Sebastian Vettel wins Singapore Grand Prix as disgruntled Charles Leclerc questions Ferrari strategy

Phil Duncan
Sebastian Vettel's famous right index finger returned following his victory in Singapore - Getty Images AsiaPac

 

Sebastian Vettel revealed that a number of goodwill messages inspired him to end his 392-day losing streak here on Sunday.

The four-time Formula One world champion celebrated his 53rd career win under the 1,500 bulbs which light up the Marina Bay Street Circuit, 22 races after he last stood on the top step of the podium at the Belgian Grand Prix in August 2018.​

Until Sunday’s triumph, Vettel had been on a torrid run, one which reached its nadir in Monza a fortnight ago when he spun at Ferrari’s home race. But the German, who actively steers clear of social media, said the subsequent support from fans, as well as people within the motor racing community, encouraged him to return to the winners’ circle.​

“I have taken a lot of energy from the messages and handwritten letters I have received,” said Vettel. “People have shared their own stories with me. For us, everything is centred around racing, but racing isn’t the most important thing.​

“When you read the notes that people are struggling in life, and some were very intimate about it, it gets to you, so it gave me a lot of belief and confidence to keep on trying. I knew I wasn’t far away from a breakthrough moment, that I just needed to keep doing the job and things would fall into place. I am happy that has happened sooner rather than later.”​

Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix; his first victory since August 2018 Credit: REUTERS

Vettel’s first win of the campaign takes him to within four points of both team-mate Charles Leclerc, and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, in the championship standings. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team have apologised to their star driver, who claimed he was robbed of an “easy” victory following a strategy blunder. The world champion finished only fourth. Hamilton had been running in second place, but was left in no-man’s land when Mercedes elected against reacting to an early pit stop by Vettel – one which enabled the German to get the jump on his Ferrari team-mate Leclerc and ultimately bring to an end his 13-month losing streak.​

The Briton plodded around the 23-corner course on ageing rubber for seven laps longer than Vettel and six more than Leclerc. By the time Mercedes did pull Hamilton in, it left him in fourth, and his hopes of victory up in smoke.​

It would have been worse had Valtteri Bottas not followed a Mercedes order to slow down and ensure Hamilton did not become vulnerable to attack from Red Bull’s Alex Albon. Mercedes’ chief strategist, James Vowles, moved to acknowledge that it was his faux pas which cost Hamilton the shot at a hat-trick of Singapore wins. “Today there wasn’t a driver mistake, but a mistake in the strategy, and James, with his wide shoulders, said, ‘I have f***** it up’,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said.​

“We had a package capable of pole, an opportunity to win, and we made too many mistakes this weekend, with too many opportunities lost. The mood in the team is one of annoyance.”​

Hamilton said he had urged his team to risk the undercut (stopping before your rival to take advantage of fresh tyres) in the pre-race meeting, but that his request fell on deaf ears.​

“It’s painful for us because we could have easily won today,” Hamilton said. “I was asking them to do the undercut, to take the risk, and go for it, but they didn’t. Two other teams got it right today and leapfrogged us.”​

Like Hamilton, pole-sitter Leclerc also fell foul to strategy. The young Monegasque appeared set to become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher to win three races in a row, only to leave the pits with Vettel ahead of him.​

Leclerc was furious on the radio. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t understand the undercut,” he said, believing he should have been given priority over Vettel, who was third before the only change for tyres. “We will discuss after the race.”​

Later, he added: “I won’t do anything stupid, but I just think it is unfair.”​

Hamilton may have been denied a ninth victory of the year, but he was still able to extend his championship lead to 65 points over Bottas, who finished fifth.​

Leclerc, third in the standings, is 96 points adrift of Hamilton with just six rounds remaining and 156 points available.

 

3:59PM

That's it from me today

If you refresh your page you will be able to see Phil Duncan's race report from Singapore. More to come from him and me in the next couple of days. Plenty to pick out of it, although it will go down as one of the more humdrum races in the past couple of months but still, a rare Ferrari 1-2 and a couple of strategy calls that were questionable. In truth though both Ferrari's decision to pit Vettel first AND Mercedes' decision to keep Hamilton out were understandable when you look at what happened. 

I'll be back next week for the Russian Grand Prix. What chance of a fourth Ferrari win in a row?

3:52PM

Always good to come back to my pre-race predictions, below

A text of pre-race predictions

 Can't say I exactly nailed it but happy to get the Grosjean and Gasly ones spot on. 

