Sebastian Vettel made sure Ferrari took full advantage of Mercedes mysterious performance woes at the Singapore Grand Prix as the Scuderia wrapped up an unexpected and ascendant victory. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished second with Kimi Raikkonen third ensuring Ferrari’s first double podium since 2013.
Vettel dominated Saturday’s qualifying session dethroning the all conquering Mercedes team who failed to get a front row start for the first time as long as anyone could remember. Hamilton ended up in fifth with team mate Rosberg 6th.
Sunday is where the race is won or lost, Mercedes admitted they having trouble getting the tyres up to temperature expected a reversal of fortunes on Sunday. There was none. Vettel swept away at the start and was never troubled.
Ricciardo did run Vettel close throughout the race but never looked like a serious challenger. The Red Bull team seemed to return to the front for this one race despite the backdrop of a messy falling out with their engine supplier Renault.
Kimi Raikkonen never had the pace to match the two in front and ended the race in a secure third place albeit nearly 17 seconds behind the leading two.
Behind this trio was a incident filled race. A virtual safety car was deployed after a collision between Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg on lap 14.
This allowed the field to close, Vettel’s lead had been diminished as the virtual safety car period ended on lap 19 and when the race resumed Vettel again built up a small but commanding lead over Ricciardo.
For Hamilton it didn’t matter by lap 34 he was out of the race, his Mercedes suffered a power loss which consigned him to his first DNF of the season.
By lap 38 Vettel reported over the radio that someone was walking on the circuit, naturally the safety car was again deployed to to find and remove the erratic and straying fan who simply removed himself from the equation by jumping through gap in the retaining wall.
The safety car period over and with 20 laps now remaining a frenetic final few laps ensued. Button, the sole McLaren still in the race after Alonso retired early on was gunning for points.
The McLaren driver was 10th behind Pastor Maldonado at the re-start and tried to take 9th from the Lotus driver. Button made the move to take position but Maldonado ensured Button had now where to go except into the back of the Lotus.
Maldonado survived unscathed, Button broke his front wing which meant he had to pit only to later retire with a gearbox issue.
Meanwhile at the front Daniel Ricciardo started to eat into Vettel’s lead, bit-by-bit. But Vettel was merely pacing himself and happy for Ricciardo to sweat it out while he took the chequered flag unflustered to earn his third victory of the year.
Rosberg was the sole Mercedes remaining, such was his lack of pace he never looked like troubling anyone but himself throughout the race distance.
With Rosberg finishing 4th Hamilton’s championship lead has been cut to 41 points. Hamilton still has the championship advantage and Rosberg has Vettel closing in on 2nd place in the driver standings.
At Singapore Mercedes have suddenly made a dramatic u-turn in terms of performance, how much of it is down to tyre temperatures and pressures is not known. Will it be business as usual in the next race at Japan? That is the real question.