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#929 2015 Singapore Grand Prix

2023-01-14 23:00

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#2015, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Aurora Asia Martignon,

#929 2015 Singapore Grand Prix

The air under the podium in Monza was still filled with the echoes of the British anthem, that the paddock is already back to being that place of goss

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The air beneath the podium in Monza was still filled with the echoes of the British national anthem that the paddock is back to being the place of gossip and ill repute that everyone knows it to be. Everything but fuel and pistons. That is what Formula 1 is all about. This time, Ferrari is playing the part of the pirates, apparently the perpetrators of unsportsmanlike behaviour.

 

"We are outraged".

 

Rival team bosses complained, like those who are usually too late to understand what is going on. What was happening was that Ferrari had found a way to circumvent the regulations designed to reduce the cost of developing the car for the next F1 season. How did they do it? At the start of the 2016 season, the so-called American Ferrari will make its debut, i.e. the Haas team owned by Gene Haas, one of the protagonists of the Nascar series. The American billionaire has signed a very long supply contract with Ferrari, so much so that many consider Haas to be the second team from Maranello. For some time now, however, rumours have been circulating about an exchange of engineers and members between the Via Emilia and the West (the official headquarters are in Kannapolis, North Carolina, even if the team has taken over the Marussia factory, already a client of the Maranello team in Banbury, England). Trade that seems to end on the 30th of October 2015, when Haas will dismiss a number of people, it is said about seventy, although the number seems exaggerated, among engineers, designers and mechanics who will have a new job secured in Maranello after the 1st of November. 

 

"For us, the Haas team is not a competitor, yet".

 

So, during those months, the engineers at this factory were able to work without any limits in terms of cost or time, for example by circumventing the fixed limits on wind tunnel hours. The problem now is to understand who they were working for. In the meantime, Sebastian Vettel is ready for the Singapore Grand Prix, the thirteenth round of the Formula One World Championship, scheduled for Sunday 20 September 2015.

 

"Our goal for the championship is to push as much as possible, we need to get as much as possible without missing any opportunity. It's always difficult to predict what will happen. Nevertheless, I have done well here in recent years. I like the track, it is one of the most challenging of the season. It's a unique track for different reasons, it's all about your feeling with the car and your confidence, that's what makes the difference here".

 

The German driver, who is showing a certain amount of optimism, has the first appointment of this long weekend in the Asian country with the President of the Republic of Singapore, Tony Tan, as part of the President's Challenge charity project, which aims to help less fortunate children in the Asian community. The meeting will take place at the Ferrari Store at Marina Bay Sands on Thursday, 17 September 2015.

 

"We have a great overall package and we hope to keep it going. For the most part, I feel very comfortable with this year's car, we've raced on different circuits but we've been competitive more or less everywhere. In general, we have been fast enough to finish in the top five, although our goal was to finish on the podium. Mercedes have the strongest package at the moment and unless something goes wrong, there's no margin for the top three, but we've always made the most of every opportunity".

 

Sebastian Vettel has clear ideas about this Singapore Grand Prix and the final races of the 2015 season, just like Kimi Raikkonen, who has been the protagonist of a championship full of ups and downs, marked by too many mistakes and a little bit of misfortune.

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"Here in Singapore, overtaking is easier than at other circuits. As always, our goal is to do well in qualifying to have more opportunities in the race. Obviously we want to get better results, it would be more fun for everyone. I think we are doing the right thing, but we have also had some problems and if something happens at the start, like in the last race, it affects the final result. I'm sure that if we get rid of the problems and mistakes we can get good results. We're going in the right direction, we just need to finish the race well. This year our goal is to try to win more. I hope that next year we'll be able to fight as a team in every race".

 

In Singapore, Lewis Hamilton will be chasing the milestones set by one of F1's greatest, Ayrton Senna. The World Champion is just one step away from equalling his hero's record of eight consecutive pole positions and 41 career victories. If he succeeds, the British Mercedes driver will have 41 victories in 161 races.

