one of the Mercedes in front, I was getting margin and I didn't expect him to try to pass there. We touched and that's what happened. We have to talk about it because there is something to clarify: some drivers accept this gentleman's agreement, but others don't; so it's something we have to figure out how to move on".


While Lance Stroll returns to talk about the unknowns the circuit holds:


"Driving here is fun, one lap is very intense. I grazed the wall, that's normal because I was looking for the limit. We worked a lot on the balance of the car because the car was not very comfortable to drive. I went a little too close to the wall to be just Friday, but nothing happened. I expect a balanced battle in the middle of the pack. There will be other fast cars, we will have to put everything together to be as far ahead as possible".


It was not an easy day for Romain Grosjean, who cannot celebrate his recent contract renewal in the best way:


"It was not an easy day. We know Singapore is a difficult circuit. We tried to do our best today, and we have a lot to work on ahead of Saturday and Sunday, but it will be complicated. But sometimes you only need to put a few things right to regain your dry lap performance, especially on street circuits, so we are not giving up. Tonight we will work hard and try to come back stronger tomorrow. I think it is one of the worst Fridays in a long time, and we have to find solutions to improve. I think what we missed the most today was downforce on the rear, which made the car very unstable in the corners".


And the same can be said for Kevin Magnussen:


"Today was a complex day. We were not very fast, and we had very little grip. We don't seem to be in good shape here, but you never know, maybe things will be different tomorrow. That's what we hope. We will try to do our best to solve the various problems, although at the moment the situation doesn't seem to be the best. We just have to cross our fingers and hope that somehow things will work out tomorrow. The situation is definitely difficult, we have to manage so many variables such as the right cooling of the car and the new aerodynamic appendages introduced here for this very reason. We will work hard tonight".


George Russell, who like Alex Albon and Lando Norris, is racing on this circuit for the first time, says he enjoyed it:


"I had a lot of fun on this my first outing here in Singapore. The track is very nice to drive, especially when you push hard with little fuel on board, but it is also very easy to make mistakes. As a team we did a good job, especially in the second session, the lap time was really good and we seem a little bit closer to the middle group cars, also on the race pace. Our expectations are still the same, aware that it will be a tough weekend, but I want to enjoy this challenge".


While veteran Robert Kubica suffers from the heat and the pitfalls presented by the Singapore track.


"It was a hot and tough day, but we knew it would be like this before we came here. It is the toughest track and the conditions are difficult. As usual, it is never easy to find the right feeling on Friday in Singapore. FP1 didn't go badly, while I didn't have the same feeling in the car during FP2, so we'll have to see what changed and why the balance was affected so much".


On Saturday, September 21, 2019, surprisingly, Charles Leclerc sets the best time during FP3. The Monegasque driver is 0.2 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who also spun, later penalized by traffic, on his best lap. Sebastian Vettel, who finishes 0.6 seconds slower than his teammate, follows in third place. Valtteri Bottas again sets the fourth best time, and is ahead of the two Red Bull Racing drivers, more than a second behind Charles Leclerc's time. During practice, Carlos Sainz Jr.'s McLaren, which still sets the seventh best time, experiences problems with the DRS. Sergio Pérez hits the wall with his Racing Point car at Turn 22, destroying the right rear suspension, and damaging the gearbox. Daniil Kvjat, who is called back to the pits for an oil leak from his power unit, does not have valid times for the session. Pérez, at the end of free practice, is forced to replace the gearbox. This will result in a penalty of five positions on the grid. A few hours later, at the start of the qualifying session, Carlos Sainz Jr. complains of a loss of power from his power unit. The first drivers to set good times are the two Alfa Romeo drivers. Among the drivers from the most competitive teams, the first to climb the leaderboard is Valtteri Bottas, who sets a time of 1'38"623, on Medium tires. The Finn's time reference is improved by Charles Leclerc, who on Soft tires, sets a time of 1'38"014. Max Verstappen stands between the two pilots, as does Lewis Hamilton, who climbs to fourth. With the technical problems solved, Carlos Sainz Jr. places fifth, 0.8 seconds behind Charles Leclerc, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon. Shortly after, Sebastian Vettel improves his time to within 0.2 seconds of Charles Leclerc's time, as do the two Renault drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, who place just outside the top ten. 


After a first attempt on Medium tires, the Mercedes drivers take to the track, with five minutes left in the session, fitting Soft tires. Valtteri Bottas sets the fastest time (1'37"317), while Lewis Hamilton takes second, 0.248 seconds behind his teammate. Romain Grosjean improves, but remains outside the qualifying zone, while the improvement of the other Haas driver, Kevin Magnussen, puts him in 12th place. Nico Hülkenberg climbs up the timesheet by climbing to seventh, preceded then by Lando Norris, who climbs to sixth. Antonio Giovinazzi climbs to eleventh, while Pierre Gasly's performance does not improve, but he remains in ninth. The drivers eliminated are Daniil Kvjat, Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and the two Williams drivers, George Russell and Robert Kubica. In Q2, the first to hit the track are the two Mercedes drivers. Both opt to use Soft tires: Valtteri Bottas scores a time of 1'37"142, before Lewis Hamilton beats him by 0.081 seconds. The Finn's lead ends with the arrival of Charles Leclerc, who scores a time of 1'36"930. Soon after, Sebastian Vettel sets the fourth fastest time, turning in 1'37"305. The German driver precedes Lando Norris. Then Max Verstappen climbs to third position, 0.159 seconds behind Charles Leclerc; the other Red Bull Racing driver, Alex Albon, laps 0.9 seconds slower than the time set by the Monegasque driver. In the final part of the session the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers improve again, with Charles Leclerc lowering the limit to 1'36"650, and staying ahead of Sebastian Vettel by just 0.070 seconds. Lewis Hamilton follows in third place, and in turn is ahead of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas. Sergio Pérez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Räikkönen and Kevin Magnussen are eliminated. In the final stage Sebastian Vettel, in his first attempt, scores a time of 1'36"437. Valtteri Bottas is more than a second behind. 


