Singapore Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton “mindful not to take any risks”

Going into the weekend, many thought that the Singapore Grand Prix would be prime Ferrari territory with its high temperatures and tight, twisting layout. However, as the season so far has proven, many expectations can and probably should be thrown out the window, with Lewis Hamilton claiming victory for Mercedes around the streets of Marina Bay.

The most damage was arguably dealt to Ferrari in qualifying, with Hamilton setting an extremely impressive lap, probably one of the best of his career, to take pole position by three tenths ahead of Max Verstappen. Title rival Sebastian Vettel was six tenths back in third.

“I came here knowing that Singapore is a hard one for us,” said Hamilton. “But I’m always optimistic, thinking that if we’re really diligent and do our work, we can create some chances. Then Friday was already a good day for us. Saturday didn’t start off well, but then all of [a] sudden that special lap came in. Knowing that we would start on pole, I knew that it was a great opportunity for us to capitalise on.”

2018 Großer Preis von Singapur, Samstag – Steve Etherington

Hamilton made a good getaway at the start and maintained a healthy gap to the cars behind for much of the race. The only real hiccup came at just over half distance when he tried to lap the squabbling duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean, who failed to see Hamilton and allowed Max Verstappen to close to within a second of the Mercedes.

“When I hit traffic, I was just mindful not to take any risks,” said Hamilton. “When you start to get closer to another car, you start losing grip and start sliding around more, so there’s a higher chance of mistakes. If you’re lucky you catch the cars at the right point and they let you by so you don’t lose any time, but today I always caught them at an unfortunate point. So when Max was right behind, I had to go on the defensive, and I thought to myself, ‘Bro, you’re not getting by – not today!'”

Both he and Verstappen eventually cleared Sirotkin and Grosjean – with the Haas being given a penalty for ignoring blue flags – and Hamilton immediately opened up the gap again to just over three seconds.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday- Wolfgang Wilhelm

He went on to claim victory – his 69th in F1 – by almost nine seconds, bringing to a close one of the most challenging races of the year.

“It was physically such a demanding race,” Hamilton added, “so I’m relieved that it’s over now – it felt like such a long night, but I’m super grateful for the result.”

As a result, Hamilton now leads Sebastian Vettel – who finished third after a strategic blunder from Ferrari lost the German a potential second-place finish – by 40 points in the championship.

Yes, the next Grand Prix – at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia – has always been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes, but if Singapore and the rest of this year have shown us anything, it’s that you really can’t rely on past showings to predict how things will unfold in the remainder of 2018.

2018 Großer Preis von Singapur, Samstag – Paul Ripke

2018 Singapore Grand Prix: One to forget for Force India

With their spirits high on the back of their impressive form in the last few races, Racing Point Force India looked as though they would continue their success this weekend in Singapore. When Perez and Ocon ran well in practice, and clocked impressive times in Saturday’s qualifying session, who could have known that the weekend would end as it did?

As the lights went out, it appeared – briefly – as though we might have an opening lap unusually free of incident. Unfortunately, a battle between the two Force India drivers soon put paid to that idea. You’ve no doubt seen the replays from every which angle by now but whether, as the stewards determined, you feel the collision that unfolded was a racing incident, or whether you feel there is blame to be placed (presumably on Perez), it was an incident that I think we can all agree should not have happened.

My own opinion is that while Ocon might have been a little plucky, there was no excuse for Perez not to have left him a bit more room. However, I also think there’s little point in dissecting the incident. It happened, it shouldn’t have happened, and that’s all that really matters.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11.
Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday 15th September 2018. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

The incident left a despondent Ocon in the wall and out of the race, although what appeared to be one of his wheel rims continued on without its owner, finding a temporary new home on the front wing of Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams. Perez, meanwhile, escaped unscathed, running in seventh position until his pit stop.

The second moment of the race that Perez will surely rue came when he had been following Sirotkin (now sans extra wheel rim) for over ten laps. Clearly growing frustrated, Perez had taken to bizarre radio shout-outs to Charlie Whiting asking him to do something about the Russian driver who, for anyone watching, seemed to be defending hard but driving fairly. While Sirotkin was later involved in a questionable move with Brendon Hartley, which rightly earned him a penalty, there was little evidence that he’d acted unreasonably towards Perez.

Just as it seemed that Perez had finally managed to clear the Williams, he inexplicably turned left, spearing straight into his rival. In this second disastrous incident for Perez, it was near impossible to view it as anything other than wholly his fault. He finally finished the race in 16th, after serving a drive-through penalty for the collision, and will surely leave Singapore with a great deal to think about before the next race.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11.
Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday 15th September 2018. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

Unfortunately, the events of this weekend’s race mean that Force India will have more to think about than their position in the standings. Instead, managing their drivers and minimising tensions between them will likely be a focus within the team. Despite not being unfamiliar with these sorts of problems between their drivers last season, until now it had seemed that such issues had been left behind in 2017.

But now, with their drivers once again not trusted to race each other, how will this impact their chances against not just each other, but the other teams? Only time will tell whether this new, undesirable twist in the tale of Racing Point Force India will continue to boil over, or whether they will be able to put it behind them for the good of the team.

Nico Hulkenberg targets “positive weekend” ahead of 150th Grand Prix

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg will be starting his 150th Grand Prix at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix, and he is hoping for a “positive weekend” at a circuit that he sees as something of an anomaly on the F1 calendar.

“It’s a unique Grand Prix in more ways than one,” Hulkenberg said, “and it’s the only real night race we have on the calendar. Racing under artificial lighting does take a little getting used to, but Singapore has been on the calendar for so long now, it feels pretty normal. We don’t see too much daytime there as we’re working on European time. We sleep until lunchtime and then the work begins. The facilities at Singapore are really good, and it’s a very enjoyable venue for a Grand Prix.”

With its relentless twenty-three corner layout and temperatures in excess of thirty degrees even at night, since its inaugural race in 2008 Singapore has developed a reputation for being one of the most physically demanding Grand Prix around.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team.
Singapore Grand Prix, Thursday 13th September 2018. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

“The circuit itself is very physical and puts a lot of strain on the body,” Hulkenberg added. “It’s up there as one of the toughest circuits of the season. It’s a long lap with corners coming thick and fast, with not many straights to have a break. The humidity makes it hard combined with all the action we’re doing at the wheel with non-stop corner combinations and frequent gear changes.”

This weekend’s race is the tenth anniversary of the first Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay and, as mentioned, is also Hulkenberg’s 150th in F1. As such, he is hoping he will be able to move on from the last couple of races, where he has started from the back of the grid thanks to penalties.

“It’s a significant milestone to have been racing in Formula 1 for so long with that many races under my belt. But it’s just a number at this stage and we have a challenge on our hands in the midfield battle, so I’ll be drawing on my experience and targeting a positive weekend in Singapore.

“We did all we could from the back of the grid [in Italy], and I’m pleased with how the weekend progressed. It’s good that the team are back in the points especially at a power-sensitive circuit like Monza. The penalties are hopefully out of the way and we head to Singapore in [a] confident mood aiming to have both cars in the points.”

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 1st September 2018. Monza Italy.