Singapore Grand Prix 2015 Review & Driver Ratings

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Race Results
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
6. Danlil Kvyat (Red Bull)
7. Sergio Perez (Force India)
8. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso)
9. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso)
10. Felipe Nasr (Sauber)
11. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
12. Pastor Maldonado (Lotus)
13. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) DNF: gearbox
14. Alexander Rossi (Manor)
15. Will Stevens (Manor)
NC. Jenson Button (McLaren) – DNF: gearbox
NC. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) – DNF: gearbox
NC. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – DNF: engine
NC. Felipe Massa (Williams): DNF: gearbox
NC Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) – DNF: Power Unit

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Top Talking Points

1. What Happened to Mercedes?
Having dominated the season hitherto, it was a shock to say the least to find that Mercedes were NOT the fastest car in Singapore – struggling throughout and well behind the Ferrari in the race. Explanations varied, with some conspiracists suggesting that the reprimand behind the tyre pressure controversy in Monza had led to changes which rendered the car less competitive, but Toto Wolff was at a loss, calling the slump in form “unexplainable” on Sunday night. A subsequent recovery in form at Suzuka probably points to the answer simply being the unique nature of the Singapore track, which calls for dramatically different tyre and chassis settings.

2. Mystery Magnetics
Is there a strange spot at the Anderson Bridge part of the circuit? Several cars have reported strange behaviour there – with telemetry readings going haywire and – on occasion – cars cutting out all together. One theory is that magnetic or electrical interference related to subway lines that run under the ground nearby is causing the sophisticated yet sensitive hybrid F1 cars of 2015 to grind to a halt. The sensors are showing some odd numbers,” confirmed McLaren technical boss Tim Goss to Bild. “If the cars get this electrical pulse during a gear change, it can disturb the workings between the throttle, clutch and gearbox.”
All of which begs the question: could someone sitting anywhere under a circuit, with the right equipment, thus manipulate the result? Over to you, Briatore and Piquet….

tawt

3. Idiots
Step forward, chubster Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia, who decided that his view wasn’t good enough and wandered onto the track for a photo, provoking race leader Vettel to shout “there’s a man on the track!” and the safety car to be deployed. As anyone who knows about the truly horrific incident in 1977, when Welsh driver Tom Pryce was killed instantly when he hit an errant marshal crossing the track (the marshal, similarly killed, was so badly maimed that he could only be identified by doing a roll-call of his colleagues and seeing who was missing) will attest, people on the track are not big and not clever – and very, very dangerous. Add to this incident in China this year, when a ‘fan’ ran across the track and into the Ferrari garage demanding the drive he felt that his race ticket entitled him to, and you really have to wonder about the sort of people that are buying tickets for Grand Prix these days…
Happily, Dhokia received a six-week prison sentence for his idiocy, plenty time to think over both whether his actions were in any way sensible, and whether those shorts were really that good a look….

Driver Ratings

STAR DRIVER
Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Qualified: 1st
Finished: 1st
Rating: 96%
If the four-time champion has a favourite circuit, it is probably this, having won three times in the past, coupled with a second, and even a fifth on his Toro Rosso debut. The Marina Bay circuit, with its unique characteristics, simply seems to suit the German’s driving style. Vettel made some set-up changes on Friday night which paid off handsomely, and he was untouchable in final practice, qualifying and the race. Surely, after the blip of 2014, there can be few who now doubt his place as one of the modern greats, as with this race he went third on the list of all-time victors.

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
Qualified: 3rd
Finished: 3rd
Rating: 68%
A welcome podium for Kimi, but it can’t disguise the fact that he was, once again, left for dead by his new team-mate. After Vettel’s changes on Friday, the gap between the Ferraris was enormous – 0.782 seconds in qualifying. In the race, too, his perennial complaint of handling problems recurred, and he just couldn’t get near Ricciardo, complaining about the rear tyres – Vettel had no such problems. The impression is of a driver who is unhappy with the 2014/5 spec cars, and whose star is now on the wane.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
Qualified: 2nd
Finished: 2nd
Rating: 86%
Perhaps one of the best races of the season for the ever-smiling Aussie. Second on the grid, splitting the probably-faster Ferraris was a great result, and Ricciardo even thought that without the safety cars, he might have been able to challenge for the lead. Whether that’s the case is debatable, but Daniel had more reason than most to curse Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia on Sunday night.

