I’m back and recovering from a long-haul whistle-stop trip to Singapore (we left on Friday and arrived back in Newcastle on Tuesday morning) and so I thought I’d get my take on what proved to be a frustrating Grand Prix for Williams down before jet-lag and tiredness robs me of them and I have to rehash someone else’s version of what happened (perish the thought!).
The headlines from the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix will all be around Ferrari’s strategy seeming to favour one of their drivers at the expense of the other, Lewis Hamilton’s inability to compete, and the processional nature of the six (almost seven) car train at the head of the field, none of them able to so much as attempt an overtake on the car ahead of him.
Nothing demonstrated the pedestrian pace of the then leader Charles LeClerc than McLaren’s Lando Norris’ ability to close on the leading gang of six despite his time in Q3 being two seconds adrift of the Ferrari man.
And so it was inevitable that if anything was going to wrest the win away from LeClerc, it was going to be strategy. However, he couldn’t have expected that he’d be beaten into second place as a result of an undercut by his team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
And didn’t it show on his face in parc ferme??
Further down the field, Williams suffered another ignominious race. George Russell, starting 18th – the customary one place ahead of his team-mate – damaged his front wing in a collision on lap 1 and had to pit for a replacement.
Robert Kubica, seven races from the end of his Williams F1 career, made the most of the melee ahead of him, moving up to 16th on lap 1.
However, he struggled for pace on his first stint, and was soon shuffled back to 18th, with Russell behind and catching.
Not once in the 17 laps between Russell pitting at the end of lap 1 and him passing his team-mate was Kubica’s lap time within a second of the young Briton’s, and was as much as five seconds slower (a lap!) at times.
So quickly did Russell reel in his team-mate that we, track-side, presumed Kubica had been off-track or stopped for tyres.
But it was not so.
Williams must be frustrated at such a discrepancy between its two drivers – for one driver to close a 40 plus second gap on his team-mate in just 20 laps demonstrates that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere.
Russell’s ‘rubbish race‘ would end on lap 33 when everyone’s favourite bumper-car driver Romain Grosjean with a new Haas deal in his locker, left his nose alongside the Williams’ rear wheel on the exit of turn 14 and the resulting collision sent Russell to his first early bath of his #F1 career.
Kubica would see the flag in 16th position in a race he described, post-race, as one of his ‘biggest personal achievements’ due to the gruelling nature of the Singapore Grand Prix/the Marina Bay circuit and of the difficulties he’s having to overcome.
On to Russia in a week’s time!