 

"It's a kind of milestone in my career, I've always hoped to emulate Senna one day, it would be really moving".

 

No extra pressure, says Lewis Hamilton, who leads his team-mate Nico Rosberg by 53 points. With 40 victories, the Briton is currently fifth on the all-time wins list behind Michael Schumacher (91), Alain Prost (51), Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel (41). In terms of pole positions, Ayrton Senna took 8 in a row between 1998 and 1989, while Lewis Hamilton could do it in a single season. With a new world championship title, his third after 2008 and 2014, the Mercedes driver could equal Ayrton Senna, who won in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

 

However, it will be important to keep an eye on Valtteri Bottas, who is full of confidence.

 

"We will get things right this weekend, I believe we can score points. Last year, in the last lap, I dropped out of the fight for points due to the deterioration of the tyres".

 

The Finnish driver also recalls that he will be driving for Williams in 2016, and he does not hide a little delusion about how this championship is going:

 

"We wanted to make a step forward and compared to last year we did, but not as much as we expected. I'll be driving for Williams next year too, we haven't achieved the maximum results but we know we can improve. My season has also been a rollercoaster, I have had some moments and some unfortunate results, now we hope to have reached a turning point".

 

According to Valtteri Bottas:

 

"We need to improve downforce and power. These are the aspects that allow you to perform well. Then we had some problems in the pit stops and we have to try to be more advanced in all areas, but improvement also comes from finding the mistakes. I'm sure we can be much better than this".

 

Manor Marussia driver Robert Mehri will not take part in the Singapore Grand Prix, with Alexander Rossi taking his place. The American will race alongside Will Stevens in five of the final seven Grand Prix of the season. After Singapore, Alexander Rossi will race in Japan, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. Mehri, who has competed in eleven races to date, will compete in Russia and Abu Dhabi, but will be relegated to reserve driver for the remainder of the season. 

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Rossi, who won at Spa and Monza in GP2 this year, has made five F1 appearances, but only in practice: in Spain in 2012, the United States in 2013 and Canada in 2013 and 2014, always with Caterham, and in Belgium last year with the former Marussia team. Rober Mehri, on the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix, said:

 

"I arrived here on Monday and the team told me that Rossi will take my place in five of the last seven races. My future? I don't know, but I'll wait and see".

 

Alexander Rossi will use number 53. Following Manor's last-minute call, the Californian made the number of his single-seater official, publishing the famous bug from the Disney films on social media channels:

 

"Many people ask me: why did you choose the number 53? Well, this is the reason... Herbie is back".

 

Formula One has been without an American driver since 2007, when Toro Rosso fielded Scott Speed.

 

"It was almost a last-minute arrangement. The discussions started shortly after Monza. I booked a flight on Tuesday morning and was on the plane in the evening".

 

On the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing confirms that it won't be using Renault engines from 2016. The British-Austrian team could negotiate with Ferrari to supply the engines for the next few years. Red Bull appears to be close to a deal with the Volkswagen Group to sell its factory to the German giant and enter Formula One in 2018. The Red Bull team could then use a Ferrari engine for two seasons, giving Volkswagen the time it needs to build the power units. The team would be renamed Audi or Volkswagen. It is Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Red Bull Racing, who is leading the negotiations directly with Martin Winterkorn. The head of VW. Mateschitz Group confirms that the separation from Renault has been agreed for weeks and that Ferrari could be a very satisfactory option for the motorisation of the cars for the next two or three years.

 

"The separation from Renault will take place at the end of the season. A mutual agreement has been reached. It didn't make sense to continue for so long".

 

Red Bull will remain title sponsor of VW/Audi. What would happen if Red Bull Racing decided to leave F1 due to lack of agreement or lack of competitiveness with a Ferrari engine?

 

"Our employees (1100) wouldn't be unemployed. We'll find other roles for them".