Lewis Hamilton also suffers the same gap from the German. However, both Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen do better, 0.3 seconds apart. Alex Albon is sixth, ahead of the two McLarens of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris, and the two Reanults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg. . With his second attempt Sebastian Vettel does not improve in the first sector, as does Max Verstappen, who, however, remains far from the Scuderia Ferrari driver's best time. Instead, he manages to improve on Charles Leclerc, who is just over 0.1 seconds ahead of his teammate. Sebastian Vettel, after a mistake in the second sector, decides not to complete his attempt. Max Verstappen remains in third place, despite having filed down his time, compared to his first attempt. Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, sets a time of 1'36"217, moving him into first place. Lewis Hamilton sets the best time in the second sector, climbing to second, behind Charles Leclerc, but remains 0.191 seconds behind the Monegasque driver. Sebastian Vettel completes the second row with Max Verstappen. For Charles Leclerc it is the third consecutive pole position. At the end of qualifying Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified eighth, is excluded because the MGU-K of his power unit exceeded the allowed power limit, during Q1. However, the Australian driver is still allowed to take part in the Singapore Grand Prix, starting from the last position. Concluding the qualifying, Charles Leclerc can only be pleased with the final result, and the third pole position achieved in his career:


"I'm really happy. If we look at the lap it was a really good lap. There were moments when I thought I lost the car, however, I got it back. Finally finishing the lap in pole position is something incredible. I want to thank the team for what they did. Really a great job. We knew this would be a difficult track for us, however, the team did a fantastic job in bringing the package we needed and I am really happy to be on pole for tomorrow. We brought in new parts that worked the right way. It didn't always work that way, however, this time it did and it was good to see. Friday was hard, it was not my day. But I worked hard and the work paid off. I am very happy".


Lewis Hamilton expected to struggle with Max Verstappen's Red Bull Racing, but instead he had his first potion taken away from the Monegasque driver:


"I honestly don't know where the Ferraris found all this pace today, because it potentially didn't feel like their track. They did a great job, though, and Charles had another great lap. I needed something special at the end and I gave absolutely everything I had. I'm sure I hit the wall a couple of times. I really couldn't get more out of it. I am very happy to be on the front row in the middle between the two Ferraris. We'll try to mock them tomorrow. Race pace? Yes tomorrow we can be aggressive I think".


Despite the obvious competitiveness of the Maranello cars, Sebastian Vettel had to settle for third place. After a first attempt, which saw him take provisional pole position, the German driver had to abandon the second.


"I am not so satisfied with Q3, the last attempt could have come out better, however, overall the car gave me good feelings. We always managed to improve attempt after attempt. Probably the track was a little bit better at the end and I couldn't make the most of it. I aborted the lap because I was behind anyway, so I didn't finish it. But it's still a good position. Tomorrow will be different than today. It should be a good race and we'll see how the car performs on the race pace, see if there are things we have to manage. Overall it will be fun, we are looking forward to it".


Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto finally gathers the results of the hard work done in Maranello:


"This qualifying gave joy to the team and fans. We knew it was a track not particularly suited to our car, but it's also true that after Spa and Monza we came to Singapore with a lot of energy and a desire to surprise. We brought an aerodynamic package that worked well. I have to give credit not only to those who developed it, but to those who produced it. Initially it was planned for later in the season, after Hungary they all jumped through hoops to anticipate it and bring it here to Singapore. It paid off, we are happy with it. We look at the data in telemetry, the flows, the loads, and the new package has given at least what was expected. This I think is the most important thing. Definitely the car has improved. The first part of the season was not so bad, if not for the results, because there was no lack of opportunities to win. I am convinced that there will be more opportunities between now and the end. It will be up to us to take them, which we did not do in the first part. The team is working very well, here, at home, at the pit wall, the mechanics... we have to count on that".


The Italian manager goes on to talk about Sebastian Vettel:


"I am a little bit sorry for Seb. He was proving once again that he is a very fast driver. A front row would have been even more fantastic, but now we have to calm down and look to tomorrow's race, which is the one that counts. Starting in front in Singapore is half the battle, though. The front row I think would have given Sebastian confidence, but still the beautiful qualifying remains, he had a great lap and showed that he can be very fast as well. Then the race is tomorrow is all to be written but I think there are many opportunities for him as well. We will have to make a good start and then tire wear will play an important role".


