Monday, 15 October, 2018

Vettel rues messy qualifying session before Singapore showdown

Sebastian Vettell starts third on the grid for the Singapore Grand Prix. EPA Sebastian Vettell starts third on the grid for the Singapore Grand Prix. EPA
Melody Ballard | 17 September, 2018, 05:06

Sebastian Vettel suggested Ferrari were guilty of self-sabotage at the Singapore Grand Prix after a strategy blunder limited him to a third-place finish at the Marina Bay Circuit which leaves him 40 points behind race-winner Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' championship.

Hamilton was beaming after securing pole on Saturday and was joyous once more on Sunday after a victory he did not expect to be celebrating.

Raikkonen ended in fifth place, nearly eight tenths of a second behind Hamilton, the Finn lining up next to Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull. Ricciardo was the only other driver to lap the 5.063 km track in lower than 1:37.000. "To be second is unbelievable", Verstappen said. "I think we know where we stand and I think we are going to be alright".

"Wow, wow", said Hamilton.

On lap 18, Verstappen pitted for set of softs and thanks to a quick-fire stop, came out just ahead of Vettel despite being on the slower tyre, working to the advantage of Hamilton. "It doesn't help [in the championship], but I am mostly thinking about today, and the way we raced we didn't stand a chance".

Vettel immediately questioned the decision, saying: "There is no chance".

"Sorry guys there was no room", Perez told his team over the radio. "These tyres will not make it to the end".

Ferrari needed to try for the so-called "under-cut".

Hamilton has signed a contract until the end of 2020 and last week suggested he was encouraged by the look of the proposed cars for 2021 to continue racing on after then.

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"It's so hard to overtake here, " Hamilton said. Mercedes managed his race impeccably and Hamilton has now won four of the last five.

Vettel replied that he did not believe him, and he engineer agreed. "Going into false neutral, the auto was stopping on track".

At the front, there was a distinct lack of tension, as the drivers spent the vast majority of the race lapping seconds off their maximum potential to ensure they made the appropriate stint lengths.

"He was so intent on his battle with Sirotkin that he just - the light panels were flashing with his race number on them - and Lewis was much much faster".

Verstappen was mere inches behind Hamilton as they rounded Turn 9 but the Briton stayed ahead and quickly re-asserted an authority that he never relinquished. Raikkonen was the man to come out on top in Q2.

It is not a recipe for excitement and what drama there was in the race was provided by also-rans.

But if it gets to Lap 15-16 and he is within 10 seconds or so of the Briton it may be worth Ferrari pitting him early.

Driver of the day Perez.

The German was on course to challenge Raikkonen and Hamilton's best times before he clipped the wall on the final bend, causing him to abort his lap and dart into the pits with a fluid leak.

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