 

On Friday 18th September 2015, Nico Rosberg was the fastest driver in the first practice session. The German was ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo. The time of 1'47'995 set by Nico Rosberg is over a second faster than the 2014 time, thanks to the improvements made to the track. Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull Racing had problems with the gearbox, leaving the Russian only ahead of the two Marussia cars. Alexander Rossi, making his debut, crashed into the barriers in the final minutes of the session, bending the right suspension of his single-seater. The final part of the session is dedicated to the drivers' race trials, using the harder compound tyres provided by Pirelli. At the end of the session, Felipe Nasr was reprimanded by the stewards for not complying with the rules in the case of an exit in Turn 3. 

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The second session is interrupted by a red flag for an accident involving Will Stevens in turn 12, although fortunately the British driver is not physically injured. Other drivers crashed into the walls that surround the Singapore circuit, suffering only punctures. During FP2, the fastest car is that of Daniil Kvyat, who sets the best time during the third flying lap on Supersoft tyres, while the other cars only do one flying lap. The Russian was just 0.039 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and 0.114 seconds behind his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis Hamilton, second in the first session, was fourth. The Briton made a mistake during his flying lap on the softer tyres and was unable to beat the time of the driver in first place. Nevertheless, Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest time on the soft tyres. At the end of Friday's practice, the two Marussia cars are forced to change gear: the two drivers are penalised by five places on the grid. No Mercedes dominance in Singapore, at least for now. The feeling in the Ferrari garage is that Kimi Räikkönen (fifth in the first practice) is doing well over a lap and with a low fuel single seater, while his team-mate Sebastian Vettel (fourth in the morning) had a problem during the flying lap, which the Maranello team will work on before qualifying on Saturday. In race trim, however, the German driver seems to be at ease, unlike his Finnish team-mate. A good performance from Fernando Alonso, who had no problems with his McLaren-Honda and set the eighth fastest time of the day, albeit 0.8 seconds behind Daniil Kvyat. Rounding out the top ten are Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India, 1.1 seconds behind the Russian's Red Bull Racing, and Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso, just behind. The two Williams-Mercedes are slower, with Felipe Massa in P11 and Valtteri Bottas in P17, about 2 seconds down. The two Marussia cars were involved in accidents, with rookie Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens at the back of the provisional grid, 10 to 13 seconds behind Daniil Kvyat. This Friday is seen as positive by Sebastian Vettel, who hopes to be a protagonist in the race:

 

"It's obvious that the Mercedes cars could be faster tomorrow: I don't know what happened to them today, they seemed a bit slow, but I'm sure things will change tomorrow. We know that they don't show their full potential on the first day. Also, as we expected, the Red Bull cars are fast, so we'll all be a lot closer tomorrow. It's always difficult to make predictions on Friday. In general, I think it was a good day for us. The car seems to be working well, but apart from that I think we can still improve. I wasn't completely happy with my flying laps, so we need to do better in qualifying, although the pace for the race looks good, but I haven't looked at the data in detail yet. I can't wait for Saturday because I like the track, it's really demanding: there are a lot of corners, the lap is long and it's not easy to put it all together. Tomorrow we need to be faster, but today it's only Friday, so we'll keep our feet on the ground".

 

On Saturday, 19 September 2015, the Ferrari drivers are also ahead of the Red Bull Racing and Mercedes drivers in FP3. Sebastian Vettel leads Kimi Räikkönen by 0.450 seconds: the two cars from Maranello have the same technical set-up and make the same choices regarding the cooling of the braking system. A few hours later, during the first part of the qualifying session, Daniil Kvyat sets the fastest time. All the drivers, except the Ferraris, are forced to use Supersoft tyres, even the Mercedes drivers, who are unable to beat the Russian's time. Marussia's Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi, Sauber's Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson and Pastor Maldonado are out of the running, while Jenson Button makes his last attempt to qualify for the next stage. In Q2, the Red Bull Racing drivers take the lead until Kimi Raikkonen sets the second fastest lap, followed by Sebastian Vettel, who takes the lead on a single set of Supersoft tyres. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were only fifth and sixth respectively. In the final part of the session, Carlos Sainz Jr. crashed into the wall and was unable to finish in the top ten, unlike his team-mate Max Verstappen, who set the fifth time. Fernando Alonso is slowed down during his final attempt by double yellow flags, necessary to allow the stewards to clear the track of debris left by Carlos Sainz Jr's car. In addition to the two Spaniards, Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, as well as Jenson Button, are out. In Q3, Daniel Ricciardo immediately takes the top spot on the timesheet and not even Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton can beat him. 