He concludes by talking about Charles Leclerc:


"The five poles for Charles? Those are statistics I didn't know. He's doing great, we're happy, he's gaining confidence in himself and with the team. Today I think he took his amount of risk in between the walls to do something outstanding. It came out well and I'm delighted".


Max Verstappen is incredulous and disappointed, who cannot explain why his car did not have enough speed:


"We lacked a little bit of pace during the whole session. So we couldn't do much more. I tried to do the best lap I could, of course, but it didn't work out that way. We are too slow and we have to figure out why. I am surprised that they were so competitive. We therefore did something wrong if we were not at their level".


Alex Albon qualified in sixth position-not bad for the young Thai driver.


"I felt I didn't have the car well in Q1 and I was struggling with the balance. But before the final run we changed some things and the set-up improved and I got my confidence back and the performance improved. Everything is part of my learning parabola and I understand better and better how to make the car go faster on this track. Strategy will be important tomorrow and the tires don't seem to have much grip. The circuit is very technical and I expect a long, hard race. I certainly would have liked to finish higher, and there is still work to be done, but overall it is not a bad result. I will focus on the positives and take a nice cold bath before the race and be ready to fight from my sixth position".


Speaking about the missed pole position, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said:


"We missed in many parts today. We missed in the straights, we missed in the corners. We missed in Q3 with the first lap, and when you make these mistakes you cannot be on pole. In recent years Ferrari was always competitive in Singapore. It's a different circuit, a circuit where you must have aerodynamics, engine, understand the tires and drivers who like to go fast on tracks like that. Ferrari was fast even when the season started, Bahrain, Baku... but with a lot of mistakes. Now you can see that when everything is normal it is a package that goes fast. It is important to start well, we have a car that goes fast in the race, there is everything to play for. Ferrari one in front and one behind? You can play with the strategy. It's important for us to have a fast start and after that to control the race".


After the two pole position and victory double at Spa and Monza, Charles Leclerc is continuing his extraordinary lucky moment. In Toto Wolff's opinion, the Monegasque is just one of many young drivers who could be part of a generational change: 


"There's a generation of young people coming out, not just Charles, but others who are in mid-group cars and whose potential we don't see yet. There is a generational change taking place, but I am also sure that Lewis will stay a few years at this level or even above".


This could include Carlos Sainz Jr. who managed to qualify in seventh potion:


"It was a very positive day for us, I have to congratulate the whole team. We showed good pace on a low-speed track, which we know has been one of our weaknesses. The rear end and the car in general performed well all weekend, and we managed to put together a very good lap in Q3, despite a little engine problem at the end of the last sector. We lost a couple of tenths there, but that didn't affect the result because sixth place was probably out of reach today. Seventh place was the best possible position and is a good starting point to fight in the race".


No doubt it was for Lando Norris. Making his debut on the Singapore circuit, the British driver managed to qualify in ninth position:


"It was a good qualifying until Q3. I had more and more confidence in the car and felt good. Q1 was good, as was Q2, but in the end I didn't get the result I wanted and it's a bit frustrating because I made some stupid mistakes in Q3. I pushed too hard in an attempt to make up the time I lost earlier, but instead I'm behind even the two Renaults. Overall, though, I am very happy with the car and the team did a great job for me".


Daniel Ricciardo, despite being disqualified from the practice session, admits:


"We wanted to get into Q3, so the result is good for both cars. I'm not disappointed, we recovered well over the weekend. I am happy with eighth position, there is a lot to play for starting from there. Now we have to focus on the race. We will see what happens and adjust with our plans. The race is the toughest of the year, but I like this challenge".


While Nico Hulkenberg, who will start in ninth position, stresses again that there are many unknowns at the Marina Bay circuit, so any result can be reached in the race:


"It's always difficult here with the walls close by and so many corners to negotiate, the laps are very intense, but that's why we all like racing here. The race will be tight and overtaking is difficult. Then there is the question of strategy, because there is the possibility of seeing the Safety Car and I am sure there will be several".


Antonio Giovinazzi miraculously managed to climb to 11th position, taking advantage of the penalty that Daniel Ricciardo will have to serve:


“We did the best we could, I have to be honest. I could have maybe improved by a couple of tenths more, but looking at McLaren and Renault they were just too fast. Starting tomorrow in 11th position we can have a better strategy, choose tires. We have to try everything and try to get points. Not starting on softs is good because there was quite a lot of degradation yesterday, so we will start on medium or hard and then see what happens in the race".


Unlike his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen failed to enter Q2:


"I think today was certainly easier than yesterday, but we lack some speed. It is disappointing not to be in Q3, but we will try to improve again and take a step forward tomorrow. I can't tell if we are behind our best after the difficulties in yesterday's free practice. We made some changes that improved the balance of the car, but we lack some confidence and speed in general. In some places we are doing well, but then the next corner becomes difficult. To be able to go well and fast you need a consistent car, but this is the situation".


Kevin Magnussen also did not make it past Q2:


"We didn't have the pace today, I was expecting a difficult day. Now we will see if we can make the tires work in the race and hopefully keep the starting position. I don't expect to gain many positions, but you can always hope that others will make mistakes. If we can maintain our position, maybe with a Safety Car and a lucky pit stop or something like that we might even make some progress, even though we don't have the pace".


