Lewis Hamilton commands the very first wet Formula One night race, the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix.
A race into the unknown as Formula One celebrated the 10th Singapore Grand Prix with the very first night race in wet conditions. A new prospect for the 20 man field, unsure of what tyres to start on and whether the weather would create glare under the lights. Though the drama came when Vettel pinched Verstappen into Raikkonen to take the trio out before the first corner. Promoting Hamilton into a lead he mastered to move 28-points clear of the Ferrari.
A monsoon downpour is far from unexpected in Singapore. But the usual rain falls during the day and not at night, leaving Formula One forever pondering the prospect of wet night race one day.
That day was today, as Lewis Hamilton won from fifth on the grid. Starting on the intermediate wet tyres, while some banked on the full wets, with no driver nor team sure of which would best suit the conditions.
When the race began, that question became mute, however, as the safety car was swiftly called upon when a three-car collision between Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen took the title-hopeful out of the race from pole position.
Verstappen had got the best launch of the front row starters to leap out of his grid slot and alongside pole-man Vettel. But in defence, Sebastian eased his car to the left, unaware of Raikkonen’s mega getaway that brought the Finn into play.
As Vettel continued to ease across, the Red Bull of Verstappen was pincered into contact. Pitching Raikkonen into a spin as his rear suspension snapped. And damaging the front end of Verstappen’s car, that clouted into the Rossos Corsa bodywork of Vettel.
With damage, Vettel snaked through the opening bends with Hamilton edging closer. Soon losing control under his own coolant spilling, facing the wrong direction as spray covered the inbound pack.
Once the safety car pulled in after leading the field through the pit lane, Hamilton dropped the hammer and darted down the damp road to pull away from Ricciardo, whose Red Bull had looked strong all weekend while the Silver Arrows did not.
Hamilton continued to hold a comfortable margin over Ricciardo throughout the first true phase of the race. But grew in discontent when the safety car was later again called for and Mercedes opted not to pit him for a fresh set of inters while Ricciardo was with Red Bull. Believing track position was more important than fresh tyres, as Daniel may not have stopped if Lewis did.
This proved true as Hamilton set flying lap times to regain his sizable lead once the safety car peeled in. Leaving Lewis in a commanding position when the track dried and slicks were coming into question.
Able to stay out the extra lap than Ricciardo and emerge without taking any dents to his lead.
That was, however, until a third safety car when Marcus Ericsson crashed on the Anderson Bridge meant Hamilton’s lead once more was gone. Something the championship leader bemoaned and questioned why no Virtual Safety Car could be used rather than bunching the field up once again.
Nevertheless, the restart once again saw Lewis show his pace and pull away from the Red Bull. Maintaining his lead, as Bottas finally showed some pace to challenge Ricciardo after falling to over 25-seconds behind the race leader.
Behind the battle for the lead, Nico Hulkenberg emerged in third place after the first lap contact unfolded. Picking up places left by Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren after Fernando Alonso’s phenomenal start, as he ran down the outside and up to third place, came to nothing when the Spaniard was tipped into a spin by Verstappen’s broken car.
Unfortunately, Nico could not hold on to third place and now holds the record for most Grand Prix starts without a podium finish secured. Taking the record outright from Adrian Sutil, who started 128 Grand Prix’s in his career compared to Hulkenberg’s 129.
In part, Hulkenberg lost out heavily in the later stages of the race when the German was called into the pits under the Ericsson-induced Safety Car. For Nico was forced into a stop in order for Renault to refill the hydraulics system. Although places were already lost from an early tyre change, and his late mechanical issue resulted in a retirement.
As for Hulkenberg’s team-mate, Jolyon Palmer had a great drive to P6. Mugging Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1 during the opening laps as the Mercedes struggled on the intermediate tyres. Falling victim to the full-wet shodden McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne soon after until the intermediate tyres came into the conditions.
Like Palmer, Vandoorne, too, had a great drive at the Singapore Grand Prix. Coming home one place behind the soon-to-be-out Renault driver. Though, the outcome may have been different for Vandoorne after marginal contact with Felipe Massa after pitting.
For Stoffel emerged at the safety car line ahead of the Williams, but Felipe edged ahead under braking before slowing to allow the McLaren back through. However, looking to his inside while Stoffel stuck to the outside saw tyres rub into Turn 5.
In this stage, Massa opted not to stop for fresh intermediate tyres and stayed on the wets he began the race with. Giving him the edge on the restart over Magnussen and Ocon.
But as inters came into the conditions, the Haas and Force India drivers fought hard to retake the position. With Magnussen firmly touching tyres at speed with the Brazilian through T6. Luckily not creating a high-speed collision.
Ballsy moves were not the only thing Magnussen was making in Singapore, either. With the Dane the first driver to take on slick tyres after 25 laps.
When Magnussen opted to pit, and was followed in by Felipe Massa, Hulkenberg had just hit the radio saying he was sceptical of the team’s suggestion to change to slicks should there be a safety car.
Nonetheless, the call was right as confidence built on the dry rubber and Magnussen posted a lap seven-tenths faster than the race-leader. Despite Hamilton, in P1, claiming conditions were still “very greasy” and his inters were “still good”. Mostly down to not wanting to take any risks with a potential 25 points over title-rival Vettel on offer.
Having been first to stop, Magnussen’s gains resulted in the Haas leaping up the order and ahead of his team-mate after closing on Grosjean prior to his stop.
Unfortunately, Magnussen’s strong position after the third safety car resulted in no points when a late MGU-K failure resulted in a DNF. Leaving just 12 drivers still on track, and last-placed Wehrlein two laps down.
Three safety-cars and the wet start also played a part in the race failing to reach the full 61 lap total. Instead, hitting the two-hour race-time limit after 58-laps.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||4.507||18|
|4||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||22.822||12|
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||25.359||10|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||44.795||1|
|12||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||Ferrari||2 laps|
|13||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||Ferrari||DNF – MGU-K|
|15||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||DNF – Crash|
|16||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Renault||DNF – Crash|
|17||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||Honda||DNF – Damage|
|18||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Ferrari||DNF – Crash|
|19||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||DNF – Crash|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Ferrari||DNF – Crash|