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However, the Australian was beaten by Sebastian Vettel who set a time of 1'44"305. Daniil Kvyat was fourth fastest behind Nico Rosberg. During his second stint, Daniel Ricciardo is unable to beat Sebastian Vettel, who instead manages to improve. Sebastian Vettel takes the 46th pole of his career, the first for Ferrari since the 2012 German Grand Prix, after a wait of 61 races: such a result interrupts Lewis Hamilton's streak of seven consecutive poles, out of 23 consecutive poles for Mercedes (in both cases, the longest streaks of consecutive poles for a driver and a constructor in the history of the Formula One World Championship) and 31 consecutive poles for Mercedes as engine supplier, a historical record in the World Championship. Three years later, Ferrari are once again ahead of everyone else. And it looks like the end of a nightmare. At least when you see the smile on Sebastian Vettel's face, which, despite his helmet, lights up the Singapore night. He made the difference with a formidable lap, holding his breath for 5065 metres, dangerous for the sides of poor Eva, very close to all the walls of this circuit, as well as for the coronary arteries of Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal, who had overstretched himself in Monza:

 

"In Singapore we'll be much closer to our rivals".

 

Sebastian Vettel is almost 0.6 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, but above all he is 1.5 seconds ahead of the unrivalled Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team, who had such a negative day that it almost seems suspicious. And that is the most resounding result of a day that is, in a way, historic. Ferrari's pole position stops an inevitable dominance. Suffice it to say that since the FIA introduced the new regulations for hybrid engines, the so-called Power Units, it had never happened that a pole position went to a car without a Mercedes engine. Last season, Daniel Ricciardo tried, but he never managed to start from pole position. For the first time in a long time, Formula 1 is set to witness a highly competitive race. With Ferrari playing the unusual role of favourites to win and the others chasing. Others mainly refers to the Red Bull Racing drivers. But it won't be easy to dethrone Sebastian Vettel from the place he has conquered. There are two reasons for this: the first is that Singapore, like any street circuit, is a place where it is almost impossible to overtake; the second is that the German driver feels at home here.

 

"I feel confident here. On a circuit like this, with walls overlooking the track, it is crucial for drivers to feel confident, it allows you to take advantage of the track to the last millimetre".

 

Sebastian Vettel has raced at Marina Bay seven times, winning three times, finishing second twice, third once and fifth once (with Scuderia Toro Rosso). The 1.5-second gap to Mercedes cannot be fully explained by this harmony between driver and circuit, but it is fair to say that at least 0.3 seconds of it was Sebastian Vettel's doing. Now he likes to scare his opponents, as he did when he drove for Red Bull Racing:

 

"Who is the rival I fear the most? I don't see why I should be afraid of anyone, I've got a great car and I'm starting at the front".

 

Perhaps the older people in the paddock are right when they say that this is the glory of a night and that Mercedes will be on another planet from the next race. But this is fun. And in the meantime, the German says:

 

"It's unbelievable. It's only Saturday and the hardest work is done, but now I'm savouring this moment. It looked good at the beginning of the week, the car is amazing to drive and it improved throughout qualifying. We gave everything today, I'm impressed with the gap, but I think everything worked well today. Overall, I did an almost perfect lap. On this track, the lap is so long and complex that when I crossed the finish line I felt very relieved. We're in a great position, but as I said, it's only Saturday and our main job is tomorrow. The Mercedes cars are fast and the Red Bull cars are also competitive, so tomorrow will be tough”.

