Sebastian Vettel ended his winning drought to win the Singapore Grand Prix to claim his first victory of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
The German began the race from third on the grid behind Lewis Hamilton and pole-sitter and his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc.
The top six on the grid remained in the same positions up until the pit stops but Nico Hülkenberg and George Russell and Carlos Sainz Jr. were involved in collisions on the opening lap, forcing the trio to pit for repairs.
After being excluded from qualifying for an MGU-K infringement, Daniel Ricciardo started twentieth and found his way up to twelfth by Lap Ten by passing Daniil Kvyat at the end of the new DRS zone before Turn Fifteen.
With tyre degradation a problem for those on the soft tyres, especially the leaders, finding track position was a challenge. Vettel and Max Verstappen both pitted at the same time on Lap Nineteen and re-joined in clear air in their attempts to undercut Hamilton and Leclerc.
The race leader pitted for the hard tyres on the following lap and despite a pit stop that was six tenths faster than it his team-mate, it was not enough to keep him ahead of Vettel.
Hamilton remained out in front for a further nine laps in the case of Safety Car that would give him a free pit stop to over-cut his rivals. Unfortunately, that did not happen and the reigning-World Champion and switched from the softs to the hards but he was at least on fresher rubber and re-joined in front of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was ordered to bridge a gap before Hamilton pitted to allow him to chase the top three of Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen.
Antonio Giovinazzi, who had started on the medium tyres, temporarily took over the lead ahead of Pierre Gasly, Ricciardo and Vettel.
That lead ended when the fast-charging Ferrari got by the Italian on Lap Thirty-One, and the four-time World Champion was now in breathing space between himself and Leclerc, who was still needing to get by those who had not stopped.
Leclerc got by those cars two laps later but was approximately five seconds behind Vettel by the end of Lap Thirty-Three. Following Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas and Alexander Albon overtaking the Alfa Romeo Racing pilot of Giovinazzi, Ricciardo made an attempt at Turn Seven but contact left the Renault F1 Team driver with a puncture and the Italian with a damaged front wing.
The first Safety Car was deployed after a collison between Romain Grosjean and George Russell on Lap Thirty-Five that saw the rookie tipped into the barrier while the Haas F1 Team was trying to re-pass him. That forced Russell to retire from a Grand Prix for the first time in his F1 career but Grosjean came back to the pits to change his front wing. The Frenchman’s coming together with the Brit will be under investigation after the race.
The top ten at this point under the Safety Car on Lap Thirty-Six was Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Albon, Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen, Kimi Räikkönen and Sergio Pérez in tenth.
The race was back on at the start of Lap Forty-One with Vettel remaining in command at the front but the green-flag racing would be interrupted again only a few laps later due to Pérez stopping his Racing Point on the back-straight after the Anderson Bridge with a mechanical problem.
A second Safety Car bunched up the field again to recover the Mexican’s car before Vettel led the field again with fourteen laps to go and seal Ferrari’s third win in a row.
Another collision occurred on Lap Fifty, where Daniil Kvyat made a daring move on Räikkönen into Turn One, which saw the Iceman’s front suspension sustain terminal damage. This marked the Finn’s first non-finish since his move to Alfa Romeo.
With his car being in the firing line on the outside of the circuit, a third Safety Car period was necessary, albeit for one lap before Vettel bolted clear of second place Leclerc with ten laps to go. Hamilton was right behind Verstappen for third position and keeping him busy but with his team-mate of Bottas behind him, the Brit decided that his lead in the championship was the priority.
Further down the field, Magnussen’s position in the points was under threat on the final restart. Giovinazzi was able to move in front at Turn Seven for tenth, which saw the Dane continue to go backwards.
Being passed by another three cars on that same lap and his lack of pace would see him drop even further back to seventeenth. A pit stop to put on a fresher set of soft tyres gave him the opportunity to re-join and set the fastest lap of the whole race for the second year running in Singapore.
Because he had finished outside the top ten, Magnussen would not keep the championship point for the fastest lap. That instead would go to Bottas.
At the end of the race, Vettel would cruise over the line by two and a half seconds ahead of team-mate Leclerc to take his fifty-third Grand Prix win and Ferrari’s first one-two since the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen brought his Red Bull Racing home in third ahead of both Mercedes-AMG Motorsport cars of Hamilton and Bottas, with Albon completing the top six. Lando Norris was the best of the rest for McLaren F1 Team in seventh, extending the team’s lead over Renault in the fight for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
The top of the Drivers’ Championship sees Lewis Hamilton’s margin over Valtteri Bottas increase by a further point, now at sixty-four with six races to go. Mercedes’ lead over second place Ferrari has been narrowed though to one-hundred and thirty-three points going into the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom next weekend.
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