Formula One: Singapore Grand Prix
Circuit: Marina Bay Street Circuit
The Asian swing began with the annual visit to one of the more visually spectacular races of the year, with the Island City lighting up for the 12th official Grand Prix in Singapore, and I enjoy when there’s a MotoGP and F1 weekend running concurrently, because I can go straight from two wheels to four wheels in the space of 15 minutes.
Ferrari were expected to struggle against Red Bull and Mercedes on such a downforce focused track, but what transpired on Saturday evening blew everything out of the water.
After Sebastian Vettel set the early pace in Q3, setting a time a full second faster than Mercedes on their opening runs, Charles LeClerc pulled out a blinder and smacked Vettel by 3 tenths, while Hamilton pulled out his usual superhuman Qualifying performance just to get on the front row, edging out Vettel, followed by Verstappen, Bottas, and Alex Albon with a career best start from 6th.
In the F1.5 battle, McLaren had the advantage over Renault through most of the sessions thanks to a better chassis, allowing Sainz to qualify 7th, while Dan made it to 8th, and out-qualified the Hulk once again to make it 11-4, securing the head to head battle at Renault for-
One microsecond of an advantage.
It was going to take another strange Singapore safety car to save Renault… and they’ve got plenty of experience in that area.
Race (61 laps)
As every team and driver aimed for a one stop strategy, the Top 9 cars all started on Softs, while everyone else except Pierre Gasly (On Hards) started on Mediums- Given Daniel was officially disqualified from Qualifying, he was free to start on whatever set he wanted.
At the start, LeClerc jumped cleanly and shot clear, while Vettel was all over the rear of Hamilton, but the Mercedes maintained 2nd place, while George Russell damaged his front wing after contact with Dan, and Sainz had a shocker, suffering a right rear puncture after contact with Hulkenberg, who also suffered a slow puncture, which sent the McLaren a lap down for most of the race, and forced the Renault to come in from 7th, and make an early change for hard tyres.
In the meantime, Danny Ric stayed on the road and had charged up to 12th after pasting Kvyat, and looked to be driving well enough to have a good chance at recovering a few points.
In the opening laps, the Top 6 were trying to eek out tyre life for when the pit window opened, which led to the weird situation where Hulkenberg and Russell were the fastest drivers on track… in 18th and 19th.
Funnily enough, as a result of saving tyre life and not going flat out, the Top 6 were going to re-emerge in the midfield squabbles when they pitted, which Martin Brundle noted, had played right into the hands of Ferrari.
Eventually, on Lap 16, the team told LeClerc to make his Prancing Horse gallop, and put a gap on Hamilton, but the World Champion responded
Ferrari and Red Bull blinked first, with Vettel pitting and then Verstappen, but the Dutchman was behind Hulkenberg (Briefly), while Vettel was in clear air.
LeClerc pitted the next lap, but Ferrari ended up playing themselves, because Seb had used the clear air to jump his teammate, causing the Monegasque to develop a bad case of the shits on the radio for the rest of the race.
Mercedes made the brave call to keep Hamilton (And Bottas) on track, praying for some outside interference, as Ferrari and Red Bull were lapping a second faster than the Silver Arrows on worn Softs.
Bottas was in on Lap 23, and after emerging just behind Verstappen, the Finn got the fabled “Valtteri, it’s James” radio call, telling him to drop his pace so Lewis could stay ahead after his stop.
Bottas in a Mercedes is basically Darth Vader- He looks so threatening to everyone else, yet he gets treated by his bosses like a worthless sack of shit.
Hamilton finally stopped on Lap 27, and Mercedes’ gambit had failed for now- He was back out alongside Bottas in 4th and 5th.
What this also meant was that Antonio Giovinazzi was leading the race, the first time an Alfa had led a race since cult hero Andrea De ‘Crasharis’ at Belgium in 1983.
It was also the first time anyone other than Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari had led a lap since Williams at Britain in 2015.
Eventually, the leaders were easily picking off those who had stayed out by the halfway mark- Ricciardo included, who stayed out with Giovinazzi praying for a Safety Car, but after seeing Albon pass the Alfa, Daniel tried another Honey Badger move into Turn 7 on Lap 34, but on old worn tyres, it didn’t come off, and the pair made contact, which punctured Ricciardo’s right rear tyre and dropped him to 16th, basically ending his night.
And then a mere 2 laps later, Romain Grosjean, true to form, didn’t give up on a corner and sent Russell into the wall, causing the first DNF of the race (And Williams’ first DNF of the year), and keeping up the 100% record of a Safety Car appearance in Singapore.
Haas just re-signed Grosjean… Good work fellas.