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Maurizio Arrivabene keeps himself grounded and says:

 

"To be honest, it would have been better to take pole in Monza in front of our home crowd, who were really behind us. Having said that, it's good here too. Sebastian was unbelievable, he could have played it cool on the last run, as he was three tenths down, but instead he pushed and even kissed the wall, fortunately without any consequences. Kimi was also very good and found himself again. It's a great satisfaction, but now we have to turn the page and look to tomorrow".

 

As for the unexpected struggles of Mercedes, the Ferrari team principal is quick to point out:

 

"I want to talk about the amazing work done by the guys, their humility and dedication to the team. Every team has difficulties, we have worked on ours and we leave Mercedes to theirs".

 

At the start of the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, 20th September 2015, Sebastian Vettel is in the lead, followed by Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. At the back, at the start of the race, Max Verstappen has a problem and is overtaken by the whole group. The positions remained the same until the drivers stopped to change tyres. During the 13th lap, Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa stopped, but the Brazilian made contact with Nico Hulkenberg while leaving the pit lane. The German's car went off the track and hit the barriers. Due to the place where the car stopped, the stewards decided to bring out the Virtual Safety Car. Drivers who had not yet changed tyres took advantage of the situation and pitted. This allowed Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to overtake Daniil Kvyat. After three laps, the stewards bring out the Safety Car to allow the track to be cleaned in safer conditions. At the restart. Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen are separated by tenths of a second. Lewis Hamilton, fourth, seemed to be closing the gap on the leaders, but on lap 26 he radioed his engineers that the Mercedes engine was losing power. The British driver was overtaken by the other cars until he decided to return to the pits and retire on lap 33. On lap 34, Daniil Kvyat made his second pit stop, but it was a slow one and he lost a position to Valtteri Bottas. On the same lap, Fernando Alonso retired. During lap 37, the stewards were forced to bring out the Safety Car again after a spectator had climbed over the barriers on the track: this gave the drivers another opportunity to enter the pits to change tyres. 

 

At the restart, Sebastian Vettel maintained his lead ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Pérez. On lap 42, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado collided. The Briton lost part of his front wing and had to return to the pits. In the final laps, the two Toro Rosso cars on the Supersoft tyres make up several positions, with Max Verstappen up to eighth and Carlos Sainz Jr. up to ninth. From the pits, the engineers ask the Dutchman to let Carlos Sainz Jr pass, but Max Verstappen decides to hold his position. Sebastian Vettel wins the Singapore Grand Prix, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg finishes fourth, followed by Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr and Felipe Nasr. Sebastian Vettel show: the German driver returns Ferrari to the top of the world. Pole position on Saturday, victory on Sunday: in short, a domination. Something unimaginable until a few days ago, something that makes Ferrari fans dream. As if by magic, Sebastian Vettel suddenly became the Red Bull driver we all admired, the one who started from pole and won the race. A classic script, then, which he repeated in Singapore with Ferrari, including the first astonishing lap in which he put a huge gap (this time three seconds) on the driver behind him. To see Sebastian Vettel so competitive did F1 good, and not just for Ferrari fans: the show was indeed great, with the German driver kissing the walls with absolute mastery and a strong Red Bull, just like in the old days. However, there is one group that had nothing to cheer about: Mercedes fans. On the podium was Daniel Ricciardo in second place, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, with Nico Rosberg in fourth and Lewis Hamilton retiring due to a loss of power. 

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What will happen to the dominant team? The drama: the development of the power unit is not working. And it is not as if the satellite teams (who cannot develop) have not had problems. Mercedes will now run for cover, but in the meantime their dominance has been interrupted. Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are celebrating. And the championship is changing too. Lewis Hamilton still leads the championship with 252 points, but Nico Rosberg is now on 211 points, while Sebastian Vettel is getting closer with 203 points. And with this Ferrari, second place is a real possibility. As for the rest, this race will go down in the annals of history with another bad result for McLaren (both cars retired), another great result for Scuderia Toro Rosso with two cars in the points and a madman who started walking down the straight. In the super-technical world of F1, where there are controls of every kind, these things happen.

 

"An incredible weekend".

