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Vettel Dominates as Mercedes Hit Troubles

Sebastian Vettel once again reminded fans how he has won four Formula 1 World Championship crowns after a stunning lights to flag victory at the Singapore GP. Daniel Ricciardo finished second behind his former team mate, with Kimi Raikkonen rounding off the top 3. Two notable absences from the podium were the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Rosberg came home 4th whilst his title rival Hamilton failed to finish for the first time this season. It was also the first time this season that a Mercedes driver hasn’t finished on the podium. So with Rosberg’s engine failure in Italy and Hamilton’s retirement in Singapore, is this just a blip for Mercedes or is there a serious problem slowly creeping in?

Hamilton’s retirement is being blamed on a "freak issue" by the team, but this will surely worry Hamilton with the Japanese GP just one week after Singapore. The problem with back to back races is that the team will not have as much time as usual to determine what went wrong in Singapore, and to make sure the problem is rectified before Japan. Thankfully for Hamilton though, Rosberg was unable to take full advantage of the situation and still sits 41 points behind Hamilton in the standings.

For Mercedes though, it was a baffling weekend in general. From total domination two weeks before in Italy to being almost three seconds off Vettel, is certainly a worry. The Marina Bay street circuit is a very different from many circuits on the calendar - and it certainly showed. The twists and bends of the circuit played straight into Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s hands, and showed that the Mercedes do have weaknesses. The fact that the circuit isn’t focused on power may be a plausible explanation to the slump in performance, but the team won’t feel comfortable until they know exactly what caused the issues. Japan may provide some reassurance for the team with a focus back towards power and give more indication if there an underlying issue, or if it was a one-off weekend.


Verstappen Provides the Entertainment Again

Formula 1 once again produced a tepid grand prix, albeit with a different victor this time out. Sebastian Vettel did what the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton has done for the majority of the season. So once again, we must look for the action further down the field. Once again, Max Verstappen stepped up to produce a superb drive that kept viewers entertained. It wasn’t an easy evening for the teenager however, as he stalled on the grid from 8th position and found himself a lap down, seemingly ruining his race before it even started. A collision between Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa brought out the safety car, enabling Verstappen to un-lap himself and begin to make good progress through the pack. One safety car period enabled Verstappen to fight his way through the field, another safety car period put Verstappen right in the fight for points again. On the super-soft tyres, Verstappen pulled off some of the fantastic moves that we’ve been accustomed to all season, allowing him to finish an impressive 8th place.

During his fight from the back, he was in a constant duel with his team mate Carlos Sainz. In the closing laps of the race, Verstappen was then asked to swap places with Sainz by the team, who determined Sainz had fresher tyres and could challenge Sergio Perez for 7th. The decision didn’t go down well with Verstappen who reacted angrily and defied his team.

Personally I think Verstappen had every right to ignore his team. If you can drag yourself from being a lap down, albeit with safety car periods, and find yourself in 8th place with 5 laps to go, there really isn’t any need for him to move over. Had the Toro Rosso had a more powerful engine he may have got Perez, whose top speed was just too much for the young Dutchman. Verstappen did say afterwards that he feared the reaction of his dad, ex F1 driver Jos Verstappen, more than the team’s. Verstappen said "He told me if I had let him past he would have kicked me in the nuts" All the motivation that Max needed right there!

Maldonado Signs on for 2016

I suppose it was inevitable that the announcement of Pastor Maldonado having another year in F1 was announced after the Singapore GP, when Lotus announced that he would be driving for the team next year. It was a very strange announcement from the team with it being very low key, and a lot of the media had already packed up and left the circuit. On top of that, the team had already left the circuit as well when the press release came out. Lotus did not want to talk about their line-up for obvious reasons. I have written a lot on Maldonado this season, and how patience surely should have been lost by now with him. Unfortunately what this announcement says, once again, is that money is more important and influential in getting a drive in F1 than talent. Also what was notable from the driver announcement was that there was no mention of Romain Grosjean, fuelling speculation that Grosjean is ready to walk away from Lotus at the end of the season. On the upside to this, the announcement could indicate that Lotus will be staying in F1 for 2016, which is brilliant news. The team only staved off a winding-up petition in the high court three days earlier, which revealed how bad Lotus’ debt actually is. For the sake of the team, Renault’s buyout of the team can’t come soon enough.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

Read more on Simon's blog here

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