So did Romain Grosjean, who even pitted in Q1, and will start in 17th position:


"I think there was more in our package than we got. We changed the car after yesterday, restoring many parts of the Melbourne specifications. We didn't have a chance to test them in cool conditions because it was still hot in FP3. I think the balance got away from us in qualifying, so we couldn't extract the maximum. Maybe it will be a better package for the race, we'll see".


Taking advantage of the penalty given to Daniel Ricciardo, despite being eliminated in Q2, Sergio Perez will start from 10th position: 


"Everyone did a great job at getting the car ready in time for qualifying. It's a pity that I damaged the single-seater during the last free practice. This circuit does not allow the slightest mistake, and I made one. There is a lot of work to do before tomorrow, but I think we have the opportunity to recover and fight. It is a long race, and I have already been in this situation in Singapore. I know that anything can happen here: even when you think you are out of the game, you can still come back strong. We have a good race pace and we have two hours of Grand Prix ahead of us. We have to make sure we get to the checkered flag, stay out of trouble and therefore have a chance to go for points".


While his teammate, Lance Stroll, failed to enter Q2 in his Racing Point car:


"We were in a bad position on the track. We had a four-second gap to the car in front and I was put under pressure by the cars behind me. So I had to maintain track position, otherwise I think it would have been a bigger mess. I don't think it's anyone's fault, we were all doing our best to try to get a clear path. In Q1 there are 20 cars on the track and everyone knows how important that is. Clean air is crucial here, and I felt I had a lack of grip on the second attempt, so I couldn't get the time we needed to get through the cutoff. The margins were really tight: we were one tenth short of getting into Q2, so very little. I think we had more potential, we left tenths in the car. Now I will focus on completing a good race tomorrow".


George Russell has something to recriminate, who had to encounter quite a few problems with his Williams Racing car and could not express his full potential:


"We decided to take a risk and go to the track as late as possible to get the best out of the circuit. Unfortunately, many other drivers were trying to do the same, and my warm-up lap was 20 or 30 seconds slower than any other I have done this week. When I started the lap I almost spun because my tires were not up to temperature, so from the first corner I knew the lap was pretty much ruined. It was unfortunate because we had little chance of a good result, but it didn't go well".


Robert Kubica, too, although he improved the balance of the car, could not do much, and qualified in last position, later climbing to 19th following the disqualification imposed on Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo:


"We improved the balance of the car for qualifying and I was a bit surprised, so I probably led a couple of corners on my first lap. I knew I had a second set of new tires and the track evolution was pretty high, but we had a fuel problem between the two attempts and left the garage too late. Unfortunately, I took the checkered flag before opening my final lap. It's a shame, but that's the way it is. The race will be a great challenge. The track is demanding both physically and mentally. It is also hard on the tires and the car, so it will be difficult".


Scuderia Toro Rosso's French driver, Pierre Gasly, was expecting a tight practice session, so the result partly reflects initial expectations:


"We expected a tight qualifying to get into the top 10. I had managed to do it in Q1, with the ninth time, then in Q2 we were a tenth slower and we were out, and that gives an idea of how close we were all. When it's like that it's always a little frustrating, but I think we did the best we could today. Tomorrow we will start in twelfth position, so we will have to study strategies and see if we can take advantage of being able to choose the tires to start the race with. I'm going to push as hard as I can, it's going to be 61 long laps where anything can happen, so it will be important to have a clean race and fight until the end and hopefully score points for the team".


While his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, certainly cannot be satisfied, having been eliminated in Q1. The Russian driver will start from the 15th position:


"I can't be satisfied with my qualifying, the last lap was very bad and I knew that once I crossed the finish line I would have no chance to go into Q2. I found a lot of traffic and that was a pity, because it has cost me a lot of time. Then that little mistake with the engine switch in the first sector didn't help me. On a track like this, where every lap counts, not turning up in the third free practice session has affected us. When I returned to the track for Q1 I had no pace or feeling with the car. For tomorrow I expect a tough race, but it could be quite unpredictable and this could also work in our favor, so we might even have the opportunity to go for points".


Sunday, September 22, 2019, at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix Charles Leclerc maintains the lead in the race, while Ferrari's other driver Sebastian Vettel unsuccessfully tries to attack Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris follow. At the rear, there is contact between Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. that drops to last place. The standings, at least in the top positions, remain unchanged for many laps, with the leading drivers keeping a very bland pace in order to preserve tire wear and fuel. The only one gaining positions is Daniel Ricciardo who, having started last, climbs up to tenth position on lap 18. One lap later they pit stop Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, who switch to using Hard tires. This is followed by the stops of Charles Leclerc, on lap 20, and Valtteri Bottas, one lap later. Sebastian Vettel, thanks to a very fast lap, manages to stay ahead of Charles Leclerc, who thus finds himself behind his teammate. He takes the lead over Lewis Hamilton, who is ahead of drivers who did not change tires such as Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Behind these is Sebastian Vettel, who is now also ahead of Verstappen, while Bottas has remained behind the Dutchman. Hamilton tries to delay the stop, hoping that the Ferraris will find slower drivers in front, which will slow their pace. However, the Briton is forced to pit on lap 26: Antonio Giovinazzi takes the lead for the first time in his Formula 1 World Championship career (first Italian to lead a race since Giancarlo Fisichella in the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix). Lewis Hamilton re-enters the race eighth, ahead of Valtteri Bottas anyway. Meanwhile, the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers pass Lance Stroll. Between laps 29 and 31, Vettel passes Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi, taking the lead in the Grand Prix. Behind him, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen also move up, now in second and third place, also taking advantage of the pit stops of those drivers who were ahead of them earlier. On lap 35, race management is forced to send the safety car onto the track, for the first time in the race, due to contact between George Russell and Romain Grosjean. The race resumes with Sebastian Vettel in the lead, ahead of Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. 


