Sebastian Vettel claimed his third victory of the season in Singapore on Sunday, ahead of his former team mate Daniel Ricciardo, and current Ferrari colleague Kimi Raikkonen.
The result came as a blow to current championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who had to retire on Lap 32 due to a failure of his ERS system. This meant the car was relying solely on the internal combustion engine, which thanks to the new hybrid power units, now only accounts for about two thirds of the car’s horsepower.
The other Mercedes car was not in its usual dominant position either, with Nico Rosberg suffering higher tyre wear than the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, which simply couldn’t be matched on the slow, twisty track.
The race started in a fairly routine fashion, save for Max Verstappen, who stalled on the grid. The Young Dutchman was wheeled in to the pits, and went a lap down immediately after his car was restarted.
Lap 12 saw the first Safety Car of the race, thus continuing Singapore’s record of providing a Safety Car in every race since its inaugural running in 2008.
The flashing lights this time were caused when Nico Hulkenberg attempted to overtake Felipe Massa at turn 1 when the Williams exited the pits. However, Hulkenberg squeezed Massa to the inside of the track, and with nowhere else to go, the Force India clipped his front-right wheel and flew over it, ending up in a crumpled mess in the wall.
The Safety car proper was not released until lap 16; until then it had been a Virtual Safety Car, where the drivers are limited to a specific lap time to maintain the gap to the cars ahead and behind.
Most drivers pitted in this safety car period, but not Daniil Kvyat. He had already come in, and so the Mercedes cars were able to pit further up the road and then rejoin ahead of the young Russian in sixth.
Carlos Sainz dropped to 18th position at the restart, ahead only of Max Verstappen who was still around half a lap down.
Hamilton’s plight began a few laps after the restart. He’d got himself into third position behind Vettel and Ricciardo, but on Lap 26 he reported a loss of power, which saw him overtaken by Raikkonen, Rosberg, and even Alonso got past his old team mate. On Lap 32, though, the Brit had to call it a day, but he was in good company, being joined in the pit lane by Alonso a lap earlier, and Felipe Massa two laps before that; the ex-Ferrari duo both succumbing to gearbox issues.
For the second time in 2015, a spectator got onto the track, walking across the track and then down the back straight between Turns 13 and 14. While the lunatic was restrained, the Safety Car was brought out once more.
When it came back in, the bunched-up field got stuck into one another, but none more so than Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado. Button looked down Maldonado’s inside at Turn 8, but the Lotus wouldn’t budge. When he tried his luck on the inside of Turn 9, Maldonado slowed right down, and Button took of half of his front wing on the Venezuelan’s rear-left tyre.
The carbon fiber struck the front of Carlos Sainz’s car, but while Button and Maldonado had to pit for a new front wing and a tyres respectively, Sainz was only getting faster, despite his carbon salad. Verstappen passed Grosjean, and Sainz followed him a few corners later, pushing Grosjean wide.
On lap 51 Daniel Ricciardo denied his ex-team mate a ‘Grand Slam’ (where a driver gets Pole Position, fastest lap, leads every race and wins) by stealing the honours for fastest lap. A couple of laps later, McLaren’s evening went from bad to worse, with Jenson Button retiring due to the same gearbox issue that sidelined his team mate Alonso.
The final drama in the race involved Toro Rosso, who instructed Max Verstappen to relinquish eight place to Carlos Sainz behind, but it was met with a hearty “NO!” from the Dutch teenager. Seven years and seven days prior, another Toro Rosso youngster was showing the world what he was made of when he won his first race.
That man was Sebastian Vettel who, in the present, had maintained a gap of around three seconds to Daniel Ricciardo in second for the whole race, to take his third victory of the season, equaling the estimate set by the red team at the start of the season.
The result means that Hamilton still leads the championship with 252 points, 41 points ahead of Nico Rosberg who is on 211. Sebastian Vettel is just behind on 203 nearly doubling his team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s tally of 107.
The next race is in Japan at the mythic Suzuka Circuit, on Sunday September 27.
1) S Vettel, Ferrari
2) D Ricciardo, Red Bull
3) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
4) N Rosberg, Mercedes
5) V Bottas, Williams6) D Kvyat, Red Bull
7) S Perez, Force India
8) M Verstappen, Toro Rosso
9) C Sainz, Toro Rosso
10) F Nasr, Sauber
11) M Ericsson, Sauber
12) P Maldonado, Lotus
13) R Grosjean, Lotus
14) A Rossi, Manor
15) W Stevens, Manor
J Button, McLaren, Lap 52 (Gearbox)
F Alonso, McLaren, Lap 33 (Gearbox)
L Hamilton, Mercedes, Lap 32 (ERS)
F Massa, Williams, Lap 30 (Exhaust)
N Hulkenberg, Force India, Lap 12 (Crash)