Ricciardo’s final fling
“At the current pace, you would catch him with four laps to go,” Red Bull told Daniel Ricciardo on lap 51, at which point the Australian was using his fresh rubber to eat three seconds per lap out of Nico Rosberg’s lead. As it happened a combination of traffic and a slight increase in pace from the German meant that Ricciardo didn’t actually get to within spitting distance of his rival until the final lap, by which time it was too late to be able to make a move – not that the Red Bull driver stopped trying. Starting lap 61 of 61, Ricciardo was just over two seconds back of Rosberg, but as you can see from the video above, that gap diminished with every passing corner, falling to just 0.4s at the flag. Who knows, had Rosberg caught backmarker Kevin Magnussen at the start of the lap – and you can see the blue flag lightboards flashing all around the lap – then perhaps Ricciardo might have had a chance to pounce…
A tale of three starts
After Sunday’s race, Red Bull revealed that they’d feared Max Verstappen might be sluggish off the line because of an underlying clutch issue – and it was this that kick-started a rapid-fire sequence of events that led to Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India flying just inches across the Dutchman’s bows and into the wall. As you can see and hear in the video above, were it not for Verstappen’s lightning quick reactions in lifting off the throttle he might have collected the German’s out of control machine, but as it was he continued on his way without issue. Carlos Sainz however wasn’t so lucky. Having jinked to avoid Verstappen’s slow-starting car the Spaniard then accidentally tangled with Hulkenberg, knocking one of his bargeboards loose in the process. This not only cost him downforce, it also earned him a black and orange flag from the stewards, forcing Toro Rosso to call him in for a race-compromising early pit stop to remove the offending bodywork.
Vettel makes short work of Sainz and Gutierrez
Sebastian Vettel has won a record four races in Singapore, but his searing drive from the back of the grid to fifth on Sunday was arguably every bit as impressive as any one of his victories at Marina Bay. At a circuit not particularly conducive to overtaking, the German battled his way up the order, with this double pass of a warring Carlos Sainz and Esteban Gutierrez during his middle stint indicative of his aggressive, no nonsense display. Little wonder then that the fans voted him Driver of the Day for the first time.
Kvyat gives Verstappen a taste of his own medicine...
Max Verstappen’s hard-nosed approach to defensive driving has caused consternation at times this year (just ask Kimi Raikkonen), but in Singapore it was the Dutchman who found himself on the end of a stubborn rebuttal. Having lost his place at Red Bull to Verstappen back in May, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat needed no extra motivation to keep his stablemate behind – something he did with aplomb for several laps in the early stages of the race, as the video above shows. Verstappen eventually won the war, finishing sixth to the Russian’s ninth, but Kvyat’s bullish defence was impressive nonetheless.
...before throwing caution to the wind
Lap 19 wasn’t the only time Kvyat and Verstappen duelled on the Marina Bay streets. In the closing stages Kvyat was bottled up behind Force India’s Sergio Perez - and the pressure to find a way through only ramped up as Verstappen made his final stop and came out 8s behind the pair. Within two laps he was right on their tail, prompting Kvyat to gamble and throw his Toro Rosso up the inside of Perez at Turn 7. The Russian got through, kept it out of the walls and held the inside line for Turn 8 - but crucially he also ran all four wheels off the circuit, meaning he would have to give the position back. The problem? Verstappen had capitalised with typical brilliance to snatch eighth from Perez around the outside - meaning that when Kvyat slowed to hand the position back to Perez, he also had to let Verstappen through…
Verstappen’s classic switchback fools Perez
Forced to attack following his poor start, Verstappen’s fight back carried him to the rear of an all-Mexican duel for 10th being waged between Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez at the race’s halfway mark. Perez tried to make the first move as he looked to the inside of his compatriot at Turn 7 - but as the Haas man defended, Perez found himself on the wrong line heading into the left-hander. The hunter duly became the hunted. Perez tried to block the apex of Turn 8, but Verstappen was at his wily best, swinging wide on approach to cut back and snatch the inside line exiting the right-hander. Momentum - and position - were with Verstappen - not the only time on Sunday that he would pick off Perez through that corner…
The Iceman cranks up the heat on Hamilton
By lap 25, it was clear Singapore was not going to plan for Lewis Hamilton - he wasn’t just losing touch with the front two; he was also being rapidly caught by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. “We need to start coming up with a plan to stop me losing third, because this is all the pace I have,” he admitted - and while Mercedes did indeed scramble a strategy to rescue third, they had to do it the hard way after Raikkonen snatched the position on-track. The move started with Hamilton getting it wrong on the brakes at Turn 7, but as the defending world champion fought to protect his line through the ensuring right-left, Raikkonen sensed his opportunity. The genius came in Turn 9, as he swung as wide as possible and then jumped on the throttle, wrestling his reluctant Ferrari to obey. It was judged to perfection: he pulled just far enough alongside to deny Hamilton the line into Turn 10; third is - fleetingly - his.
Verstappen picks off Alonso
Turn 7 is the place to pass in Singapore – but that doesn’t mean overtaking into the left hander is easy, particularly when it’s late in the race, the circuit is littered off-line with rubber marbles and the man you’re trying to pass is a double world champion. But Max Verstappen is the kind of driver who makes overtaking look easy, as was the case with his lap 54 pass of Fernando Alonso for P6.