2011 Singapore Grand Prix: Vettel Is One Point Away From World Title

I spent the Singapore GP weekend in Singapore at the race and I must say it is one of the most exciting races for me to visit on the racing calendar. While many are in awe of the ‘racing under lights’, I am in awe of the different time zones that the entire Formula1 circus works in.

Our day typically starts at 1600hrs local time, which actually is 0900hrs UK time and ends by 0600hrs, which is 2300hrs UK time. The team personnel, drivers, media and everyone involved actually live in Singapore but on UK time zone. Quite amazing if I tell you that ‘breakfast’ is served in the motor-home post 1630hrs!

Back to on-track action, Sebastian Vettel won his race quite convincingly, with Button mounting a late race challenge. Considering that my race report is almost a week old, I am sharing a few special pointers for the 2011 Singapore Grand Prix:

–          The Singapore GPs have always been the longest on the calendar. The minimum race time in Singapore has been around the 1hr 56min mark. The 2011 edition was the longest ever and finished just under 2 hours at 1hr 59mins!

–          Mark Webber and Jenson Button had an interesting verbal duel before the start of the race with the Brit hoping that the Aussie driver would suffer from yet another slow start and he would benefit from it. That is exactly what happened to Webber and he lost 4 places at the start. Although, Hamilton had an even worse start and dropped to 8th place in the opening lap.

–          Force India drivers didn’t participate in Q3 of Saturday’s Qualifying (Read: 2011 Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying Report) and switched their tyre strategy at the start of the race. Adrian Sutil used the super-soft whereas Paul di Resta used the soft compound.

–          The tyre strategy worked perfectly for Force India who scored their season’s second double points finish. Their 6th and 8th place finishes earned them 12 points in the Constructor’s Championship and are only 22 points behind Lotus Renault.

–          This result was Force India’s best result since their first ever podium at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Paul di Resta finished 6th, stopping twice en route to the flag – his career best finish till date!

–          Lotus Renault on the other hand had a miserable race. They were fined by the Stewards for some miscommunication with Bruno Senna, but what was worse was that they were fighting with Team Lotus Racing during the race. Infact, Heikki Kovalainen beat Vitaly Petrov on race pace! Quite an achievement for Team Lotus Racing.

–          Lotus Renault has scored 70 points till the Singapore GP. 60 of these points were scored in the first 7 races and the team has managed only 10 points in the last 7 races.

–          Lewis Hamilton is the most penalized driver of the 2011 Formula1 season with 5 penalties. His mid-race collision with Felipe Massa was uncalled for and can be labeled as ‘too aggressive’. In my opinion, the contact was made at the apex (or just after) of the corner and that is when you can blame the driver behind for being too aggressive.

–          Hamilton’s tyre strategy was compromised after he punctured and lost a set of super softs during Satuday’s qualifying session. However, some excellent driving and aid from the Safety Car period helped Hamilton finish 5th in the race. In comparison, his team-mate Jenson Button, finished 2nd and is mathematically the only driver who can win the world title from Vettel by one point! Button has finished on the podium 8 times this year; twice the number of times as Hamilton.

–          Michael Schumacher’s shunt with Sergio Perez brought out the Safety Car period earned him a reprimand post-race. Interestingly, his wife’s ex-boyfriend Heinz Harald Frentzen was the Driver Steward for the Singapore Grand Prix weekend. (Read: Driver Reprimands To Be Replaced By Grid Penalties)

–          Sebastian Vettel’s race pace was unmatchable. He opened up a gap of 5.5 seconds in the first 4 laps and showed similar pace post the Safety Car period. Vettel claimed his 9th win of the 2011 season and his 15th win from pole.

–          Jenson Button, however, spoiled Vettel’s ‘hat-trick’ attempt by claiming the ‘fastest lap of the race’ from Vettel on lap 54.

–     The first and second duo of Vettel and Button held their race positions for the entire race, which means that they were unchallenged throughout the 61 lap race.

–          Ferrari drivers finished 4th (Alonso) and 9th (Massa); thereby ending the Italian team’s chance to win any championship this year.

Up next is one of my favourites, Suzuka and my eyes will be glued to Force India’s improved performances.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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