Vettel wins Singapore GP, Leclerc annoyed at Ferrari strategy


SINGAPORE -- Sebastian Vettel took his first race win in over a year after a strategy call from the Ferrari pit wall saw him beat teammate Charles Leclerc to victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Leclerc, who started from pole position and led for the first 20 laps, was clearly unhappy with the way the race panned out and let the team know with a series of frustrated messages over team radio Under one of the three Safety Cars towards the end of the race, he was told to bring the car home safely, to which he responded "I won't do anything stupid, but this is not fair".

But however frustrated he was, he couldn't convert that pent up anger into pace and finished the race 2.6s behind his teammate to complete Ferrari's first one-two of the season.

Max Verstappen took third place for Red Bull ahead of the two Mercedes, which also lost out in the pit stops.

Lewis Hamilton dropped from second place on the grid to fourth at the finish while Valtteri Bottas retained the fifth place he started in.

Alex Albon finished sixth in the second Red Bull ahead of Lando Norris' McLaren, Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso, Nico Hulkenberg's Renault and Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo.

The Safety Car was deployed three times in the closing stages of the race on Sunday.
The Safety Car was deployed three times in the closing stages of the race on Sunday.
Lars Baron/Getty Images

The race at the front ultimately boiled down to the timing of each the top four driver's pit stop, which played out between laps 19 and 26.

Vettel was the first to pit for fresh tyres on lap 19 from third place, and with it gained a pace advantage over the two cars in front on his fresh rubber. Leclerc only pitted one lap later, but the length of the Singapore lap meant he lost enough time on his aging soft tyres to lose the lead of the race to his teammate when he emerged back on track.But the race wasn't just a straight fight between the Ferraris.

Matters were complicated by Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, which had looked like the fastest of the top three cars for the first 20 laps, as he circulated in second place between the two Ferraris.Hamilton did not have the pace to overtake Leclerc during the opening stint, but the Ferrari and Mercedes pit walls were being drawn into a game of chicken over who would pit first. Go early and you had the chance of gaining the advantage of fresh tyres Vettel exploited so well -- known as the undercut -- but go too early and you would filter back out into traffic with the risk of the tyres struggling to hold on for performance at the end of the race.

Ferrari took the initiative by radioing Vettel to pit just two corners before the end of lap 19 and, although the team didn't know it at the time, three Safety Car periods at the end of the race helped ensure tyre degradation did not become a problem in the closing laps. Mercedes then had to react to Vettel's stop and told Hamilton to do the opposite to Leclerc.

The gaps on track suggested Leclerc could pit and come out ahead of Vettel, but despite a faster pit stop than his teammate he emerged behind Vettel. It seems he lost time on his inlap, but whether it was due to a mistake or just the state of his tyres was not clear.

With Hamilton now the only driver of the top three left on track on his starting tyres, he was losing time to the two Ferraris as well as Verstappen, who had also pitted on lap 19 and gained a similar Vettel-like undercut.Mercedes took the decision to go longer into the race, which would have paid dividends if a Safety Car had come out. But Hamilton was losing more and more time by staying out on his aging soft tyres and had to pit on lap 26 -- as it turned out, nine laps before the first Safety Car emerged.

He emerged from his pit stop in fourth place -- and even that was only thanks to teammate Bottas slowing his pace to make room for Hamilton to come out in front.

The first of the Safety Cars was caused by a collision between Romain Grosjean and George Russell on lap 35 as they fought for position exiting Turn 8. Grosjean got caught on the outside of the corner but left his nose in the fight as Russell moved across to take up his track position. The impact pitched the Williams into a slide, which quickly resulted in a collision with the wall.

The second Safety Car was caused by Sergio Perez's Racing Point stopping on track with a mechanical issue and the third by a collision between Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen on the run down to Turn 1. Kvyat was attempting a move on the inside of the Alfa Romeo, but came from a long way back, resulting in an impact as Raikkonen turned into the corner.

Despite the stop-start nature of the second half of the race, it had no bearing on the order at the front other than helping Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen nurse their tyres. The result was that Vettel comfortably secured Ferrari's third win in as many races and the German's first victory in 392 days.