Vettel claims first victory in Singapore with Pirelli
Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel has claimed his ninth victory of the year with Pirelli, but second place for McLaren’s Jenson Button, Vettel’s only potential challenger, means that the title fight will continue to the next round in Japan.
The Singapore Grand Prix – held at night with temperatures in excess of 86° Fahrenheit and humidity close to 80% – is one of the toughest races of the season; it takes the longest time to complete and requires the heaviest fuel load. This places huge demands on the tires, particularly with constant impacts against the kerbing and 23 corners testing traction to the limit.
The top 10 qualified on the P Zero Red supersoft tires but Force India’s Paul di Resta chose to start on the P Zero Yellow soft tire from 10th, having not gone out in the final qualifying session on Saturday. This strategy allowed Di Resta to complete a 19-lap opening stint on the soft tire with full fuel, before switching to the supersofts and then finishing the race on the soft tire. He scored his best result of the season, running his final set of P Zero Yellow soft tires for 33 laps to become the highest-placed two-stopper in sixth place, which is also the best result of his Formula One career so far.
Vettel sealed his victory with a three-stop strategy, starting on the supersoft tire before switching to the soft tire twice for two longer stints in the middle of the race. The German, on course to become the youngest double world champion in Formula One history, ended the race on the supersoft tire, managing his strategy perfectly to lead from start to finish.
Just after half-distance an accident brought out the safety car (which has appeared at every grand prix so far in Singapore) and eroded Vettel’s 22-second lead, delivering an extra aspect to the tire strategy as most of the frontrunners pitted for fresh tires. Another factor affecting the strategy was the long pit stop time in Singapore due to the 404-meter pit lane and a lower pit lane speed limit: in total a stop cost more than 30 seconds, although the actual time taken to change the tires is usually between three and four seconds.
The speed differential between the soft and the supersoft tire, just over a second per lap, created plenty of overtaking opportunities throughout the race, with some spectacular moves from start to finish. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton dropped out of the lead battle following contact with Felipe Massa, but despite accident damage, a drive-through penalty and five visits to the pits, he used the speed of both the soft and the supersoft compounds to climb back up to fifth place at the finish.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “We’ve seen a truly spectacular race under the lights of Singapore, where tire strategy was key. The heat, humidity and length of the race made it a tough event for our tires, but both the compounds performed faultlessly over two hours. There were no particular issues and degradation was at a normal level given the characteristics of this race. This was one of the most complicated races strategy-wise of the entire year and we saw a wide variety of tactics being employed by all the teams. Once more we were treated to a grandstand finish, with Jenson Button chasing down Sebastian Vettel all the way to the checkered flag. The organizers have done another brilliant job here, making Singapore one of the highlights of the Formula One season.”