It took a good 3 laps to get the car cleared and allow Sainz to get on the lead lap and catch up to the rear of the train, during which time several cars pitted for a fresh set of Mediums, and eventually, the race resumed on Lap 40.
On the restart, the leaders continued their squabble over nothing, while Stroll tried defending Gasly down the field, only to turn in and clip the wall at Turn 14, causing a left front puncture, and Racing Point’s disastrous turn of luck continued on Lap 43, as Sergio Perez retired 10th due to an oil leak, and given he’d stopped on the track, the Safety Car returned again.
As the saying goes, Safety Cars breed Safety Cars, and they were all allowing Ferrari to basically seal a 1-2 finish, as Hamilton was unable to go racing for 3rd against Verstappen.
The race resumed on Lap 48, and Dan’s attempt at salvaging a point from 13th came unstuck at the Singapore Sling (Turn 10), as he attempted to overtake Kvyat, didn’t get it done, and got caught high and wide approaching the Anderson Bridge, allowing Grosjean through, and eventually allowing Sainz through, dumping him to 16th.
On Lap 50, Kvyat tried a classic ‘Russian Torpedo’ move into Turn 1 on Kimi Raikkonen, who had no hope of seeing the Toro Rosso coming, turned in, and broke his own suspension… which of course, brought out another Safety Car.
In Kvyat style, he blamed Raikkonen for turning in on him…. despite it mostly being Kvyat’s fault going for a pass that was never going to stick.
Fortunately the Alfa was cleared quickly, racing began again on Lap 51, and the Ferrari shitfight between Vettel and LeClerc could finally begin!
It would be a reflection on the final 10 laps- Nothing really happened.
Honestly, the most exciting thing in the finale was Kevin Magnussen pitting so he could once again grab the fastest lap in Singapore.
He got it… and finished dead last.
Ultimately though, we were greeted by a sight that I personally thought wouldn’t happen in 2019 after the events in Canada- Sebastian Vettel OFFICIALLY won a race!
His first win in 392 days, his 53rd win of his career, and his record 5th win in Singapore.
A historic result- the first ever 1-2 at Singapore, and the first hat-trick of wins for Ferrari since 2008… at a track they didn’t think they had a chance of winning at!
So, by screwing LeClerc on strategy and robbing him of a hat-trick of wins in the process, the Prancing Horse to turn a 1-3 into a 1-2.
It was for the greater good Charles.
THE GREATER GOOD.
Verstappen comfortably held off Hamilton to finish in 3rd, and that Mercedes gamble in keeping out both cars for so long only resulted in them losing the house and the keys to the car.
They’ve now been beaten in 5 out of the last 7 races… if only this form had been around at the start of the year from Ferrari!
If you ask me, this was an even-up from the Maranello Mafia.
Back in Belgium, Vettel held up Hamilton for as long he could to help LeClerc build a gap out in front, which proved to be enough to give LeClerc his maiden win.
On another note, Hamilton also led a Grand Prix for the 142nd time, tying the all-time record held by none other than Michael Schumacher.
As for the ‘F1.5′ battlers, Norris beat home Gasley and Hulkenberg, as everything went to shit on Saturday evening for Renault, through one tiny little frikkin’ fault… which was largely caused by themselves biting off more than they chew.
Next Up: The quick turnaround- Sochi this weekend!
MotoGP: Aragon Grand Prix
Circuit: MotorLand Aragon
The Journey of The Jackass, Chapter 14.
In a rather ominous warning to the entire field ahead of his home race and his 200th Grand Prix start, Marc Marquez was a lazy 1.2 seconds faster than the entire field in Friday practice.
It led to a superb quote from Joan Mir in Spanish, which if the Google Translator is reliable, roughly translated to “We are all in the shit compared to him (Marquez)”.
A fairly accurate reflection on Motorcycle Grand Prix racing in the year 2019.
In the meantime, KTM pulled the latest rider change, giving Johan Zarco the arse after 13 races, and replacing him with a familiar face…. Mika Kallio.
There was a scary moment for KTM and Pol Espargaro, who suffered a massive highside at Turn 9 in FP4, which took him out for the weekend due to a wrist injury, which was a huge shame, because he was fast enough to go straight into Q2 and probably start from the first 2 rows.
In the meantime, Jack Miller stayed upright and was comfortably going straight through to Q2, while there were a few shocks, as Alex Rins and Danilo Petrucci were both consigned to bad starts after failing to get out of Q1, although Rins would be promoted to 12th after Pol’s withdrawal.
Jack used a pair of soft tyres to set the early pace, which was quickly beaten by Quartararo, only for Marquez to lazily stroll around, and go 8-tenths faster than the pair of them.
