Latest / Feature

Winners and Losers - Singapore

19 Sep 2016

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg staged the second-closest finish to any Singapore Grand Prix in a nail-biting climax on Sunday, lighting up a race that had already featured several huge battles - and of course the obligatory safety car, this time for a collision at the start. So who left Marina Bay on a roll - and who needs to avenge themselves in Malaysia in two weeks' time?


The Winners

The Honey Badger

Daniel Ricciardo lived up to his fearless alter-ego with a late attack that brought the Singapore Grand Prix to life on Sunday, enthralling fans at the circuit and spectators around the world. He may ultimately have been thwarted in his attempts to make up for his Monaco loss with victory at Marina Bay, but the manner of that defeat - a relentless pursuit, and a gap of just 0.4s at the flag - makes him a winner all the way.

In truth, Red Bull weren't quite the match for Mercedes that they had been in Monte Carlo, but that just made Ricciardo's surge all the more impressive. Mercedes themselves were caught out by his pace, which was so great that it forced Nico Rosberg to stay out rather than pit in the closing stages. The German hung on, but the Australian left nothing on the table.

Rosberg and momentum

What can you say about Rosberg right now? The man who looked so haunted after the Hungaroring and Hockenheim has bounced back so strongly that he can barely put a wheel wrong. He rocked at Spa, lucked in but still looked good at Monza, and ruled here even though Ricciardo put him under massive pressure over the final laps.

Qualifying a full seven-tenths of a second ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton gave him the perfect platform to control the race, but when the heat was on - and it really was as Mercedes scrambled to respond to Ricciardo - Rosberg was unflappable, managing his pace to perfection in the final laps.

Having ceded the lead of the driver standings to Hamilton for two races, Rosberg is once again the form man of 2016. He has been on pole for four of the last five races, won the last three, and is now eight points ahead of his arch rival. It's a far cry from his run of one podium in five between Spain and Austria. Can he keep the momentum going and clinch the title? Right now, you wouldn't bet against it...

Vettel's comeback...

To take fifth place, just 27.6s off the lead, was simply superb given that Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel started from the back of the field. Around Marina Bay, a circuit notoriously difficult to overtake on, it was a vintage drive - and a timely reminder after a bruising year that he can still get the job done.

Even the four-time champion admits that he was very down after the suspension problem that beset him in Q1 on Saturday evening and left him facing a back-row start. But he got his head down, used his soft starting-tyre choice wisely, stayed out of trouble, and attacked when he had the ultrasoft rubber beneath him for his final two stints.

His reward was not only fifth, but also the accolade of being the fans' Driver of the Day.

...and Kvyat's resurgence

It's been one hell of a tough year for Kvyat since he got switched from Red Bull to Toro Rosso so soon after his excellent podium finish in China.

Ever since that change he's looked a far cry from the confident and superfast teenager who impressed so much in his rookie season. He has struggled against new team mate Carlos Sainz too.

But right from the outset in Singapore, things were different. Starting from seventh, he became the team's de facto leader, defended brilliantly against Max Verstappen - a battle that had plenty of personal needle given their job switch - and came home ninth to deliver Toro Rosso their first points in four races.

Little wonder he spoke afterward of discovering his passion and love of racing once again. Welcome back, the real Dany.

Magnussen's sense of timing

With Renault still pondering their 2017 driver line-up, Kevin Magnussen's performance could not have come at a better moment.

He was 15th on the grid, yet 10th at the end of that dramatic opening lap. Yes, the Dane got slightly lucky, but he also did all the right things in the heat of the moment, and that gave him the base on which to build his point-winning performance for Renault. Finishing ahead of the likes of Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa was no mean feat given Renault's raw pace - and the fact that his drinks bottle did not work. Afterwards, he said that it felt odd not to have won, because everything else had felt so perfect…


The Losers

Lewis Hamilton

What went wrong for Lewis Hamilton this time?

In Belgium he had to fight through from the back after all the Mercedes power unit changes he had to go through to ensure he had enough for the remaining races. At Monza he dominated qualifying only to get jumped at the start. But here…

He looked good early in practice, then lost critical time with an hydraulic issue and never got back onto the front foot. His race was all about struggling to contain front brake temperatures while running in dirty air, and while he looked quick at times in his final stint before the problem raised its head again, he was clearly struggling big time.

He took it on the chin, after seeing his two-point championship lead turned into an eight-point deficit, and paid credit where it was due.

"We have a good car," he said. "We've got to have a good weekend. We've come from 43 points down so theoretically eight points isn't anywhere near as steep as that, but still… Nico's been performing fantastically well. This weekend he's done an amazing job. I expect him to continue like that, so I've got make sure that I do the same…"

Hulkenberg's Singapore curse

Last year Nico Hulkenberg lasted 12 laps before being pitched into the Marina Bay walls. This year, the Force India man barely made 12 metres...

The German had qualified well and lined up eighth on the grid, only to get tagged between the Toro Rossos and thrown into retirement at the start. Small wonder the Hulk was distinctly unamused to be the victim in what the stewards wisely adjudged to have been purely a racing incident.

Carlos Sainz

Like Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz struggled to accept his ill fortune. He came here desperately hoping for a competitive car, and put the Toro Rosso an excellent sixth on the grid with a performance that should remind bigger teams what he used to do as Max Verstappen's partner.

He was busy going around his old team mate's tardy Red Bull at the start when he tangled with Hulkenberg. He got away with the resultant rubbing, but got a black and orange damage flag as a bargeboard was hanging off. The pit stop to have it ripped off ruined a race which ought to have yielded the Spaniard some solid points.

Verstappen's getaways

The third driver to suffer from the incident at the start was the man who indirectly triggered the collisions - Red Bull's Max Verstappen. A tardy start dropped him from fourth to eighth, and severely compromised his race as he struggled with traffic thereafter - his bid to come through the field not helped by Kvyat resisting his every attempt in a fierce scrap at one-third distance.

Sixth at the flag was therefore a good recovery, but with a good start the Dutchman had every chance of battling for the podium.

"I had some pretty intense battles which I enjoy but it's tricky to pass here, so you do get a bit stuck," he said. "Dany and I fought quite hard, but we didn't touch so that's always a positive. I like overtaking, but I wasn't fighting for a position that I would have liked, so it's not as much fun."

More worrying for Verstappen is that Singapore followed the pattern of recent races - at both Belgium and Monza he struggled away from the line, to the detriment of his race fortunes in both events - a trend he urgently needs to address.