Formula 1 took to the streets of the Marina Bay Circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Following on from Leclerc’s two consecutive victories and the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari knew it was going to be a lot tougher for a third victory with Mercedes and Red Bull as the favourites.
Bottas, still in the hunt for the championship against Hamilton, looked to reduce the 62 point lead that his teammate has after taking 2 points away from the British driver at the Italian Grand Prix.
Elsewhere, the battle for fourth in the Constructor’s championship was raging as Renault have started to close on McLaren in the last two races. McLaren looked to bounce back from these two races by delivering a strong performance to keep the French Manufacturer behind them.
So which drivers really stood out from the rest in arguably one of the most physically demanding races on the Formula 1 calender?
10. Kevin Magnussen
Magnussen’s race looked solid in the early stages of the race as he gained 4 places on the opening lap and was comfortably running in the points once he and those around him made their stops.
Magnussen’s race went south during the safety car period where the pack behind him was brought closer together on fresher tyres than the Danish driver.
The Haas struggled to keep the pack behind him and quickly toppled out of the points before the team brought him in for a fresh set of soft tyres to try and take the fastest lap.
Furthermore, Magnussen admitted after the race that the aerodynamics of his car was impaired when a plastic bag found itself stuck onto his front wing, hampering his progress as a result.
Despite finishing in last place and out of the points, there was a lot of positives Magnussen can take from the weekend. He outqualified his teammate, had a strong opening lap and was holding his own up until the safety car was deployed. He also secured the fastest lap for a second year in a row at Singapore, but sadly scored no point for it as he finished outside the top 10.
Had there been no safety car, there may have been points on the table for a driver and team who have not finished in the top 10 of a race since the German Grand Prix.
9. Carlos Sainz
With DNFs in the last two races, Sainz was determined to change his luck with a strong performance in Singapore.
It was looking strong Saturday as the Spaniard qualified 7th ahead of both Renaults and his teammate Norris.
His race went downhill on Sunday as he collided with Nico Hulkenberg on the opening lap, giving the McLaren a puncture as a result and having to make an early pitstop.
Sainz found himself a lap down after he made his stop but was determined to keep going. His hope was for a safety car to be deployed to allow him to unlap himself in an attempt to get back into the points.
He got his wish when a safety car was brought out when Grosjean and Russell collided and Sainz pitted for fresh tyres and was back on the leading lap.
He recovered to 12th place as the chequered flag was waved, but his impressive qualifying performance as well as the determination to stay in the race despite how bleak the situation looked makes Sainz a solid choice for the top 10.
8. Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo’s Singapore Grand Prix weekend was of a roller coaster of emotions
It started strong when he qualified 8th on Saturday, but was disqualified after his MGU-K exceeded the 120kW of power that was allowed to be deployed. This meant the Australian would start in last place, with a lot of work to be done if he wanted to get back into the points.
Ricciardo got to overtaking the cars ahead of him very quickly, including some of his traditional late-breaking moves that he is well-known for from his time as a Red Bull driver.
Whilst he was able to pull the majority of overtakes on, he wasn’t successful on his passing attempt on Antonio Giovinazzi as the two made contact and gave the Renault a puncture for good measure.
Ricciardo found himself down at the bottom of the field and eventually finishing in 14th as he tried to salvage his Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, his daring overtakes throughout the race were very impressive on a track where passing cars is somewhat challenging.
With 7 races left as a Renault driver, Hulkenberg was adamant to bring home good results for the French manufacturer to close his 2019 season on a high note.
Qualifying inside the top 10 on Saturday, Hulkenberg’s race fell apart as he made contact with Sainz and stopped for a change of hard tyres to potentially go to the end of the race.
Hulkenburg spent much of the race behind the rear wing of Grosjean’s Haas before eventually passing him.
Once he passed Grosjean, Hulkenberg found himself back into the top 10 when those around him made their first pit stop, though he was on much older tyres that were not guaranteed to make it to the end of the race.
Once the safety car was deployed, Hulkenberg made a second stop for medium tyres to attack those around him on older tyres.
He pushed through to finish 9th and not too far off Gasly in 8th place, making it an impressive recovery drive for the German driver as he decides on what his possible options are for 2020.
6. Antonio Giovinazzi
Following on from his points finish at his home race in Monza, Giovinazzi was determined to keep the momentum going in Singapore.
He qualified 12th with a fresh choice of tyres for the race, but was promoted to 10th following Perez’ gearbox penalty and Ricciardo’s disqualification.
The Alfa Romeo gained 2 places on the opening lap following the collision between Sainz and Hulkenburg and was comfortably keeping tabs on Norris ahead of him.
As those on the soft tyres made their pitstops, Giovinazzi stayed out longer as he started on the medium tyres. Once Hamilton and Bottas made their stops almost halfway into the race, the Italian driver found himself leading the Singapore Grand Prix. This was the first time a driver that wasn’t in a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull led a race since Williams in the 2015 British Grand Prix.
Giovinazzi was eventually caught by the top three teams and passed with relative ease and soon pitted once Ricciardo made contact with the Alfa Romeo.
