Scuderia Ferrari bossed the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finishing first and second.
The result was down to an unintentionally-perfect strategy that led to the team’s 84th one-two finish in Formula 1. The main highlights were the pit stops, with Sebastian’s on lap 20 and Charles’ on lap 20. From running first and third, after all the drivers from the Big-3 teams had pitted, the two SF90s led the race, although now with Sebastian ahead of Charles, who had started from pole and had led the early stages of the race. This was Vettel’s first win since last year at Spa vindicating “the lion of Singapore” after being “hammered” all season long, while Charles was enraged at the “not fair” strategy advantage given to the German. The story of the weekend wasn’t about Vettel or Charles, or Mercedes’ poor performance. It was about how Ferrari got to win on a high-downforce track.
This Singapore victory hadn’t come easy for the Maranello-based team. It was borne out of hard work after poor performances at downforce-demanding tracks earlier this season (Monaco, Hungary et al). Tweaking the nose, floor, diffuser and a few other parts of the car, their efforts, which started in France, finally came to fruition last weekend. With a significant upgrade package, a scruffy lap from Leclerc was enough to clinch pole on Saturday and claim his third pole position in a row at a track most expected to be the den of Mercedes and Red Bull!
Everything came together this weekend for a team with recent history of bad strategy decisions. Ferrari strategists rarely outwit their Mercedes and Red Bull rivals in the paddock on Sundays. On a track where overtaking could be suicidal, the only option for a ‘clean’ overtake was via an overcut or undercut. Seb’s undercut which was intended to checkmate any moves from 4th-running Verstappen was so effective, it launched the German to the front and most notably ahead of teammate Charles. Ferrari outwitted their rivals…and themselves! Vettel kept a cool head, despite the numerous safety cars. An understandably angry Charles held it together managing “not to be stupid for Ferrari”.
Sunday’s surprising result was Ferrari’s first 1-2 since 2017 Hungarian GP. It was also the team’s first 3 consecutive race wins since 2008. Ferrari’s speed at the Marina Bay Street Circuit was largely the result of the development upgrades it successfully introduced; even though team principal Mattia Binotto believes not. Expected to slip back behind Mercedes and Red Bull on the streets of Singapore, they took pole position, claiming a one-two finish courtesy of the upgrade package.
With six races remaining for the season, it would be nearly impossible for a Ferrari driver to win the Driver Championship. Lewis Hamilton will likely zoom off into the sunset with the title, and it will take a Mercedes meltdown of nuclear proportions for Ferrari to win the Constructors Championship, but it is pleasing to see the scarlet-red cars winning races once again. If the Prancing Horse is on a lucky streak, everyone who has F1 at heart would hope this streak continues much longer and if possible, to the end of the season. F1 shouldn’t be seen by fans of other auto racing series as a Mercedes-And-Others series (not Mercedes’ fault though).
The Russian GP is up next, on a track Mercedes has won all races since 2014. Would Ferrari prove their resurgence is real and win their fourth consecutive race or show that their latest victories are false dawns?
By Ekwonye Osy Ernesto.