For the first time in nearly two years Ferrari’s Vettel took a non-Mercedes pole that was ominous in every respect as he clinched the top position by 1.5 seconds from the seemingly near-invincible Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton who had taken 11 poles this year.
With the abundance of safety car period and the tight nature of the Marina Bay street circuit, making a good start was all the more important off the line.
At the lights, Vettel made a lightning getaway as Verstappen stalled on the grid. The start was fairly cautious from the rest of the field behind him. With a brilliant three -second gap in the opening lap, Vettel led from Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg and Perez who almost took out his Force India teammate into Turn 1 and Alonso ran three abreast behind that pair before settling in 11th.
While the four-time world champion extended his lead to 4.4s by the end of second lap to protect himself from Ricciardo’s undercut, Verstappen joined at the back a lap down.
By the 10th lap, Ricciardo slowly began chipping away time from the race leader while Grosjean pitted for medium rubber. Having to cover the undercut, Alonso reacted a lap later and entered pits followed by Sainz as both endured slow stops. Consequently, Alonso fell into the clutches of Grosjean and lost position at the end of the ensuing DRS zone.
With a rapid pitstop, Kvyat rejoined ninth before Massa and Hulkenberg collided and virtual safety car was deployed. A bit delayed in the pits, the Brazilian came out and entered the slow left turn when the fast approaching Hulkenberg made contact and hurtled into the barriers at slow speed bringing the first safety car period.
Taking advantage of the situation, Vettel and Ricciardo pitted for super soft tyres and retained first and second positions but the former’s lead was cut short a big amount. The order was Vettel from Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Rosberg and Kvyat who lost two places following that untimely crash after visiting pits.
Safety car was in on lap 19 as Ricciardo was right on the tail of the leading Ferrari but the undeterred German restarted brilliantly and held on to the lead. Mercedes looked set for two stop strategy as they tried to eke out more life off the soft tyres.
From third, Raikkonen closed in on the top two and was within DRS range of Ricciardo who indeed set sights on passing Vettel at the overtaking zones. Meanwhile, Kvyat was told to make a brake bias adjustment because his right-rear caliper was getting hot.
On lap 27, disaster struck for Hamilton as the reigning champion lost power and places more crucially to championship nemesis Rosberg. By the next lap, he was going backwards and down in 10th behind Alonso. Bizarrely Massa drove through the pits without pitting, supposedly stuck on neutral, before asked over the radio to retire while Hamilton decided to do the same couple of laps later blowing up his chances of extending further lead in the title race.
Lap 34 saw another slow pitstop as Kvyat switched to soft tyres while third retirement came courtesy of Alonso due to gearbox issues after running in ninth. Safety car appeared for the second time due to a man bizarrely strolling on track. With the lunatic off the way, drivers pitted and readied themselves for a final assault.
The race restarted on lap 41 with Vettel again storming into the distance ahead of Ricciardo. The two Toro Rossos made good use of the restart as they moved into points scoring positions disposing Maldonado after Button clumsily took off bits of his own front wing making light contact with the Venezuelan’s rear.
The exciting Toro Rosso pair set about catching the other Lotus of Grosjean in eighth. The Dutch teenager Verstappen made the overtake stick on the Lotus moments before Sainz added insult to injury bravely braking late into Turn 1. With 11 laps left to the finish, Vettel enjoyed a comfortable three second lead over Ricciardo who was also on soft tyres.
However, both of them traded fastest laps which appeared to be too less for the chasing Red Bull. The lone surviving McLaren of Button also retired of gearbox problems while Verstappen fancied a go at Perez’s seventh position. Maldonado lost two places to Sauber pair of Nasr and Ericsson before pitting when Bottas was cautioned of problematic downshifts.
Fighting for tenth, Grosjean on his worn out rubber outbraked himself and went wide losing a place to Nasr. In the final lap, Verstappen ignored team orders and held on to eighth position ahead of team-mate Sainz who let him go early in the race.
With a composed drive, Vettel brought back his old dominant Red Bull memories only this time with the gleaming scarlet Ferrari under the enthralling fireworks in Singapore for his fourth win ahead of Ricciardo and Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen. In doing so, he has surpassed the victory tally of the late great Ayrton Senna with the 42nd triumph.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:50.623||1.478||2|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1:52.850||35.508||2|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:54.301||50.836||2|
|8||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:54.469||51.450||2|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:55.116||52.860||3|