Sebastian Vettel ended his victory drought by winning the Singapore Grand Prix, with a helping hand from his Ferrari masters.
The 32-year-old German was kindly given the advantageous strategy – a favouritism that controversially cost his team-mate Charles Leclerc, the pole-sitter, a third consecutive triumph. As it was, Vettel ended his 22-race losing streak stretching over 392 days. A furious Leclerc finished second with Max Verstappen third and Lewis Hamilton fourth.
World champion Hamilton, who had started third behind the two red cars, was hampered by a strange strategy call by his Mercedes team. Rather than undercut the Ferraris or follow Leclerc, then leading, into the pits, he stayed out for a pointless age: seven laps longer than Vettel and six longer than Leclerc.
His times slowed as his tyres wore and he came out in what was effectively fourth place. He would have been two spots further back but for Mercedes telling Valtteri Bottas to play the ‘team game’ by reducing his lap time by three seconds so Hamilton could slot in ahead of him. Bottas complied.
So much for being allowed to race, as Mercedes claim! And to think the Finn is closer to Hamilton at the summit of the drivers’ standings than anyone else, 63 points going into this night race and 65 after his act of prostration.
Back to Ferrari and the chess game there, where Leclerc was rightly miffed by his predicament behind Vettel. ‘To be completely honest, I don’t understand that undercut,’ said the Monegasque. ‘We will discuss after the race.’ He later added: ‘I won’t do anything stupid. I want to finish one-two. I just don’t think it’s fair.’
The safety car was deployed three times, first when Williams’ George Russell was entangled by Romain Grosjean’s Haas at Turn 8. ‘Not surprising,’ said the Brit of the Frenchman’s driving. The second time was when Sergio Perez retired his Racing Point with a technical problem, before Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen collided with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Vettel mastered the restart each time, which was more than could be counted on. It was his 53rd win.
DRIVER STANDING RESULTS
1 S. Vettel Ferrari 1:58:33.667 25
2 C. Leclerc Ferrari +2.641s 18
3 M. Verstappen Red Bull +3.821s 15
4 L. Hamilton Mercedes +4.608s 12
5 V. Bottas Mercedes +6.119s 10
6 A. Albon Red Bull +11.663s 8
7 L. Norris McLaren +14.769s 6
8 P. Gasly Toro Rosso· +15.547s 4
9 N. Hülkenberg Renault· +16.718s 2
10 A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +17.855s 1
11 R. Grosjean Haas +35.436s 0
12 C. Sainz Jr. McLaren +35.974s 0
13 L. Stroll Racing Point +36.419s 0
14 D. Ricciardo Renault +37.660s 0
15 D. Kvyat Toro Rosso +38.178s 0
16 R. Kubica Williams +47.024s 0
17 K. Magnussen Haas +86.522s 0
18 K. Räikkönen Alfa Romeo DNF 0
19 S. Pérez Racing Point DNF 0
20 G. Russell Williams· DNF 0