 

That was how Sebastian Vettel summed up the weekend in Singapore, where he had no rivals from pole position to the chequered flag:

 

"Pole and victory, what else can I say? Thank you guys, what a day, forza Ferrari".

 

It was Vettel's third victory of the season:

 

"We tried to create a gap and I was three seconds ahead on the first lap, then I slowed down and Daniel Ricciardo made up a few tenths. Then there were two safety cars. In the second stint, I kept the pace under control for a while, then I pushed and kept the gap in check until the end. In the second part of the race I changed my strategy, with 35-36 laps to go I knew we were close to a pit stop, but I stayed out for a few more laps".

 

On Ferrari's chances of winning the championship and overtaking Mercedes with six races to go, the German said:

 

"Of course, if there are other weekends like this, then the miracle can happen. We don't care what they're going through, we're concentrating on our races".

 

And Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene is also very pleased:

 

"Seb has confirmed that he's a champion. It was a very hard race, very tough. I'm sweating like crazy, and not just because of the heat. This team is amazing and I'm also happy with Räikkönen".

 

But today, Seb is the one to draw attention to himself:

 

"This confirms that we have great drivers and, above all, a strong car. Also, Vettel is incredible, yesterday he was on pole and I only saw Senna doing laps like that. Seb was great and today he confirmed that he is a champion. Are you going to celebrate? No, I'm going to work".

 

Ferrari president Segio Marchionne also shared his joy:

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"Congratulations to everyone for this victory. Sebastian Vettel drove like a true champion, which he is, and every member of the team, on the track and in Maranello, did a perfect job. I'm also happy for Kimi Räikkönen, who is back on the podium: it's been a long time since two Ferrari drivers finished in the top three together. It's an important success on a difficult track, and I'd like to dedicate it first of all to all our fans, who never cease to show their love and support. We, Ferrari, promise them that this race is not a one-off, but an important step in our journey towards a stable return to the top and the Italian anthem being sung more often".

 

Fernando Alonso also congratulated his former team:

 

"It's good to see someone who's not Mercedes on the podium, we have to take a picture and hang it up at home because they've dominated for two years now. I'm happy for my friends at Ferrari, let's hope it continues".

 

Lewis Hamilton continues to lead the championship by a wide margin, but he leaves Singapore with zero points and a retirement that will be hard to forget.

 

"It seems that the new engine had problems, but we don't know the reason. I was feeling good and was already in fourth position before the problem, I felt good and thought I could close the gap to the drivers in front".

 

According to the British driver, the Ferraris will be quick in Japan:

 

"They'll be quick, but here we were the slow ones and we need to understand why, hopefully it won't happen again in the next race".

 

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel continues to stress the point:

 

"Yes, it was one of the best races of my life".

 

With his cheeks still flushed from the alcohol he drank on the podium, his eyes shining from the tears and the demeanour of someone who has just won the lottery, this is an exhausted Sebastian Vettel at the end of the Singapore Grand Prix, in front of journalists from all over the world.

 

"It was all very intense. I felt a lot of pressure, with Ricciardo behind me, who was driving a great race, very strategic. At one point my water bottle broke, the one for hydration. I was so thirsty... But I couldn't make a mistake. I always tried to keep the situation under control, dictating the pace and taking advantage of the fact that it's not easy to overtake on this track. I let him get closer and then I pushed. I checked the gap between him and me and fortunately it worked out in the end".

 

Has it ever happened to you that someone crossed the track during a Grand Prix? Did it have the potential to ruin your race?

 

"The fact is that he risked his life, in that point we reach 290 km/h".

 

When did you realise that you could have won the race?

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"Not immediately. I was a bit worried on Friday. But we worked all night and the car was strong on Saturday and Sunday until the last lap".

 

This is your third victory in your first season with Ferrari, just as Michael Schumacher did in 1996. Is this a sign of destiny?

 

"I don't think it's right to make such a comparison. And the car he had in 1996 was much worse than the one I have anyway".

