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Vettel wins in Singapore after undercutting Leclerc

Daniel Herrero

Monday 23rd September, 2019 - 12:56am

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Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel has taken a drought-breaking victory in the Singapore Grand Prix after Ferrari’s pit strategy caused him to undercut team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Vettel and Leclerc, the early leader, nevertheless made for a first ever one-two result at the Marina Bay Street Circuit while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen completed the podium.

Lewis Hamilton was ultimately fourth having been left out even longer before taking his pit stop, Valtteri Bottas made for two Mercedes in the top five, and Daniel Ricciardo came home 14th from last on the grid in his Renault.

Leclerc converted pole position into a clear lead by the first corner, while Hamilton had his work cut out in staving off Vettel to hold onto second.

Verstappen took up fourth, ahead of Bottas and Alexander Albon (Red Bull), while Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) had to pit from eighth with a left-front puncture due to Lap 1 contact with Carlos Sainz (McLaren).

Leclerc was more than a second clear of the field at the end of the first lap but did not to try to stretch that gap given that he needed to stretch his soft tyres instead.

In fact, Lando Norris (McLaren) was barely more than eight seconds off the lead in seventh position after around a dozen laps, as the rest of the pack took their cue from the lead Ferrari.

The pace was still slow until Leclerc got told to start pushing around Lap 16 and Hamilton responded.

The closeness of the field made picking a time to stop difficult but Vettel and Verstappen were called to pit on Lap 19, and Leclerc peeled off a lap later.

That extra lap made all the difference as Leclerc rejoined behind Vettel and while he had been on the wrong end of an undercut, Hamilton was losing time relative to both of them by pressing on at the head of the field.

Bottas pitted on Lap 22 and set the then-fastest lap of 1:45.290s on Lap 24, only to be told to back off in order to ensure that Hamilton could pit and resume in front of him.

That would indeed come to pass when the championship leader took service at the end of Lap 26, trading the soft tyres he started on for a set of the hards like all of those around him.

By that point, the genuine front-runners were picking off those ahead of them who had not yet pitted, although there was a nervous moment when Vettel and Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) touched as the former took over second position at Turn 7 on Lap 30.

Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) appeared to be far more willing to hand over his position on the approach to the same corner, making Vettel the official race leader on Lap 31.

Giovinazzi also let Leclerc go at the start of Lap 33, at which time a touch over six seconds separated the Ferraris.

By the end of the first sector on Lap 34, the top five was a neat Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton, and Bottas, while Giovinazzi finally pitted at the end of that lap.

The Safety Car was called on Lap 36 given that George Russell’s Williams had come to rest against a wall after he tangled with Romain Grosjean (Haas), but none of the top six, rounded out by Albon, pitted.

A short green flag period followed before another Safety Car on Lap 44 due to Sergio Perez stopping on-track in his Racing Point, at which time Vettel’s lead was around 0.9s.

The margin between Vettel and Leclerc was about the same when a third Safety Car was called on Lap 50 after Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) clattered into Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) at Turn 1.

Vettel made a strong restart on Lap 52 and, from there, Leclerc’s hopes of reclaiming top spot quickly dwindled.

The Monegasque invited a little pressure from Verstappen when he missed the apex as he exited the Anderson Bridge on Lap 58, but there would be no major concern for #16.

Verstappen then faced something of a threat from Hamilton but the Mercedes driver did not look to try and fashion a move anywhere in the final handful of laps.

Vettel did manage to complete all 61 of the scheduled laps inside the two-hour cutoff, crossing the finish line 2.6s ahead of Leclerc, who was in turn another 1.2s up on Verstappen.

The result was Scuderia Ferrari’s third straight win, having achieved none in the first 12 races of the season, and Vettel’s first in over a year.

Behind Hamilton, Bottas, and Albon, it was Norris who was the best of the rest in seventh, from Gasly, Hulkenberg, and Giovinazzi.

Grosjean was 11th and Sainz 12th, despite dropping a lap almost as soon as the race had begun when he had to pit after the hit with Hulkenberg.

Lance Stroll (Racing Point) finished 13th after a late pass on Ricciardo.

The Australian had ended up at the very rear of the 20-car grid having been disqualified from qualifying, which seemed to prompt a very aggressive approach.

He ran long on medium tyres but the pit stop was forced when he cut a tyre as a result of contact with Giovinazzi on Lap 34.

Ricciardo also lost out when he attacked Kvyat, who was 12th at the time, upon the second restart, ceding three positions as he got caught off the race line around the chicane.

Kvyat finished a position behind Ricciardo but faces an investigation into his incident with Raikkonen.

Kevin Magnussen (Haas) set the fastest lap but gets no point for it given he was classified 17th.

Hamilton’s championship lead over Bottas is now 65 points ahead of Round 16, the Russian Grand Prix, on September 27-29.

Race results: Singapore Grand Prix Updated*

Pos Num Driver Car Laps Time/Retired
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 61 1:58:33.667
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 61 +2.641
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 61 +3.821
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 61 +4.608
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 61 +6.119
6 23 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing Honda 61 +11.663
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 61 +14.769
8 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 61 +15.547
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 61 +16.718
10 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 61 +27.855
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 61 +35.436
12 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 61 +35.974
13 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 61 +36.419
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 61 +37.660
15 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 61 +38.178
16 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 61 +47.024
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 61 +86.522
NC 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 49 DNF
NC 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 42 DNF
NC 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 34 DNF

Fastest lap: Kevin Magnussen

Drivers’ championship

Pos Driver Pts
1 Lewis Hamilton 296
2 Valtteri Bottas 231
3 Charles Leclerc 200
4 Max Verstappen 200
5 Sebastian Vettel 194
6 Pierre Gasly 69
7 Carlos Sainz 58
8 Alexander Albon 42
9 Daniel Ricciardo 34
10 Daniil Kvyat 33
11 Nico Hulkenberg 33
12 Lando Norris 31
13 Kimi Räikkönen 31
14 Sergio Perez 27
15 Lance Stroll 19
16 Kevin Magnussen 18
17 Romain Grosjean 8
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 4
19 Robert Kubica 1
20 George Russell 0

Constructors’ championship

Pos Team Pts
1 Mercedes 527
2 Ferrari 394
3 Red Bull Racing Honda 289
4 McLaren Renault 89
5 Renault 67
6 Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 55
7 Racing Point BWT Mercedes 46
8 Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 35
9 Haas Ferrari 26
10 Williams Mercedes 1

* Car #99 10s post-race penalty; no change of position

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