3:49PM

Updated constructor standings

3:40PM

Updated driver standings

Mercedes nowhere and Hamilton extends his lead. Oh, for a more competitive Ferrari earlier on in the season. In fairness, they had chances to win in Bahrain, (arguably) Azerbaijan, Canada and Austria.  

3:37PM

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on his team's difficult day, speaking to Sky Sports F1

"I think everybody was surprised by how strong the undercut was. At that moment we'd already lost the position to Sebastian. You lose the win, you try and do the offset and go a bit longer. Lots of assumptions and all was different. Our tyre just wore off and it wasn't competitive any more and this is why we ended up nowhere. We didn't get going; we had a slow car out of the blocks...after every single restart we were lacking pace and that's the harsh reality."

Is he worried about Ferrari's form:

"Yes, you have got to be worried and on your toes all the time. They have won the last three races and you cannot rest on your laurels from the beginning of the season and a solid points gap because that can catch you out."

3:34PM

You wonder how this will affect team harmony at Ferrari

Vettel's out lap was crucial, though. He made the undercut work and then worked his way through the midfield runners ahead of him. I think Leclerc will reflect on this as a weekend that he had the upper hand on Vettel but lost out due to an unfavourable strategy call. No need to be alarmed. There may be a few more opportunities for race wins in the final six races. 

Charles Leclerc congratulates Sebastian Vettel

 

3:31PM

Vettel celebrates

Three wins in a row for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel is not finished yet. A good response to a very difficult season for him. He obviously owes a lot of it to luck but he didn't put a wheel wrong all afternoon. 

Vettel celebrates his win Credit: REUTERS
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his win Credit:  REUTERS

 

3:28PM

A fairly poor race for Mercedes in every aspect

 Not sure they could have beaten Ferrari but Hamilton was running second in the early stages, so to finish fourth shows how poorly they executed their strategy. And he would have been fifth were it not for team orders that told Bottas to slow down to ensure Hamilton remained ahead on track. Did they try something different or were they trying to be too smart for their own good? The strategy was...messy today from a number of teams. 

3:23PM

Leclerc reacts to a disappointing second place

It's always difficult to lose a win like that but at the end it's 1-2 for the team so I am happy. All the guys deserved it. We came here hoping for a podium but go home with a 1-2. It's like this, sometimes it goes that way and I will come back stronger. 

Let's wait for a few grands prix but it looks pisitive here. Quali pace, race pace was strong too. They did a good job. The most important thing is that we finished 1-2. 

It's fair to say he does not look pleased. Disgruntled and rightly so.  

3:21PM

Vettel reacts to his victory

"Very happy. Great race. First of all big congratulations to the team. The start of the season has been difficult but recent weeks I think we started to come alive. Secondly I really want to thank the fans. The last couple of weeks for me have not been the best. It's been incredible to get the support. It gave me a lot of strength and belief and I tried to put it into the track today."

On the strategy:

"It was a very late call. I thought it was a bit early because I wasn't sure we could make the tyres last in the second stint. Then I gave it everything in the out lap when I saw the two cars ahead stay out. I was quite surprised to come out ahead. It was tricky at the restarts with the cold tyres. Just the corner before the pit entry I received the call."

3:16PM

Mattia Binotto takes to the team radio to speak to Charles Leclerc

I guess it sounded apologetic, but my Italian is pretty limited. Thankfully Norris picks up a decent number of points for his seventh place, with no mechanical issues denying him this time. Gasly drove well, too, and Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi deserve credit for their top 10 finishes. 

3:15PM

Provisional top 10

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. GAS
  9. HUL
  10. GIO

3:14PM

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE 2019 SINGAGPORE GRAND PRIX!

"Thanks guys," he is bound to say in Italian on the team radio. A 1-2 for Ferrari, three wins in a row for the Scuderia after such a testing season. They will enjoy this and they deserve too. It's fair to say that this result will have shocked Mercedes. 

Wonder what Leclerc will say after the race? My guess is that he will be displeased but fairly reserved in his comments. 

3:12PM

FINAL LAP

Even Vettel won't stuff this up now. He's driven brilliantly today. Some luck, yes, but he has been there to take advantage. Not sure it exactly answers his critics but it might quell them a bit...

3:11PM

Lap 60 of 61 - Verstappen wants more power to hold Hamilton off

This could be dicey. He's told he's got all the power available to him. It's been a bit of a strange race with some strange strategy calls from Ferrari and Mercedes. Ferrari's didn't cost the team, though, only Leclerc. Mercedes tried something different but it didn't work. And it looks like Hamilton will finish off the podium...