Giovinazzi found himself down at the bottom of the pack by staying out longer, but was quickly gained places thanks to the dramas that were unfolding ahead of him.
As the chequered flag was waved, he crossed the line in 10th place, exactly where he started the race from.
After the race, Giovinazzi was handed a 10-second penalty for getting too close to a crane when the safety car was deployed, but still remained in 10th place.
5. Max Verstappen
Verstappen came into Singapore as one of the favourites to take victory at the Marina Bay circuit, and his third win of the season.
He looked in good form during Friday’s practice sessions but struggled in qualifying as he found himself 4th and six-tenths behind Leclerc’s pole position time.
Verstappen’s race was much better thanks to his strategy as when Red Bull called him in to make his stop, he was able to undercut Hamilton to allow him to move up into 3rd place.
The Dutchman found himself having to fend off the threat of the Mercedes driver towards the closing stages of the race. Verstappen was successful in keeping Hamilton behind and found his way onto the podium at Singapore for the second year in a row.
4. Pierre Gasly
Three races into his return to Toro Rosso, Gasly had one of his best races so far for the Italian team as he aims to prove he deserved to be back in the main Red Bull car.
Gasly outqualified his teammate for the second race in a row and being in 13th (turning into 11th as penalties were applied) meant he had a free choice of tyres for the race.
The Frenchman was the only driver to start the race on the hard tyres, suggesting he was going for a longer stint and to be on the attack towards the end of the race.
After a steady opening lap, Gasly was delivering consistent laps as those around him made their stops before finding himself within the top 3 for a short period of time.
Like Giovinazzi, Gasly dropped down the field when he made his pitstop. But being on the medium tyres, Gasly was quickly sweeping through the field and showed he was not afraid to overtake and get his elbows out.
As he made his way to 8th place, he begun chasing down Norris for 7th place but couldn’t find a way past the McLaren and held position to take home 4 points.
3. Lando Norris
Like Sainz, Norris has had a tough time since the summer break ended after only scoring one point in total in the last two races.
Although he qualified in the top 10, he had a poor Q3 run and would finish 10th before being promoted to 9th following Ricciardo’s penalty.
Norris had a clean start and was in 7th following Sainz and Hulkenburg colliding with each other on the opening lap.
From there, Norris was fairly lonely for the majority of the race as he looked to finish the best of the midfield.
As the safety car bunched the field together, the teenager found himself under pressure by those behind who were on much fresher tyres than he was.
Norris remained calm and held his own against Gasly and Hulkenburg to finish 7th and take 8 points for himself and McLaren.
The result was what McLaren needed as it allowed them to increase their advantage over Renault in the battle for 4th in the Constructors Championship.
2. Charles Leclerc
With back-to-back victories in Spa and Monza, Charles Leclerc came into the weekend hoping to build on the momentum that he has gained since the summer break.
During practice, it looked like Vettel was the quicker of the Ferrari drivers. However, Leclerc dialled in his best lap on the final run of Q3 by snatching pole position from his teammate. The result meant the Monegasque scored his fifth pole position of the season, more than any other driver in 2019.
Leclerc retained the lead at the start of the race and was keeping the pack closely behind him in the early stages.
When Vettel and Verstappen was the first of the top three teams to make their pitstop, Leclerc responded on the following lap by making his stop as well. Although he remained ahead of Verstappen, he lost out to Vettel and had to settle for 2nd place.
Leclerc was understandably upset over the radio that he lost out to the sister Ferrari and could only watch the rear wing of Vettel’s car cross the line in first to take the victory.
Despite missing out on the victory, it’s fair to say it was not because of an error made. Leclerc drove a strong race and made little errors, which is a massive step forward compared to when he first started at Ferrari.
1. Sebastian Vettel
Vettel came into the Singapore Grand Prix following his spin at Monza that saw him collect Lance Stroll in the process, earning him a 10-second stop/go penalty along with being three penalty points away from a race ban. Vettel looked to put Monza behind him and bounce back in 2019.
During Q3, Vettel put himself on provisional pole and looked to be the surprise factor of the weekend. Vettel abandoned his final lap after he made a mistake allowing Leclerc to snatch pole from the German. Hamilton also improved to go 2nd, meaning Vettel would drop down to 3rd place.
Vettel remained in third during the opening stages of the race before Ferrari decided to pit the four time world champion first in an attempt to undercut Hamilton. This would work out very nicely for Vettel, as he was able to pass both Hamilton and race leader Leclerc to take over the lead of the Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel then had the pressure of restarting the race on three occasions when the safety car peeled in, holding his own against the pressure of his teammate keeping closely behind.
Vettel would cross the line to secure his 5th win on the Marina Bay circuit and his first official victory of the season after his controversial Canadian Grand Prix penalty that gave Hamilton the victory.
This win was significant for many reasons.
Firstly, it was Ferrari’s third win in a row on a track that they expected to struggle on.
Secondly, it was a massive confidence boost for Vettel in a season where he has struggled. With several mistakes and pressure from the fans and media on whether he was still happy to be in Formula 1, the victory was proof he has still got the speed and consistency to win races.
Could this victory be the U-turn Vettel needed?