Danlil Kvyat (Red Bull)
Qualified: 4th
Finished: 6th
Rating: 68%
Kvyat was fastest in P2, but again confirming my suspicions that he doesn’t deliver when it really matters, made a mistake in his final quali lap to line up 4th on the grid. He was admittedly unlucky in the race, in that he ended up pitting just before a safety car twice, but the lap times just didn’t compare to Ricciardo. Has yet to convince me that he has what it takes to joust at the very front.

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Qualified: 6th
Finished: 4th
Rating: 67%
Another fairly average race for Rosberg. He admitted to not getting the set-up right on Friday, but even with changes ended up a tenth behind Hamilton in qualifying – the story of his season so far. His pace in the race was slower than Hamilton’s so he was fortunate to benefit from his team-mate’s retirement and Kvyat’s bad timing with pit-stops. Undoubtedly lost out due to Mercedes’s poor pace at this event, but his own performance was solid rather than spectacular.

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Qualified: 5th
Finished: DNF – power unit
Rating: 74%
Arguably the first bit of true adversity this season for Hamilton, as Mercedes couldn’t get their tyres to work in Marina Bay’s unique circuit. He didn’t get his qualifying lap quite right, but was still faster than Rosberg, and was unlikely to have done better than fifth in any case. Was on course for some damage-limitation points when a badly-fitted clamp caused his engine to fail.

Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
Qualified: 7th
Finished: 5th
Rating: 86%
A track Williams was dreading, after its poor performance at Monaco, but much work has gone into improving the FW17’s pace in slow corners since then. Bottas put the car about as high up the grid as was realistically possible in qualifying with a good lap, and his drive to fifth – holding off a pushing Kvyat – was even more impressive when it is considered that he was nursing a poorly gearbox for the latter part of the race.

Felipe Massa (Williams)
Qualified: 9th
Finished: DNF – gearbox
Rating: 63%
Didn’t get his qualifying lap hooked up, and probably shouldn’t have found himself behind Verstappen on the grid. The race itself was a mess, with a slow stop, a collision with Hulkenberg (for which he was blameless) and an eventual retirement colluding to produce a weekend to forget for the popular Brazilian.

Sergio Perez (Force India)
Qualified: 13th
Finished: 7th
Rating: 82%
Continued his recent good form, and was disappointed that yellow flags cost him in qualifying, as he felt the Top 10 was possible. He made up for it in the race, however, making a great start and maintaining a constant fast pace that allowed him to leapfrog the Toro Rossos. His pass on Grosjean on Lap 35, too, was magnificent.

Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
Qualified: 11th
Finished: DNF: power unit
Rating: 47%
A poor weekend for a man whose chances of getting a drive with a top team seem to be waning. Qualifying ahead of Perez disguises the fact that the Mexican was probably faster, but was scuppered by yellow flags. He then had a pretty poor lunge at Massa in the race that gave him a fully-deserved penalty before retiring.

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Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso)
Qualified: 8th
Finished: 8th
Rating: 85%
I’ll admit it – I have been sceptical about the hype surrounding the teenager this season, but Verstappen is definitely winning me round: he’s the real deal, after all, isn’t he? After qualifying the car in the Top 10, his race really should have been over at the start, when he dropped a lap and a half behind due to stalling. To then recover from that mistake and reclaim his original starting position was a magnificent drive – that of a future world champion. His refusal to accept team orders at the end of the race at first seemed churlish, but the team later admitted that they’d got it wrong and Verstappen had been right. To have such confidence to tell the team ‘no’ at that age can only augur well.

Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso)
Qualified: 14th
Finished: 9th
Rating: 64%
Too many mistakes this weekend with crashes in Q3, and more importantly, in qualifying which cost him a shot at the top 10. He had to deal with gearbox issues at the start of the race, which allowed Verstappen to close, and his car went into neutral at one point, perhaps due to the mystery Anderson Bridge magnetic field (see above). The team expected him to have more pace than Verstappen at the end, hence the abortive team orders, but Sainz simply couldn’t close on his young team-mate. Second best this weekend.

Felipe Nasr (Sauber)
Qualified: 16th
Finished: 10th
Rating: 66%
A welcome point for Nasr, who has been regularly – and as discussed unimpressively – outpaced by Ericsson of late. 16th in qualifying was solid, if unspectacular, but at least he edged out his Swedish team-mate. He managed his tyres better in the race and benefitted from an unusually high number of retirements to claim the last point, well ahead of Ericsson.

Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
Qualified: 17th
Finished: 11th
Rating: 55%
An underwhelming race, after his recent upturn in fortunes. He failed to make Q2, and in the race burned up his tyres, despite at one point being right behind Nasr. Fortunate not to be passed by Maldonado at the end.

Pastor Maldonado (Lotus)
Qualified: 18th
Finished: 12th
Rating: 38%
Let’s be blunt. You can no longer make a case for Maldonado’s continued inclusion in F1. Perhaps in his race-winning season (the fact that he has won a race still makes me shake my head) there was an argument, but this was yet another dismal showing. Faster only than the Manors in qualifying, whilst Grosjean was getting into the Top 10, was a really poor showing, although in fairness the gap was just under half a second. He continued his penchant for incidents in the race, a collison with Button leading the latter to describe him as ‘mental’. Probably fair. Should have been ahead of the Saubers at the end.

Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
Qualified: 10th
Finished: 13th (DNF)
Rating: 71%
A mixed bag. On the one hand, given his practice times, Grosjean had no right to be in the Top 10, but his Q3 lap wasn’t the best when it came to the crunch. A poor start, not helped by Verstappen stalling right in front of him, left him in the mid-pack and an attempt to eke out the tyres for 35 laps turned out to be the wrong strategy. Was running out of the points when he retired with gearbox issues.

Alexander Rossi (Manor)
Qualified: 20th
Finished: 14th
Rating: 77%
This was a very impressive debut for the American, stepping in for Roberto Merhi. Although he shunted heavily in his first practice session, and thus missed the second, he quietly got on with the job from thereon in. Unhappy with the balance in qualifying he was a fair bit off Stevens, and lined up last. However, he simply drove away from the Englishman in the race, all the more impressive given that his radio failed and he had no communication with the pits for most of the race.

Will Stevens (Manor)
Qualified: 19th
Finished: 15th
Rating: 53%
As I’ve remarked before, it’s very difficult to rate Stevens’ performances this season, as he has been effectively in a race of two with debutant Roberto Merhi. Now that GP2 runner-up Rossi is on board, however, he probably faces a greater test, and it has to be said that he failed his first exam. He described the track as “the hardest he has ever had to learn”, and although he outqualified Rossi, perhaps due to the latter’s lack of practice time, he was absolutely mullered by the American in the race. Needs to step it up.

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Jenson Button (McLaren)
Qualified: 15th
Finished: DNF: gearbox
Rating: 64%
They should have known not to get their hopes up. McLaren were targetting this slow-speed circuit, one that wouldn’t expose the Honda’s abysmal energy recovery system, for points. Ultimately, of course, they came away empty handed. Button’s qualifying was beset with brake and tyre issues, and he landed up a sizeable margin behind Alonso. His race was compromised by a poor stop, and a collision with an errant Maldonado ended any hope of points. The gearbox then went to complete another thoroughly dismal weekend.

Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
Qualified: 12th
Finished: DNF: gearbox
Rating: 86%
A penny for Alonso’s thoughts, as he watched Vettel celebrate on the podium? On what is clearly one of his favourite circuits, Fernando dominated Button all weekend and 12th on the grid was an excellent result. He was running in the points when, inevitably, reliability intervened. There’s very little to add to previous comments on the subject, but Alonso driving this hunk of junk may be the biggest waste of talent since Emerson Fittipladi joined Copersucar in the 70s.

 

 

 

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