At the restart there is immediate contact between Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll, with the Canadian suffering a puncture. A few moments later the other Racing Point driver, Sergio Pérez, retires. The car remains in the middle of the track, so much so that the race management sends the safety car for the second time. Again the ranking, at the new start, remains unchanged, in the leading positions. Behind, however, Kimi Räikkönen loses speed, who drops in the standings by several positions. At the beginning of lap 49, the Finnish Alfa Romeo driver makes contact, at the first corner, with Daniil Kvjat, ending up in the escape route. Thus, for the third time in a few laps, the safety car enters the track. Sebastian Vettel remains always in the lead, managing to handle the return of Charles Leclerc, who approaches his teammate, without being able to trouble him. Further behind, Lewis Hamilton puts pressure on Max Verstappen, who, however, turns out to be uncatchable. Sebastian Vettel wins the Singapore Grand Prix and takes triumph number 53 in his career, the last in Formula 1, as well as for the fourteenth and final time with Scuderia Ferrari, returning to success for the first time since the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. For the German, it is also the fifth victory in Singapore, two of them achieved just with Scuderia Ferrari. For the Maranello team, it is the third consecutive victory (it has not happened since 2008) and also the one-two win number 84, thanks to Charles Leclerc's second place (the last one had been obtained at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen). Kevin Magnussen scores, in the final laps, the fastest lap but, for the first time since the additional point for the fastest lap was reintroduced, it is not awarded as the Danish driver does not finish the race in top-ten. For both him and the American team, it is the second fastest lap in the history of the World Championship, after the first was achieved in the 2018 edition of the same race. Max Verstappen finished in third position, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Alexander Albon, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi, who was penalized 10 seconds on his race time for ignoring the directions imposed by the race director and then passing, under the safety car regime, too close to the crane that was moving George Russell's crashed Williams. His finishing position does not change. 


In contrast, no action is taken for the contacts that occurred between Daniil Kvjat and Kimi Räikkönen and between George Russell and Romain Grosjean, which forced the Finn and the Briton to retire. For Sebastian Vettel, this victory represents a real liberation. The German driver manages to fend off the criticism that came from the media and fans, and he vents his emotions through tears shed on the podium, where he carries a flag that reads #EssereFerrari (#BeingFerrari). 


"I am very happy, great race. I have to congratulate the team. The beginning of the season for us was difficult, but in the last few weeks we started to come alive again. I am proud of the work of the guys at home. But I must also thank all the fans. In the last few weeks I have not been at my best, but I have received so many incredible messages and letters of support in which people told me their stories of when things were not going well for them. They gave me so much strength and conviction, and I tried to put everything I had on the track. The stop? It was a very delayed call, I thought it was a little early, because I didn't know how long the tires would last in the second stint. I gave everything on my exit lap and was surprised to find myself in front. Managing the tires was challenging; I tried to pass whoever was in front of me to open a gap. But the safety cars took everything away for us. Who decided on the stop? I was called on the radio just before turns 20 and 21. The strategy worked and I'm happy".


A strategy that secured the one-two for the Maranello team, but created a lot of frustration for Leclerc. The Monegasque started on pole position after a perfect qualifying lap and then saw victory slipped away due to a decision by Ferrari itself.


"Why am I behind? After the race will you explain to me what the hell is going on?"


There were many complaints and even Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director Laurent Mekies intervened and begged him to bring the car back to the finish line. Leclerc insisted and as soon as the race was neutralized he saw a chance and asked for more power to be harnessed to try to take back the first potion:


"I just want to show you how I feel, give me everything I need to attack".


But the team hesitates and asks him not to do anything stupid. Charles Leclerc, of course, responds that he is not stupid, hinting that he would not compromise the team's result. Nevertheless, the Monegasque was unable to overtake his teammate, who fought back and got further and further away on each restart. Passing the checkered flag, Charles Leclerc shook his head and crossed his arms. 


"Obviously it's always hard to lose a win like this, but in the end we got a one-two for the team and I'm happy about that. The guys deserve it. We were hoping to get on the podium and we come back with a one-two that makes us extremely happy. I'm disappointed on my part, as anyone would be. Is Ferrari back? Let's wait for a few races but we can be optimistic, the situation seems more positive. Vettel's undercut? The strategy was set before the race and I stuck to the plans, what matters is the end result, the one-two for the team. I don't know if it was possible to stop me first, I think not otherwise the team would have done it. Now cold I understand a little more but I want explanations for this decision, it was very difficult to understand in the car. I am sure this decision is not against me but for the good of the team. And I am happy for Seb, it is his first win and a half after the one in Canada. Now I hope the next race can go well for me".


