Race recap: 2015 Singapore Grand Prix full of odd sideshows
Then qualifying set the confusion in stone. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel laid down the best time in Q3, taking the team's first pole position since Germany in 2012. Daniel Ricciardo got his Infiniti Red Bull Racing into second, about one tenth behind Vettel. (That may make the team feel better after Ricciardo publicly asked for a better engine than the current Renault unit, and team advisor Helmut Marko said the outfit will quit F1 at the end of this year if it can't get a stronger powerplant for 2016.) Kimi Räikkönen put the second Ferrari in third, Daniil Kvyat put the second Red Bull in fourth.
And only then came the Meredes'. Lewis Hamilton's best got him fifth, the Brit saying, "We don't really know what we have got wrong. For some reason the tires are not working on the car. We do the warm-up the same as everyone else and then you see someone one second up the road." For added emphasis on the reversal of fortune, his time was 1.6 seconds behind Vettel's. Teammate Rosberg is next to him in sixth, a further half a second back.
Williams is still a hurting a bit on slow tracks, so Valtteri Bottas could only get into seventh ahead of Max Verstappen in the Toro Rosso and teammate Felipe Massa in ninth.
When the red lights went out, the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix would get both less interesting and more interesting all the way to the final lap. The men up front got good getaways, and the order into Turn 1 was Vettel, Ricciardo, and Raikkonen. The race finished with those three in that order, never having conceded position. Vettel's Ferrari enjoyed the track so much that he laid a second per lap into Ricciardo for the first five, then relaxed. He'd let the gap come down later in the race a couple of times, but any time he wanted to see what his mirrors looked like without anyone in them he'd take off again.
Rosberg took fourth position after holding down sixth for the first stint. It looked like he'd have an even worse day - for a Mercedes driver - when he had problems getting his car started and onto the grid before the race. Then his luck changed thanks to a combination of bad timing and bad luck for the two men ahead of him, Kvyat and Hamilton. Kvyat pitted just before the race's first Safety Car, which came out after a bizarre collision between Hulkenberg and Massa. As Massa emerged from his first pit stop onto the track just ahead of Turn 3, Hulkenberg stuck to the racing line and moved over on Massa - he said later he expected Massa to cede the line. The result was a dead Force India and a bunch of debris on the track. Massa would later retire with a gearbox issues, one of several drivers to be victimized by a transmission that would drop to neutral and not come out.
Rosberg pitted under the Safety Car, and came out ahead of Kvyat. On Lap 26, Hamilton's throttle stopped fully responding. When the team couldn't fix after numerous attempts, the Brit retired on Lap 33, giving Rosberg the fourth place he'd take to the flag.
Bottas secured fifth thanks to Kvyat's second, duplicate bout of bad timing. The race's second Safety Car came out on Lap 37 because of a spectator on the track. Having climbed through an opening in the gate, the man walked with the finest nonchalance down the track, then climbed through another opening back into the civilian world. Kvyat had pitted just before that Safety Car, Bottas pitted during, and the Finn got out ahead of the Russian. Kvyat didn't suffer any further, coming home sixth.
Sergio Perez earned seventh place. The Mexican took advantage of a steady race to come up from 13th on the grid, with clean defensive driving on the last few laps to keep a charging Verstappen behind.
Verstappen claimed eighth ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, but his brilliant drive got strange at the end. Verstappen dropped to last when he stalled at the start, but worked his way into the points thanks to the help of the two Safety Cars and some outstanding driving. However, on lap 60 of 61 his team engineer told him to let Sainz past because they thought Sainz – on newer super soft tires – might be faster, to which Verstappen immediately replied, "No!" The young Dutchman then seemed even more eager then to catch Perez in front of him, and when told a second time to give up his position he continued to ignore it. Instead of getting in trouble, though, the team agreed that Sainz wasn't even close enough to Verstappen to give him a chance of catching Perez.
Felipe Nasr took tenth place and one World Championship point for Sauber. The Brazilian was aided by both McLarens and one Lotus retiring with more of those suspicious gearbox issues, and a fading Grosjean who simply ran out of useful tire in the last laps.
Vettel's third win of the season gives him 203 points and puts him third on the list of total victories after Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost. Combined with Hamilton's retirement, the Ferrari driver closed to within 49 points of the Championship leader's 252. Keeping it weird after the flag, Ferrari team members stormed Parc Ferme, forcing local security to herd them back behind the fences.
Rosberg will rue not being able to do more with the day and his teammate's misfortune, but his fourth-place finish got him to 211 points, slightly closing the gap to Hamilton. Mercedes still doesn't know why it couldn't get anything right in Singapore, which is worrying. At one point, in clear air, Hamilton was 1.2-seconds slower per lap than Vettel. The team says it will recover by the next round.
Mercedes still owns the Constructor's Championship with 463 points. Yet Ferrari, who got three points closer in Monza, clobbered Mercedes this time 40 points to 12. That puts the scuderia on a still-distant 310 points total, but there are six races left in the season. The next one is in Japan in seven days. We'll see you then.
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