Singapore Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

Singapore Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

18 September 2017 – Lewis Hamilton took a giant leap towards the title with victory on a circuit expected to favour Ferrari, after a dramatic first lap. GPUpdate.net presents its winners and losers from the Singapore Grand Prix.

Winners

As Lewis Hamilton himself quipped, the race "couldn't [have been] a more perfect scenario" for him and Mercedes. Singapore was the race Mercedes had ringed in its calendar as a potential stumbling block, due to its performances in Monaco and Hungary, combined with historical troubles. In the dry, its fears were realised, with Hamilton only fifth-quickest, seven-tenths behind Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton was potentially staring at a 10-15-point deficit, but instead heads to Malaysia with a 28-point advantage. Hamilton received an incredible dollop of fortune, though his initial getaway to overhaul Daniel Ricciardo was crucial, while he was exceptional during the restart phases, not to mention his overall strong pace. He has now won each of the last eight rain-affected races, an extraordinary run, underlined by his total (and justified) belief in his ability in such weather. "I knew I had the pace when it rained," emphasised Hamilton. "Those are my conditions." The title is far from won, but this was a huge swing of the pendulum in favour of the Briton, who remains undefeated since the summer break.

During a weekend in which off-track talk swirled around Carlos Sainz Jr., the Renault-bound racer kept his composure where it mattered, and delivered a stellar performance. Sainz Jr. dragged his car through into Q3 and chipped away at his rivals in race trim, despite bogging down off the line, consequently gaining little, in spite of the drama ahead. Sainz Jr. was equipped with Super Softs when it dried, theoretically leaving him prone to Ultra Soft-clad rivals, but he placed his car perfectly to swat aside the threat posed by Sergio Pérez. Fourth place represented a fine reward for his and Toro Rosso's efforts, with Sainz Jr. pleased to reward his mechanics and engineers, after they had all congratulated him for securing a 2018 Renault deal. Sainz Jr. has now scored 48 points, 12 times more than Daniil Kvyat, who haplessly crashed out. The contrast could not be greater.

Jolyon Palmer took so many questions over his future – and some of them blunt – that a punch in the face would probably have been less of an insult, especially as he learned of Renault's 2018 plans when reading an article online. It may have been signposted, but that was still shoddily poor on Renault's behalf. On track, Palmer was unable to match team-mate Nico Hülkenberg, but avoided trouble on the opening lap and easily picked off Valtteri Bottas at the restart to briefly run fifth. Palmer slipped behind the Finn, but kept a measured approach under pressure from former GP2 rival Stoffel Vandoorne to preserve sixth, by far his best result in the sport. After a year of near-misses and reliability issues it was a reward for his endeavours, even if it is unlikely to boost his 2018 prospects.

Losers

This was a total disaster for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel's talent, and ability at the challenging venue, were fully emphasised as he chipped away at his pace to emerge fastest when it mattered, putting in a spellbinding lap to claim pole position. But rain, and a misjudgement, left his win hopes dashed and his title prospects in tatters. Vettel was not wholly to blame for incident, according to the stewards, but his decision to chop Max Verstappen was exceptionally (and unnecessarily) risky, and he duly paid the price. It was an error not befitting of a four-time champion, who should have had the wisdom to consider the long game on a wet street circuit. Vettel was looking at a 25-point haul and the lead of the championship, but instead faces a 28-point deficit ahead of a string of circuits likely to favour Mercedes. Teams spend hundreds of millions producing top machinery, but split-second calls from the cockpit prove just as pivotal. For Vettel, it could be a title-losing moment.

Nico Hülkenberg set a new record at the Singapore Grand Prix and has his place in the history books. Unfortunately, it was the record for most races started without a podium finish. Hülkenberg was set to miss out on the record, having moved into third place at the start, and still held a fine fourth mid-race, until technical troubles crept in. An oil leak developed on his R.S.17, forcing Hülkenberg into an additional stop, sending him tumbling down the order, before the deteriorating nature of the problem led to retirement. In many ways the race epitomised Hülkenberg's career, and there seemed a degree of inevitability during the early stages that he would not stand on the rostrum. Perhaps, somewhere, Hülkenberg not finishing on the podiums is etched into the Sporting Regulations. For Renault, too, this was a blow, with Hülkenberg's exit denting its prospects of taking fifth.

Fernando Alonso has lost several years of his career in uncompetitive machinery, but he has not lost a wry sense of humour. Alonso took to social media to post a picture of his airborne MCL32 at Turn 1, drolly pointing out the Singapore Airlines advertising banner in the background. For Alonso, he was a victim of his own brilliance. Having shot off the line like a scalded cat, passing Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hülkenberg, he took his favoured outside approach for Turn 1, only to be clobbered by the hapless Verstappen, who in turn had been thumped by the out-of-control Räikkönen. Alonso had been staring at a potential second place on lap one – behind Lewis Hamilton, who also opted for the outside line – but instead was pitched backwards into the air. He bravely soldiered on, but the damage was too great, and he abandoned his car. Alonso felt a podium was within reach, and this was a disappointing outcome for a driver sadly accustomed to setbacks.

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