It is a very important result for Scuderia Ferrari, especially because it was won strongly, on a track adverse to the characteristics of the SF90, a sign that the changes brought have been effective, the car looks totally different from how it was at the beginning of the season, and as Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says, these were precisely the initial intentions. With the congratulations also comes the much-needed explanations from Charles Leclerc: the team wanted to defend itself against the possible return of Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and at the same time anticipate the possible stop of Lewis Hamilton, who was second at the time. For this reason, Sebastian Vettel was called to the pits before Charles Leclerc. An order that surprised even the German driver, but was decisive. At the end of the race, Mattia Binotto also spoke through the radio with Charles Leclerc, and in Italian he said:


"I'm happy for you too Charles, now go to the podium and we'll talk about it later".


The Italian manager explained only after the race was over the reasons behind this decision:


"Charles' desire is fundamental. Right that it is, right that he wants it. But sometimes there are conditions in which at the race wall you cannot have a complete overview. We will manage and understand why some choices are made with him, but I think they are fairly obvious. We heard more than once Charles on the radio surprised by Sebastian's overtaking, however, I think it was the right choice. At that moment we knew Verstappen was ready to stop and we had to protect Seb's position. Not only that, that was the only opportunity for Vettel to overtake Hamilton. Plus, if we didn't stop him at that moment, then maybe the next lap the team would not have been ready to accommodate Leclerc himself. Vettel was great on his exit lap, but that's what racing is all about. Beyond that it was a good one-two on a track that was not easy. Today we probably weren't even the fastest, but with the strategy, however, we were able to get the others in trouble and stay in front. There was no shortage of difficulties, although on TV we did not see all of them. Managing the whole race was not easy, but we are very happy because this is a victory for the whole team, the drivers and the engineers, who were good at keeping everyone calm even though it was not easy. The speed of our car was seen yesterday in qualifying. It allowed us to take pole and start ahead in Singapore, where it is a very big advantage. In the beginning it was important to go slow to keep others from stopping because of traffic. That way you can manage all the cars to leave no room for pit stops and then try to open the gap. It was the same in previous years, we didn't do anything new this year".


Then, the Scuderia Ferrari team principal continues his arguments by talking about the hard work done in the factory:


"It is a work that has been started for a long time. I think the beginning of the year we did not collect as much data as we should have and now we are collecting even beyond expectations. In the balance sheet, I am convinced that we still owe for what is the value of the car and the team. But we've been working well for three races now, we're not making mistakes - which we had been doing before - and when things go right these beautiful results come. Managing the pressure means managing ourselves because we are the first ones who want to do that. We know that not all tracks are the same; you can't win all the time. Celebrating when you win is important, but from tomorrow we’ll think about Russia. We have already seen the weather, we expect some rain, but we are already focused".


The podium was completed by Max Verstappen. Red Bull Racing finished third in an abnormally well run race, on a track favorable to the characteristics of their cars. The Dutchman returned to the podium, but without ever really entering the fight for first place. 


"The race was positive, everything went well.  In the beginning the pace was slow and I could stay with the front group. As the laps went by the feeling with the tires got worse, so we made the stop, making the undercut on Hamilton. Gaining a position like that is positive: we worked well in terms of strategy. The finish was not easy: I had to manage the tires and Lewis from behind was pushing hard. We come back also with a good amount of points thanks to perfect strategy management".


Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner, on the other hand, sees this performance as a failure:


"We were not fast enough. We had come here to win, and clearly we stayed away. I would say it was our worst performance since Austria, if we look at circuits where we expected to do well. I have some ideas about what may have gone wrong and we will analyze the data well to present ourselves in better shape in Sochi".


Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko points to the main culprit for the RB15's disappointing performance at the end of the race: 


"The problem was in the simulator, it totally misled us. The simulator is the basis of our setup for the race weekend, so if things don't work from there, then we are in trouble. The problem is that we set up our chassis too stiffly and because of that it lacked stability. We also had too little aerodynamic load".


But the real disappointments of the weekend are the Mercedes team drivers. In the race, Lewis Hamilton was ordered to execute the opposite strategy to Charles Leclerc, only to leave him on the track longer than necessary, thus losing not only the position on Sebastian Vettel but also on Max Verstappen. In addition, at times when the cars were possibilistic from using the DRS overtaking seemed impossible. This is a recurring problem on city circuits, which are very beautiful but limiting. The track is narrow and the straights are few, so overtaking is very difficult. 


"I knew we would have to undercut. I also knew it this morning in the briefing. It was about saying, let's take the risk. But they didn't. But we win and lose together as a team, so we have to accept it. It is painful for us, because clearly we could have won easily today. It seems that Ferrari is hungrier at the moment. So we have to prepare better. We have the capacity, we are still the best team, we just have to stop dragging our feet and move forward. We're going to debrief, regroup, get back into the fray and go to battle in the next race".


