Sebastian Vettel took his third victory of the season for Ferrari in an incident-packed race at the Marina Bay Circuit that saw Lewis Hamilton retire with technical problems and a spectator invade the track.
Vettel took his fourth career Singapore Grand Prix win ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Räikkönen third in the second Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
When the lights went out at the start of the race Vettel made a good getaway to take the lead ahead of Ricciardo. Räikkönen too held his starting position to sit in third ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, while Hamilton and Rosberg kept their starting positions of fifth and sixth position, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
There was trouble for Max Verstappen though. The Toro Rosso driver, who was starting eighth, stalled on the grid and the rest of the field swarmed past him as the grand prix got underway. Verstappen was wheeled back to the pit lane where his car was restarted and he re-joined a lap down.
Vettel meanwhile was flying. By the end of lap two the Ferrari driver was a 4.4s ahead of Ricciardo and after four laps he’d stretched the advantage to 5.2 seconds.
After six laps, though the lap times began to stabilise, with Ricciardo’s race engineer Simon Rennie telling the Red Bull driver that “Vettel has calmed down a bit”. Ricciardo began to chip away at the gap and took a second out the German over the next handful of laps.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was the first to shed his opening supersoft tyres – the Frenchman switching to soft tyres on lap 10. On the next lap he was followed to the pit lane by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado. Sainz lost time in the stop though as he was held in his pit box as Ericsson and Maldonado made their way along the pit lane.
On lap 13, however, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed as Williams’ Felipe Massa and Force India Nico Hulkenberg made contact. Massa was re-joining after his pit stop and Hulkenberg gave the Brazilian nowhere to go as they went into the following corner. They collided and Hulkenberg was pitched into the wall and out of the race. The Singapore Grand Prix’s 100% safety car record was maintained when the physical safety car was then briefly deployed as marshals cleared the debris from the crash.
Hulkenberg was later penalised with a three-place grid drop at next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix for causing the collision.
The period under the SC meant that all cars pitted, though some with more success than other. Jenson Button’s stop in front of the McLaren garage went horribly wrong as a problem with his front right wheel delayed him for some time and he rejoined in P16.
The order at the top under the SC saw Vettel leading from Ricciardo and Räikkönen, with the top three having taking more supersofts in their stops. Hamilton was fourth on soft tyres as was fifth-placed team-mate Rosberg.
Kvyat, also on supersofts, lost out under the VSC and had dropped to P6 ahead of Bottas, Force India’s Sergio Perez, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who has climbed to P9 from 16th on the grid and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. Verstappen, meanwhile, had the chance re-join the lead lap during the safety car period.
When the action resumed Ricciardo kept pace with Vettel and on lap 22 the Australian was 0.8s behind the lead, with Vettel appearing to hold back a bit. Räikkönen was another 0.9s back but Hamilton was beginning to lose touch with the podium positions, slipping to over 2.0s down on the leaders.
On lap 27 Hamilton began complaining of a loss of power and the Briton was swiftly passed by Rosberg and Kvyat.
The team told Hamilton that his throttle was failing to open completely but that there was no electrical problem. Hamilton responded that he could no feel a pedal issue and as the investigation went on Hamilton to P11 by lap 30.
It was then Felipe Massa’s turn to encounter problems as he radioed his team to say that his car had suddenly jumped into neutral. He made a detour through the pit lane without stopping and then was told to retire the car.
Hamilton’s frustrations finally came to an end on lap 33. The championship leader had been complaining that the issue was worsening and then informed his team that the brakes were becoming too cold to continue in comfort. The team told him to box and he too retired.
On lap 35 Kvyat made his second stop from P5 but there was a problem with the rear left wheel and he lost out again as his stop took 6.6s. He dropped to seventh.
On lap 37 the Safety Car was deployed again, though this time it was because of a spectator invading the track.
It was the cue for all of the field to make another pit stop and when the order sorted itself out under the SC Vettel still led from Ricciardo and Räikkönen but Rosberg was now fourth ahead of Bottas with Kvyat sixth. Perez was now seventh in the sole remaining Force India, with Grosjean eighth ahead of team-mate Pastor Maldonado. Button, in the sole remaining McLaren following an earlier retirement for Fernando Alonso, was in the final points position, though he too would soon exit the race with a gearbox issue.
When the action resumed, Vettel this time powered away, with the German rapidly building a two-second gap to Ricciardo. Further back Button tangled with Maldonado as they battled for P9 and the Briton clipped the back of the Lotus, losing his front wing in the prices. He pitted for a new wing and re-joined in P14.
Toro Rosso’s drivers, meanwhile, were on a march, with Verstappen passing Maldonado for P9 and with Sainz repeating the moved almost immeditaley afterwards. Verstappen then set the fastest lap of the race so far on lap 43 of the 61 scheduled.
The Dutch teenager then passed Grosjean for P8 on lap 47 with an excellent move into Turn 16. Sainz followed but his move was riskier and both drivers went over the kerbs on the exit, with Grosjean complaining that he had been forced wide and had “no place to go”. The move stood, however, and Sainz held ninth.
Verstappen’s next target was Perez in seventh but he could find no way past the Mexican. His race ended in somewhat controversial circumstances when his engineer told him to swap places with Sainz in the closing laps. Verstappen refused and held station to claim eighth ahead of his team-mate.
At the front the order also remained unchanged, with Vettel taking his 42nd career win just 1.4s ahead of Ricciardo, with Räikkönen third. Rosberg closed the gap to title rival Hamilton by 10 points by claiming fourth with Bottas fifth ahead of Kvyat and Perez. With the Toro Rosso pair eighth and ninth, the final points position when to Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.
2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Race
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 2:01:22.118
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing +1.478
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari +17.154
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +24.720
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams +34.204
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing +35.508
7 Sergio Perez Force India +50.836
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +51.450
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso +52.860
10 Felipe Nasr Sauber +1:30.045
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +1:37.507
12 Pastor Maldonado Team Lotus +1:37.718
13 Romain Grosjean Team Lotus +2 laps
14 Alexander Rossi Manor +2 laps
15 Will Stevens Manor +2 laps
– Jenson Button McLaren Gearbox
– Fernando Alonso McLaren Gearbox
– Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Power Unit
– Felipe Massa Williams Power Unit
– Nico Hulkenberg Force India Collision