‘In a way you can forget the statistics, I think the most important thing is the sheer fun in life and getting paid for it, that’s a great thing.’
Sebastian Vettel showed once more that he has an old head on relatively young shoulders, first of all by driving a superbly controlled race to win his fourth Singapore Grand Prix and then by putting it all in perspective as he was asked to compare his career with some of F1’s other greats.
The 28-year-old German managed two Safety Car periods and the rediscovered pace of Red Bull Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, his former Red Bull teammate, to take his third victory in his first year with the famous Italian team.
‘It was pretty intense,’ said an elated Vettel.
‘There was a bit of a breather with the Safety Car, but there was still a lot of pressure from behind. That made it a bit tactical towards the end, but I was able to look after my tyres and control the pace. But it was a great day, we had a great weekend.’
Ricciardo expected a stronger performance on the Singapore streets and got it with his second podium of 2015 in second place, with the Ferrari of Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen third – and not a Mercedes in sight.
‘It’s good that we capitalise or make the most of our opportunities,’ said Ricciardo. ‘This year, I believe we have had two, Budapest and here, and we’ve got podiums in both those races.
To underline his point, Ricciardo set the fastest lap of 1 min 50.041 secs, an average of 165.701 kilometres per hour, on the last lap of the race.
The pre-Singapore ballyhoo was all about Lewis Hamilton and his assault on records set by his idol Ayrton Senna. But after missing an eighth successive pole position because of Vettel’s brilliance on Saturday, Hamilton also failed in his bid to match the great Brazilian driver’s career record of 41 victories in 161 starts.
Hamilton started from the third row but was never in the hunt, retiring after 33 of the 61 laps as his Mercedes-Benz’s engine lost power. ‘It hasn’t been our weekend as a team,’ admitted Hamilton, ‘but sometimes that happens.’
Teammate Nico Rosberg was fourth and closed the gap on Hamilton to 41 points – but Vettel’s victory means he is only eight points behind Rosberg with six races remaining.
Valtteri Bottas recovered from a lacklustre practice and qualifying to take fifth place for Williams ahead of the second Red Bull driven by Daniil Kvyat, maintaining the young Russian’s recent run of points-scoring finishes.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg triggered the first Safety Car when he clashed with the Williams of Felipe Massa at Turn 3 on lap 12 and hit the wall. The second came just after halfway when a man strayed on to the track, avoiding disaster as he crossed and leapt through a window in the safety fence into the arms of the Singapore police.
In eighth and ninth places were two of the young stars of 2015, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso Renaults. The teenaged Verstappen surprised everyone by bouncing back after stalling on the grid and picking his way through the field – but he refused to obey an order from his team late in the race to cede the place to Sainz as they both chased Perez..
“It was an amazing race, I enjoyed it a lot!’ said the young Dutchman. ‘I was pushed to the pit-lane and then re-joined the race one lap behind… But I just kept on pushing and to finish P8 is just fantastic! I don’t think there was any reason for me to give up my position after going from being one lap behind to being back in the points, I think I deserved that P8.’
The final point went to another F1 rookie, Brazil’s Felipe Nasr, in the Sauber Ferrari.