Just before the pit stop made by Valtteri Bottas, the Mercedes team had to warn the Finnish driver to raise his pace slightly so as not to finish ahead of his own teammate after his pit stop. A decision that evokes several similar situations created in the past season, but that did not destabilize the Finnish driver: 


"We have rules in the team that whoever is in front always has priority with strategy, so the order to slow the pace is part of that logic. If I had wanted to overtake Lewis after the pit stop I could have done it quite easily, but we have rules to abide by, so if next time I were to be in this situation I would be the one with the advantage between the two. That's okay. I'm convinced that there was potential to pick up more today. I definitely had a good pace, but here you need a lot of extra speed to overtake those ahead of you. We will definitely analyze things, but as a team we could have done better overall".


Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explains the strategic choices made by the Anglo-German team that led Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to finish the race in fourth and fifth, respectively: 


"We had considered the undercut, but there was a risk of getting stuck in traffic. Vettel and his team made the right moves, they had nothing to lose and everyone was shocked to see how much they gained from their strategy. By that time we had already lost the position on Sebastian, so we tried to still stay on the track. The tires wore out, and because of that we got nowhere. We also had too many Safety Cars. Once we restarted, we had a fast car".


Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, speaking in detail about the undercut put in place against Lewis Hamilton, explains that the action brought benefits that were not initially expected in the magnitude with which they occurred: 


"The undercut was actually stronger than expected, amounting to 3.9 seconds. We did not expect such a large number. It is a fact: when we stopped Sebastian, we thought that Charles, stopping the next lap, would then be ahead. Seb drove well, got an undercut of 3.9 seconds, and that was the difference. We always gave the advantage to the car in front, as is normally the rule we are following. But, in this case, we would not have stopped Charles who was leading the race, because he would have been in traffic and that would have been the wrong move. On the contrary, Verstappen was ready to stop, we knew that and the best way to protect Sebastian's position was to call him back. It was the right time to stop Seb. Later, it was the right time to stop Charles".


But in spite of everything, it is clear that Scuderia Ferrari has succeeded in the feat of making the SF90 work. Of course, recovering the advantage enjoyed by the Mercedes team is almost impossible, but that does not detract from the fact that in one month the distance between the two teams has narrowed by 133 points. The Scuderia Ferrari is back to winning  after many years. In this regard, team principal, Mattia Binotto, said: 


"Regrets about the first part of the season? The important thing is to have identified the car's weak points and worked to improve them, also in view of the next one. The single-seater has improved, and between now and the end of the World Championship there are still tracks where we can be fast. But our competitors will also be very strong on some circuits".


In Singapore, against all odds, Lando Norris managed to stand out, and finish the race in seventh place:


"It was a good race, but I don't think we could have done much more. I had a very good cue at the beginning, but then I got stuck in traffic when everyone was trying to save as much tire as possible. The Safety Car helped me partially, but it also allowed people like Hülkenberg and Gasly to make up ground on me with the softer and much fresher tire, so I drove under pressure in the last laps. I had to push and it was fun after marching slowly in the first part".


His teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. certainly could not be satisfied, admitting in the post-race interview:


"It's really disappointing to end the weekend like this. For the second time in a row I'm out of the points after a good qualifying result. We got the start we wanted. I was seventh and was attacking the Red Bull in front of me, but in Turn 5 I was hit from behind by the Renault. A pity because with the puncture and the damage to the bottom we missed a very good opportunity to make a double points finish. Then in the last laps we didn't give up and I managed to move up a few positions feeling very strong physically and mentally in the car. I am sure we can fight back in Russia".


The race strategy could have jeopardized the race of Antonio Giovinazzi, who was left on the track for a long time. But the Italian driver still managed to finish the race in 10th position:


"It was a great battle, I'm happy to have gained a point, but the regret of not bringing home the maximum remains, I think that with a better strategy we could have aimed even at seventh place. In any case, fighting with the Ferraris and Mercedes in the middle of the race when we overstretched the first stint was exciting, I hope someone took a screenshot of the standings at that moment".


The same cannot be said for Kimi Raikkonen, who struggled throughout the race and was involved in a contact with Daniil Kvyat at the end:


"When I looked at the mirrors on the straight he was far away, but then in the corner I found him on the inside and by the time I set the corner it was too late to leave room. It was not the race I was hoping for, I ended up with too cold and worn tires during the Safety Car. By the time of the accident, however, my race was compromised".


About this contact that occurred between Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat, the Russian driver says:


"He moved under braking, something we discuss a lot, and he was among those against it actually. I am surprised that he did that. If you defend yourself, then you defend. If you leave the door open, you leave the door open. He just... committed suicide. He even tried to kill me. Today was not my day. When you have a race like this you just have to throw up your hands and move on to the next one. Today I had a chance to get points but, unfortunately, I didn't take them. I got stuck behind other pilots and didn't show my best race. I'm not making excuses, but I also had to deal with a kind of 'fog' on my mirrors that made it more difficult to defend. I just had to give more space because of the lack of visibility".