This is going to be a super unlikely Ferrari 1-2! What odds would you have got on that at the start of the weekend?

3:09PM

Lap 59 of 61 - Hamilton eyeing up Verstappen now

He's within DRS range. It's going to very hard to pass, though. Very hard. Vettel now a matter of minutes away from his first victory in over a year. 

3:08PM

Lap 58 of 61 - Leclerc has dropped back beyond two seconds...

Vettel was lucky to end up ahead of Leclerc and the subsequent safety car periods (three of them) meant that he didn't have to endure too much sustained pressure from Leclerc. But he has driven well and without error today. It will feel like a very well-earned win for him. 

3:06PM

Lap 57 of 61 - Vettel extends his lead again

I suspect Leclerc has given up. Well, stopped pushing like a maniac anyway. Gasly can't seem to find a way past Norris despite his tyre advantage and stays in P8. Hulkenberg is doing well in P9 at the moment after his early collision. Let's cross our fingers for no more late-race reliability issues for the teenager. 

3:03PM

Lap 56 of 61 - Leclerc falls back

Vettel set the fastest lap of the race last time around and extends his lead to 1.3s. I think that could be that. This has not been a brilliant race but we were bound to have a poor one after so many good ones. Leclerc back to 1.5s at the end of the lap. Surely this is Vettel's?

3:02PM

Lap 55 of 61 - Top 10

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. GAS
  9. HUL
  10. GIO

3:01PM

Lap 54 of 61 - If you are looking to read something that says Leclerc is closing in on Vettel

I can't help you. Vettel seems to have this under control at the moment. That's not to say he won't shove it in the wall in the remaining laps. 10 minutes or six laps to go now...

Having said that, Leclerc is very close to being within DRS range towards the end of the lap. Again, not quite. 

2:58PM

Lap 53 of 61 - Vettel keeping Leclerc at bay

He's outside of DRS range at the moment. But only just. Hamilton has dropped back significantly from Verstappen. He's 1.3s behind now. Gasly within 0.6s of Norris ahead, both men have driven excellent races. Leclerc still outside of DRS range at the start of the next lap...

2:57PM

Lap 52 of 61 - Race restarts with 10 laps to go

Vettel bolts away this time as the SC peels in and gets a huge lead, choosing not to back up the pack. Leclerc has closed the gap somewhat by the middle of the lap, though. Hamilton harries Max Verstappen for the final podium spot - he's around half a second away. 

Meanwhile Hulkenberg complains of a dodgy gearbox. Ahhhhh. He's still in P9 at the moment but will he make it to the end of the race? It's very, very close and very, very tasty between P11 and P15. 

Leclerc trails by a second with nine laps to go. 

2:54PM

Lap 51 of 61 - SAFETY CAR PERIOD

This means it's unlikely we will get the 61 laps in, the race ended after two hours instead. At least borderline, though. That obviously helps Vettel as it's fewer laps that he's under pressure from now until the chequered flag. 

SC in at the end of this lap. Hopefully we'll get the full race distance in. 

2:51PM

Lap 50 of 61 - Raikkinen and Kvyat collide!

Kvyat tries to send one down the inside at turn one, they collide and go onto the run off! Raikkonen's suspension is done and he's out. That will surely be another safety car. Raikkonen turned in but Kvyat was there and that was that. Kvyat continues, however...

And that's ANOTHER SAFETY CAR. 

2:50PM

Lap 49 of 61 - Vettel leads Leclerc by just over a second

Crucially out of DRS range. Gasly is driving a brilliant race today and he's up into P8. I think he could trouble Norris here. He went very long on the first stint, remember, running as high as second. Who knows even if Albon is under threat from him?

2:48PM

Lap 48 of 61 - Race restarts!

14 racing laps to go. Hopefully. Unless we get another safety car. Which we probably will. Maybe from Leclerc sending one down the inside of Vettel. 

The race restarts, Vettel leads the field away but Leclerc is closer this time. Much closer! Verstappen isn't too far behind, either. Vettel knows what this win would mean to him. He will be under pressure in the cockpit. No mistakes. In the second part of the lap Vettel looks the quicker as he extends his lead.  

As ever, some brilliant tussling in the midfield between Ricciardo, Grosjean, Magussen, Gasly and a few others. It's frantic. Vettel leads by a second at the end of the lap. 

2:45PM

Lap 47 of 61 - Hamilton nearly ran into the back of Verstappen under the SC

SC coming in this lap. Finally, thankfully. 

