By Thomas Dodd
- Lewis Hamilton wins Singapore Grand Prix from fifth on the grid after title rival Sebastian Vettel crashes on the first lap in wet conditions
- Vettel had also been caught up in collision with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen right after start
- Daniel Ricciardo second and Valtteri Bottas third as Brit now leads Championship by 28 points from Vettel.
MARINA BAY, SINGAPORE – Did we just witness the most pivotal turning point in the fight for the 2017 World Drivers’ Championship? That and more questions answered as we recap a memorable Singapore Grand Prix.
We may have seen the title decided in Singapore
Premature it may sound on the surface with six races still left, but Sunday’s result was a massive blow for Sebastian Vettel and huge and unexpected boost for Lewis Hamilton. The German had done well to limit the damage at Spa and Monza, and came to Singapore just three points adrift of the Briton with a far superior advantage round the floodlit streets.
After the first lap chaos, Hamilton’s lead is now 28 and even with 150 to play for that looks a difficult margin to overhaul should he and Mercedes keep up their reliability and run of not getting caught up in squabbles. A win for the Silver Arrows in Malaysia and it could be all over for the Prancing Horse for another year.
The 2018 grid taking shape
After months of speculation and frustration the deals have now been done and the contracts have been signed. Carlos Sainz Jnr will end his association with Red Bull sponsorship and move to Renault to partner Nico Hulkenberg next season. At the same time, Toro Rosso will take up usage of Honda engines, who will split from McLaren as the Woking outfit switch to Renault power.
Red Bull will end their relationship with the French manufacturer and look set to sign a deal with Aston Martin. The rest of the driver line-up is yet to be decided, as Toro Rosso hope to bring in another talented youngster from their programme and Williams wait and see if Felipe Massa will go into retirement again.
Motorsport is cruel
Either way (see above re Toro Rosso/Williams) it looks like the end of the Formula 1 road for Jolyon Palmer, who will lose his seat at Renault after two seasons. A poor run of car failures and mechanical issues were obviously not enough to mask the fact the Brit has been comfortably outscored by teammate Hulkenberg this year.
However, as the world found out the confirmation of the driver switches for next season at the start of the weekend it emerged on Saturday that Palmer had discovered in the same manner, reading of his replacement in an online article posted by Autosport.
Perhaps cruel isn’t the right word to describe how unfair this is on the Brit, and Renault should hang their heads in shame for the lack of professionalism. Motor sport is clearly a dog eat dog world, and this proves it.
Nico Hulkenberg has set a new F1 record
Unfortunately for the talented and experienced German it is a rather unwanted one. The Hulk’s failure to reach the podium in Singapore (something which he had a faint hope of doing in hindsight given Renault’s pace, the weather and the opening lap retirements) means he has now competed in more races than anyone in the history of the sport without finishing in the top three to claim a trophy.
129 Grand Prix, and no podiums, passing the record of fellow ex-Force India and German driver Adrian Sutil. The 30-year-old has been on Pole and even won Le Mans 24 hours in 2016, but he is yet to leave a Formula 1 race weekend with a piece of silverware.
Rain once again gives others the chance to shine
Given how close Red Bull and Ferrari had been around the streets of Singapore all weekend the final result seemed far from a foregone conclusion on Saturday night. But then the rain came and threw another spanner in the works.
Then the start happened. For the first time in F1 history Ferrari lost both cars on the first lap of a Grand Prix and all of a sudden the race opened up. Palmer’s run to sixth, his first points of the year and best career result, was perfectly timed given his lack of employment in the sport for next season, even if he was bested by his replacement for 2018 Sainz, who came fourth.
There was a seventh for Stoffel Vandoorne and an eighth for Lance Stroll too as F1’s less-talked about midfield runners stepped out of the shadows and performed in tricky conditions. But from the moment Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen eliminated themselves from the equation there was only going to be one winner, and it was Hamilton’s light who shone brightest of all under the night sky after two hours of racing.
The Malaysian Grand Prix takes place from 29 September – 1 October.
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