Multiple shunts cause chaos on a slippery Singapore circuit
After an unexpectedly wet weekend, resulting in six DNFs, Sergio Perez won the Singapore Grand Prix. Max Verstappen, who had the potential to claim the world championship this weekend, finished only in P7, meaning the battle is yet to be won.
Qualifying kicked off on Saturday after a shower of rain, meaning the track was damp and the inter tyres were on. The nature of this street circuit track leaves little room for error, which was made apparent due to the amount of yellow flags brought out through all three sessions. Russell shocked fans as he was eliminated in Q2, which is the first time that this has happened since he joined the Mercedes team.
By Q3, the track had mostly dried from the rain, making slick, dry tyres the better option for the last part of qualifying, but even then the track still proved difficult. Verstappen had to abort both of his last two flying laps, meaning he only qualified P8. The first was aborted in order to try and go for a better time, and the last lap was aborted at the last corner when the Red Bull team realised if the lap was completed, there would not be enough fuel left in the car for a fuel sample, which would have left Verstappen with a back-of-the-grid penalty. Leclerc took pole, Perez in P2 and a confident Hamilton started the race in P3.
On Sunday, the race was postponed by an hour due to the rain creating large puddles that were collecting on the track. All the drivers were on inter tyres again to suit the conditions, and Russell started in the pit lane after taking an engine penalty. Perez had a brilliant start to the race, overtaking Leclerc before the first corner and taking the lead of the race. Verstappen, however, had an awful start, dropping back from P8 to P12, after his car almost went into anti-stall.
On the opening lap, Hamilton and Sainz made contact, but it was declared a racing incident, and then on lap four, Albon collided with the wall after slipping off the track, but managed to carry on. The wet track, combined with the street circuit layout, proved too difficult for Latifi who lost control of his car and crashed into Zhou, and then the barrier, forcing them both to DNF and the safety car to come out. Verstappen, who characteristically stormed up the field with ease, struggled to make up places this race, and found himself still stuck in P7 by lap 18.
Perez kept his win and gained 25 points in the driver’s championship, with many calling it the best drive of his career
The virtual safety car was brought out by Alonso on lap 21, after he struggled with an engine failure, which triggered Russell to pit and put on slick tyres as the track was finally starting to dry. However, this change to dry tyres was massively premature, and Russell struggled for grip. Only five laps later, Albon crashed into the barrier, picking up a puncture and severe damage to the front wing, once again bringing out the virtual safety car, and making him the fourth DNF in the race so far.
Alpine’s awful weekend was added to when their other driver, Ocon, also failed to finish the race after an engine failure on lap 28, which resulted in a collision with the barriers. On lap 34, Hamilton crashed head on into the barrier and sustained significant damage to the front wing, which left him in P9 once the front wing had been changed and he had left the pits.
Just when fans thought they had seen all the excitement possible for one race, Tsunoda went straight into the barrier, which brought out the full safety car and made him the sixth DNF of the race. This safety car triggered many drivers to make their dash to the pits to finally put on slick tyres, to suit the drying track conditions.
As each race is limited to a two-hour slot, and with all the crashes and safety cars, the countdown changed from laps to time, leaving just 35 minutes of the race to go. During the restart after the safety car, Hamilton went for a bold overtake on Norris, which caused him to lock up and go into the runoff area. This resulted in him losing his P5 and rejoining the race last.
With 30 minutes of the race left, Russell and Schumacher made contact as Russell went for the overtake, leaving them both with punctures and struggling back to the pits for replacement tyres. Perez then received a safety car infringement for not leaving enough space between his car and the safety car, the penalty for which wouldn’t be decided until after the race, causing uproar for many fans of the sport who wanted to know if Perez’s win would be taken away or not.
However, once the penalties for the infringement were enforced, Perez kept his win and gained 25 points in the driver’s championship, with many calling it the best drive of his career. The Ferrari team managed to stay out of trouble this weekend and had both of their drivers finish on the podium in P2 and P3.
Next weekend, F1 will be competing in Japan at the Suzuka Circuit, where many fans will be hoping that Max Verstappen will be able to secure his second world championship.