Marquez soon bettered his own time with a 1.47 flat, Vinales bumped Miller down to 3rd, and then El Diablo came back for one final crack at Marquez, and very nearly beat the Honda, but his final sector let him down, dropping 4 tenths, and leaving him in 2nd.
Race (23 laps)
At the start, Marquez got away cleanly, Fabio retained 2nd, while Jack jumped the Top Gun into 3rd, but within half a lap, the Honda had put a second on the field.
Miller took Quartararo into Turn 12, while further back, Franco Morbidelli fell after being the victim of an ambitious dive gone wrong from Rins, which dropped the Suzuki down to 18th and out of the running for a podium.
Rins would eventually earn a long lap penalty, but oddly enough, he served the penalty from 12th, and ended up losing absolutely nothing.
As Marquez skipped clear, Miller was able to hold 2nd thanks to the Ducati power on the long straight out of Turn 15, as the Yamahas gave us an entertaining fight for 3rd, while Alexis Espargaro fought off Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, who did drop to 11th on the opening lap, before rocketing back through the field on the Bologna Bullet and taking both to go to 5th.
It soon became apparent that The Doctor just didn’t have the pace to go with the Top 6, as he could barely crack a 1 minute 49 for the rest of the afternoon, and was running in 8th for most of the race.
Vinales eventually got past Quartararo at Turn 16 on Lap 5, and was soon on the rear wheel of Jack, and it was apparent that based on corner speed alone, this was going to end in one way.
Vinales finally passed Jack on Lap 7, but their battle had brought Quartararo and Dovi into podium contention, and Desmo Dovi’s charge through the field continued on Lap 8, as he cleaved the Frenchman with ease down the back straight, highlighting a whopping 14 km/h difference in top speed between the Ducati and the Yamaha.
In the meantime, Marquez had a Sunday ride around his personal paradise, and it was as if the TV Director forgot he was even out there for 99% of the race, such was his dominance.
There was a 20 lap period where Marquez recorded just one lap slower than 1 minute 50s- The opening lap.
Rins continued to recover up to 10th, and soon found himself in the weird position of fighting with Petrucci for 9th on track, but 3rd in the Championship.
Rins won that fight.
Meanwhile, 3rd in the race was a fight between the Ducatis, and it looked like the factory bike was going to pass Jack sooner rather than later, and Dovi got the job done into Turn 1 on Lap 14, but Jack wasn’t quite out of the hunt for a podium, given his speed advantage over Vinales.
Dovi’s podium chances were looking very good with 6 laps to go, as he was looking like a huge chance of taking Vinales for 2nd, as the Spaniard began to struggle for pace, while Jack was keeping himself in contention, just half a second behind the pair, and comfortably ahead of Quartararo back in 5th.
With 3 laps to go, Dovi primed to blast off down the back straight out of Turn 15, and the Ducati once again butchered the Yamaha in scenes unseen since Wolf Creek.
Capping off the brutal Ducati bashing for Mav, our Jackass took the Spaniard in to Turn 1, and then rode smartly for the rest of the lap to keep the Yamaha behind, and after he was still behind at Turn 15, 3rd place was in the bag for our hero.
But out in front, Marquez wasn’t even touched, as he completed a weekend long masterclass in his backyard, rolling over the line for win No.8 of 2019, with Desmo Dovi going from 10th to 2nd and living up to his predicted podium pace, and our Jackass scored his third podium of 2019, with a well-earned mature ride!
Interestingly, Marc, Dovi and Jack all went for the Medium front Soft rear tyre setup, unlike the Yamahas, who went for a Medium-Hard setup.
That was also Dovi’s 99th career podium in Grand Prix racing, moving him alongside another Italian stalwart in Loris Capirossi.
Marc has now passed 300 points for the season, and his Championship equation is simple- Win in Thailand, and it’s all over.
Moto2- The Remy Rollercoaster
Kevin Magee read out a very interesting story on the Fox Sports pre-race coverage, that Remy Gardner supposedly turned down the KTM MotoGP ride vacated by Zarco for the rest of 2019.
Not much to report really- Remy qualified 12th, while out in front, Brad Binder charged away and scored his fifth career victory in Moto2, leading home Jorge Navarro and Alex Marquez, who scored another 16 points on Augusto Fernandez in the Championship, after Fernandez crashed on the opening lap and finished well out of the points in 22nd.
Remy actually finished this time, scoring a couple of points with a 13th place finish, which was a pretty appropriate result for a quiet weekend.
Next Up: The flyaway races begin- Thailand in a fortnight!