Sebastien Vettel took his 92nd career victory in Singapore, in what was a weekend centred around records – namely Hamilton potentially equalling Senna’s consecutive poles record. Mercedes also looked like they might be able to surpass Williams’ consecutive pole record, but as is so often the case when statistics are being talked about, it always makes the weekend somewhat more difficult for the team in question.
From the offset one might say Mercedes is ‘in trouble’ and that this weekend could have exponential effect on the drivers championship. Indeed Rosberg’s poor performance and Vettel’s dominance has only closed the gap between the two, but make no mistake this victory was about as lucky as Ferrari’s in Malaysia, when a wrong tyre choice in Qualifying had catastrophic effects on the race outcome for Mercedes.
Every car has its bogey track, and I fully expect Mercedes to be back up to pace come Suzuka this weekend. I think most people are taken by the reversed gap that the team had as an advantage over the last 18 months; you don’t just loose 1.5 seconds over the course of two weeks. But it is a sure sign that when the conditions aren’t best suited for their car, the rest of the field are there to pounce in machinery that was previously nearly two seconds off them.
I was surprised at the lack of airtime Rosberg had throughout the race. A lonely fourth place for what was a crucial moment in the championship is not good enough I’m afraid, and with dwindling performances I’m personally on the edge of writing him off after seeing Alonso post a time that was 0.5 seconds off his best in Practice Three on Saturday in the McHonda.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen ‘Man on track’ come through Race Control. My mind instantly flashed back to Hockenheim in 2000 when a disgruntled Mercedes employee ran across the track and denied McLaren a one-two finish. Similarly in this race you could probably say that Ricciardo was denied a shot at challenging for the win, as the strategy from Red Bull looked interesting midway through the race.
The future of Red Bull has also been a topic throughout the business end of the season this weekend, with famed F1 prophet Eddie Jordan claiming that they will be switching to Volkswagen power from 2018 onwards. News this week of the car manufacturer incurring heavy fines for environmental compliances over in the states has led some to question the move into F1, but with Red Bull’s sponsorship I can’t really see it affecting their participation should they decide to make the move.
Standout performances of the race probably go to the two Toro Rosso drivers. Max Verstappen made use of the Safety Car to unlap himself – known in NASCAR as the ‘Lucky Dog’ – to do what was probably one of the more standout comeback drives I’ve seen in F1. I think his stern ‘NO’ over the team radio when told to let his teammate by was born more out of the situation as opposed to him being assertive, although you’d have to see whether he would do it in different circumstances to truly see his character in this moment.
I must talk about Jenson Button, who heading into Japan looks set to be calling time on his F1 career after 15 years in the sport. His team radio one-liners and demeanour on Sky Sports F1 says it all really for me. For a team with their resources, their performance has been laughable to say the least. Manor who are running a 2014 car have better reliability than them, and with the arrogance of the teams leadership coupled with their engine partners reluctance to poach staff from rival teams, I don’t blame Jenson for jumping ship with Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen lingering in the background.
He knows the score. McLaren purely want him there for experience and development, not to win races. Its the same to some extent with Alonso, who I’ve commented on as being a wasted talent throughout this season so far. And with Power Unit development set to get stricter in the coming years, I don’t really see a way out for this team if they are reluctant to change key people at the top.
Finally I must commend Alexander Rossi on his debut weekend in Formula 1 with Manor. He’s brought renewed interest in this team, and I think he impressed despite his shunt in Practice One. Singapore is a hard track to get used to, so for him to finish the race without smashing into turn 18 I think is a pretty good achievement. I also look forward to his debut in Austin, although admittedly I’d also like to see him do Sochi and Abu Dhabi as well instead of GP2, where the title is more or less sewed up by Vandoorne.
Formula 1 heads to Suzuka this weekend for the Japanese Grand Prix, which was the scene of utter devastation 12 months ago. Its going to be an emotional return considering the news we got in July, and I think I speak for everyone when I say Jules Bianchi will be in our thoughts again come race day on Sunday.