 

With 42 victories, you are the third most successful driver in the history of Formula 1. Behind Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91). What more do you think you can achieve?
 

"Well, I'm 28, I'm not that young anymore. Anyway, if Prost is within reach, I'd say it's ridiculous to think about Michael. Let's put it this way: if it was a Grand Prix with 23 corners, I would be at the first corner and he would be at the 23rd. I don't even think about it".

 

How is the mood in the team after this result?

 

"The spirit is high. I haven't been here for the last two years, but from what I've heard the situation has improved a lot".

 

Would you supply engines to Red Bull Racing next year?

 

"That is not something I decide. It's a question you have to ask someone else. And apparently the champagne I drank on the podium was much stronger than I thought. It's better I don't say anything".

 

Are you surprised by Mercedes' disappointing performance?

 

"Really. I'm sure they'll be back where they belong in Suzuka. But if they don't, I won't complain. And we'll try to do the impossible".

 

There is no need to understand in order to be happy. On the contrary, perhaps sometimes it helps not to understand. Perhaps that is why, on this Singapore night, the men and women of Maranello have neither the time nor the inclination to think about what has happened to Mercedes. They just want to scream. They see Eva, Sebastian Vettel's number 5, crossing the finish line alone after a two-hour battle, and then they run to the podium, ready to celebrate with their new leader, that former very smart boy that everyone keeps comparing to Michael Schumacher. It was a situation that reminded us, if only for a moment, of those happier times. The Italian anthem played before the German, the fireworks, the mechanics clashing with the security, the tears. This is the third victory of the season. But it feels like the first. The results in Sepang and Budapest were easy, thanks to the favourable conditions. For the first time since the beginning of the hybrid era, when engines were transformed into extremely complex power units, Mercedes struggled from start to finish and had to leave the entire stage to Ferrari and Red Bull. And it was on this stage that Sebastian Vettel burst onto the scene. The German driver built his personal triumph with obsessive precision, starting from Friday's free practice.

 

"We have to improve on the lap".

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He said it in the middle of the night. The next day, in both free practice and qualifying, he crushed the ambitions of his rivals with a lap at the limit of what is humanly possible. During the race he was perfect. A straight start and strategic management, millimetre by millimetre. Such a significant performance does not happen by chance, especially here in Singapore. The Marina Bay circuit is a rather ugly track where it is not possible to overtake or go extremely fast. It is, however, a track for real drivers, with walls and sharp corners. In seven visits, only Fernando Alonso has won twice, Lewis Hamilton once and Sebastian Vettel four times. He is the most successful active driver and today we understood why. And to think that when he won with Red Bull Racing, almost every Ferrari fan said it was all down to the fast car he was driving. Furthermore, Ferrari still have 4 of the 32 tokens to invest in the engine, while Mercedes have used them all with the latest development, which has been deceptive until now. In Suzuka, Mercedes will probably solve their mysterious technical problems, Lewis Hamilton will be the usual cannibal and the season will end as predicted. Yet somewhere in Maranello, someone is working tirelessly, perhaps inspired by a new conviction: there are no more unbeatable people.

 

"Yes, I thought about it for a moment. I thought that maybe Pirelli had given us different tyres to the others. I don't want to say that this was the case. On the contrary. But yes, I thought about it".

 

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is not accusing anyone of anything. However, by admitting that he had doubts, even if only for a moment, the Mercedes team principal is in the end supporting the idea that has been circulating in the paddock since Saturday evening, the so-called conspiracy theory against Mercedes. The matter is simple. It is well known that the British-German team has a car that is superior to all the others, both in terms of aerodynamics and power. Despite this, the team arrived in Singapore to be made fun of by Red Bull Racing and Ferrari. It was as if the car had never been on the track. In the end, in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was 1.8 seconds down on Sebastian Vettel; in the race it was even worse, with the car retiring due to intercooler failure. Lewis Hamilton, very suspicious, explains:

 

"We had some problems, it is true. But that would be justified by a gap of half a second per lap, not a gap of one and a half".

