Singapore Grand Prix – Pirelli Race Report
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton made the most of a three-stop strategy to win Singapore and claim the lead of the world championship. He did three opening stints on the P Zero Red supersoft before completing the race, which ran to the two-hour time limit rather than the scheduled 61 laps, on the P Zero Yellow soft.
However, he was closely challenged by Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who ran a two-stop strategy from fourth on the grid. Vettel did two opening stints on the supersoft and then a final stint on the soft at the end of the grand prix, when the car was at its lightest on low fuel. His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo followed the same strategy to finish third in front of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
This allowed Vettel to claim the lead in the closing stages of the race, illustrating perfectly how tire strategy can make a crucial difference. With a time gap of around two seconds between the compounds, all the drivers started on the faster supersoft. How they used the tires after that proved crucial, providing the key to the strategy.
Singapore kept up its 100% safety car record following contact between two competitors halfway through the race. Alonso and McLaren driver Jenson Button took the opportunity of the seven-lap safety car period to pit for soft tires. Both Red Bull and Williams drivers had already pitted for soft tires before the safety car, meaning that their options were open after running both compounds in the first half of the race.
After the safety car came in, Hamilton needed to extend his lead to around 25 seconds: the time needed to get in and out of the pits. But the Mercedes driver re-emerged in second place after his final stop on lap 52, and used his pace advantage to take the lead back from Vettel shortly afterwards.
Paul Hembery said: “Again we saw another very tense and exciting race where different tire strategies formed a crucial part of the outcome. In the closing stages of the grand prix we had Hamilton on newer soft tires behind Vettel on older soft tires, meaning he had to overtake to seal the race victory. Before then, we had the situation where Hamilton, on the faster supersoft tire, had to build up a crucial half-minute or so gap after the safety car to give him enough time to get in and out of the pits and change to the soft tire. So, as we have seen before, despite the fact that there were different strategies at work, it was an extremely close finish.”