Gasly, on the other hand, earned four points, thanks to an eighth-place finish at the end of many battles in which the French Toro Rosso driver came out on top: 


"I enjoyed the race so much! The last part of the race was really exciting. The start went quite well and, although I didn't know it at the time, we ran in second position for a couple of laps before our pit stop and that was great! Then, when the safety car came out, we lost three or four positions, which was a bit annoying. I gave everything I had to pass Raikkonen and had a couple of exciting battles with Magnussen and Stroll, so it's very nice to get these points. It was a tough race, but it was a great result for the team in the championship battle, as we are all pretty close. I am really happy with the way we are working as a team, every weekend we are improving and taking a step forward".


Lance Stroll could have had a great result, but a contact against the barriers pushed him away from the top-ten:


"The race was so full of action but it didn't quite go my way today. I got a good start and we looked competitive. But after the restart following the Safety Car I made a mistake, got a little too close to the wall and punctured. In Singapore the trick is to keep away from the barriers, so after that it was hard work! We lost a lot of time because I had to pit to replace the nose, and it was an unfortunate setback. I think we were well placed to score some points today, so it's a real shame. It's definitely a weekend to put behind us".


It was even worse for Sergio Perez, who was forced to retire on lap 42 due to an oil leak: 


"I am very disappointed. It was a very challenging race, but it was leading us to good results. We were patient, keeping out of trouble, which is the number one priority here. We looked good and were fighting to be in the top 10. Unfortunately, we had an oil leak and the team told me to retire the car. It's a real shame because I think the points were possible today".


It was also not an outstanding race for Williams Racing, which only got 16th place with Robert Kubica. At the end of the race, the Polish driver talked about the many problems he faced: 


"I think I coped quite well with all the difficulties that this race brings to the driver, the car and the tires. We had a balancing problem with the last set of tires, so the last 20 laps were quite challenging. The result is not outstanding, as we expected, but as a personal goal and result I think it is quite positive, when you consider how tough this race is. Looking back two or three years ago, no one would have believed that I would be able to have such a good performance here".


George Russell, on the other hand, was the protagonist of a contact with Romain Grosjean, which ruled him out of the race on lap 34: 


"It was a horrible race from the beginning. I found myself in the first corner in the middle of Robert and Daniel (Ricciardo). As the race progressed, our pace looked good, but then Grosjean tried to overtake at the entrance of Turn 8: at the apex we were side by side, I was on the inside, then at the exit I was way ahead of him. At that point it is the driver on the outside who has to concede the corner, but then his right front hit my left rear, sending me into the wall. What looked like a pretty decent weekend ended with a missed opportunity".


Nico Hülkenberg, ninth at the finish, predicted that on the Marina Bay street circuit the safety car could be decisive. And the German driver took excellent advantage of the situations that arose during the race:


"I'm happy that we got something out of the race, even if it's not what we would have liked today. After the contact on the first lap we knew it was going to be tough, but we stayed calm, patient, and managed to get two points. We were lucky with the first Safety Car, it allowed us to be able to mount the medium tires and then make some progress. The race here is always full of twists and turns, and you have to stay in the game. We were good at overtaking, which is always complex here, so we can be happy".


After being disqualified in qualifying, it was clear to Daniel Ricciardo that today's race would be an ordeal: 


"Today was a long day, and it's a shame it ended like that. The start was fun, with some good overtaking I was able to gain a good position. I gained some confidence at that point, and got into a rhythm. Then everything was undone by the accident and the puncture that more or less put an end to our race. We deserved a better result today".


Despite the performance improvements of the Haas VF-109 compared to the Italian Grand Prix, the American team failed to get into the top-ten. In fact, Romain Grosjean finished 11th:


"We were not far from the points. Kevin was having a great top-ten race at the beginning, while I was struggling in the back. We tried a different strategy: staying very long on the medium tires. We were waiting for the Safety Car, which then came when I had contact with George (Russell). I have to watch the footage again, but I was as far to the left as I could at the exit of the corner. When there is no escape route, there is nowhere to go, so I got the wall and we touched. We then got back into the race again toward the end with the other safety cars. We fought as hard as we could, but at one point we had too much tire degradation, so the last few laps were a bit tricky".


Kevin Magnussen set the fastest time in the race, but this did not earn him the additional point as he failed to get back into the top-ten:


"Unfortunately, scoring the fastest lap wasn't worth anything. We were fighting in the top-ten but we were unlucky with the Safety Cars. We worked hard, had a good first lap and a good pace. But then all these Safety cars worked against us. Also, we had a plastic bag over the front wing, which forced me to stop in the pits to remove it, and from there on it was a disaster. I feel very sorry because it was a good race and the whole team did a great job, which we were cruelly deprived of".


Thus ends the fifteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Sebastian Vettel returns to victory almost a year after his last career triumph, and confirms the performance leap made not only by the car, but also by the Maranello team. The distance to the Mercedes team is virtually unbridgeable, but Toto Wolff warns his men:


"We have to be careful, they have won three consecutive races and we can't rest on our laurels".


What lies ahead, now, for this final round of the World Championship, which has six races to go until the end of the season? Will Scuderia Ferrari's dominance continue or will Mercedes return to monopolize the World Championship? And will Red Bull Racing solve the problems with simulator, which have affected Max Verstappen's recent performance?


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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