 

In the end, that is what everyone thinks. But nobody can explain it. So here is the conspiracy theory, which could have decided to punish Mercedes after what happened at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. After the race, the cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were found to have more underinflated tyres than allowed. So Pirelli could have supplied Toto Wolff's team with different tyres to support this theory. The Mercedes team boss explains:

 

"Something similar happened to us in the DTM".

 

Without informing the team, the supplier had supplied BMW and Mercedes with heavier tyres, which affected the set-up of the cars.

 

"So yes, I thought about it for a moment".

 

Lewis Hamilton thought about it too, as he let off steam in front of the press: 

 

"The car is the same, I'm the same, tell me what happened".

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Of course, Pirelli rejects any direct or indirect accusation with contempt. They explain that the tyre lots are allocated in a completely computerised way. And that it is both ridiculous and defamatory to entertain such an idea. The alternative to the conspiracy theory is certainly much more reassuring. A series of unfortunate events conspired against Mercedes: the full traction circuit, the paired and mechanical grip, which basically cancelled out the advantages in terms of power unit and aerodynamics; the hot and humid weather, which Mercedes always suffered from; the tyre inflation required by Pirelli, which once again penalised the Anglo-German cars. If we add to this list the fact that the race engineers probably chose the wrong set-up, then we have an explanation for the disaster. Of course, none of these elements has ever been able to threaten Mercedes' supremacy. Conspiracy or not, many doubts remain. We wonder if the Japanese Grand Prix will be enough to clear things up. To think that Ferrari could win the world championship is more an act of faith, which is legitimate, than a reasonable belief. But Sebastian Vettel says:

 

"We are trying to do the impossible".

 

And he is right, because he is famous for comebacks, and he knows that the first condition for achieving the dream is to never give up, to be in the right place when your rival makes a mistake. In 2012, more or less at this point in the season, Sebastian Vettel was 43 points behind Fernando Alonso. And he went on to win the championship. However, Sebastian Vettel was driving a Red Bull that was much quicker than the others. He is currently 49 points behind, but above all he drives a Ferrari that, after the excitement of the Singapore Grand Prix, nobody knows where to place in the infinite gap that the Mercedes cars have created during these two years of dominance. Taking into account the time and manner of Sebastian Vettel's triumph, Ferrari may not be at the top of the pile (the Marina Bay circuit was very much in the Maranello team's favour), but they are certainly close to it. On the contrary, if you take into account all the other races up to the Italian Grand Prix, they are still behind. This fluctuation is not particularly due to Ferrari's performance, but rather to Mercedes, who suffered a debacle in Singapore that was as puzzling in its results as it was in its causes. The general consensus in the paddock is that it was an isolated incident that won't be repeated. The result of a combination of elements, including the track, the temperature, the new tyre regulations and some problems with the new engine, which are unlikely to be repeated in the future. 

 

Starting with the Singapore Grand Prix, the championship will in all likelihood find its undisputed leader again. However, Ferrari's victory in Singapore also showed something else. Something that sounds like a promise for next season. The team from Maranello has found the right way to be competitive again, and they are going full steam ahead. The victory in Singapore was not as easy as those in Budapest and Sepang. It is the result of precise work, starting with the responsibility of Technical Director James Allison, followed by the reduction of the entire Gestione Sportiva. The figures for the Italian Grand Prix were already very clear. The new Ferrari engine was getting dangerously close to the Mercedes engine, forcing the latter to act - apparently hastily - by investing the last tokens (engine development is measured in tokens). On the one hand, this gave the Anglo-German team an advantage, but on the other hand it compromised the reliability of the engines. But above all, everyone thought that the competition would be rekindled. This idea took shape in Singapore, on a track where the superiority of Ferrari's engines came to the fore. The following circuits will have different characteristics, the temperatures will change, the power of the Mercedes engines will again prevail over the agility of the Ferraris, and it will be difficult for Sebastian Vettel to do the impossible. From the point of view of the Singapore night, however, 2016 does not look so scary.


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