2:44PM

Lap 46 of 61 - Top 10

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. MAG
  9. RAI
  10. GAS

2:43PM

Lap 45 of 61 - Leclerc still unhappy

"I want everything," Charles Leclerc says on the team radio. "We need to manage the car," his team tells him. "I won't be stupid," he replies. Hmm. It's fair to say he's quite upset at the situation and so should he be. I wouldn't call this a strategy blunder but it's definitely a really unfair way for him to lose this race. 

2:41PM

Lap 44 of 61 - Stroll pits again

Why? Who knows? He's dead last on the road. This safety car helps Ferrari and disadvantages Hamilton. I still don't think Hamilton would have had the required pace advantage to make much of a move towards the top of the podium, however. Track position is crucial on street circuits like this but Mercedes tried something a little too clever for their own good. Or maybe they just misread the situation. 

2:37PM

SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

Yep, it is a safety car. Now what? Nothing, I guess. The gaps are obviously not big enough for anyone to try anything. 

2:36PM

Lap 43 of 61 - Leclerc is the quickest man on the track

He wants to get on with this and, as I have said numerous times, I do not think he is going to die wondering. Very hard to overtake on this track, though. Now Perez stops on track with a mechanical failure of some kind. Will that be another safety car or VSC? Nothing more than yellow flags yet. 

2:34PM

Lap 42 of 61 - Top 10

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. MAG
  9. RAI
  10. PER

2:33PM

Lap 41 of 61 - Vettel leads the field away

Vettel gets his boot down early and keeps a comfortable lead in the early part of the lap. Stroll and Gasly go side-by-side, touch wheels but Stroll keeps his place in P12!  Leclerc isn't looking like he has brilliant pace compared to Vettel at the moment but we will know a bit more in the next few laps. 

Stroll has a puncture! Sparks flying from his front wing and underfloor dragging on the ground. He's fairly close to the pits which is fortunate for him but that's ruined his race. It's his front left that was done in and he also had a damaged front win in the same area. He hit the wall on his own, it seems. 

2:30PM

Lap 40 of 61 - The safety car stays out for another lap...

But it won't be too long before it's back in. In fact it's coming in at the end of this lap. So, top six all on the hard tyres, Hamilton's are six or seven laps fresher than the Ferrari drivers. Charles Leclerc led in the early stages but Ferrari brought Vettel, who was in third, in before him and the fresh tyres helped him emerge in the net lead after Leclerc stopped. That is why Leclerc is so angry and annoyed.

As I said, I think Leclerc will have a go if he gets anywhere close enough. He is not happy. Even if he doesn't, can Vettel keep error free until the end of the race? And what can Hamilton and Verstappen do?

2:27PM

Lap 39 of 61 - Russell's Williams is removed from the scene of the accident

George Russel's car is removed from the track Credit: Sky Sports F1

2:24PM

Lap 38 of 61 - SAFETY CAR 

"Let's concentrate on the race," Leclerc is told. He has obviously expressed his displeasure to his team. To be fair he has plenty of reasons to be unhappy. "To be honest with you, I do not understand at all the undercut," he says. It was a fairly complicated situation but Vettel benefited from being third on track instead of first. 

I can actually see Leclerc sending one up the inside of Vettel here if he gets close enough. 

Anyway, here's the top 10:

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. MAG
  9. RAI
  10. PER

2:21PM

Lap 37 of 61 - SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

Well, I think Grosjean should have backed out of that one. Russell had the corner, on the inside, on the exit but Grosjean put his boot in and forced the collision, in essence.

None of the top teams pit at this period. Nico Hulkenberg does, though. I think he needed to do that as those hards were not going to last until the end of the race. Ferrari would have lost track position had they pitted their cars, so they kept them out...

2:19PM

Lap 36 of 61 - George Russell in the wall...

He had a collision with Grosjean and went slowly into the wall but that's the end of his race. Double waved yellows at the moment but this surely must be a VSC or a full safety car now. 

"I shouldn't be surprised," Russell says. Would need another look at that but it wasn't good. SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED! NOW WHAT?!

2:17PM

Lap 35 of 61 - Leclerc getting on with it

Leclerc quickest man on the track as he sets the fastest lap. He needs to get on with it. I can't see Ferrari switching their drivers here, even though they screwed Leclerc with the strategy. I can see Leclerc getting as close as he can to Vettel and screaming on the radio, though. 

2:16PM

Lap 34 of 61 - Giovinazzi and Ricciardo collide!

It was a bump as the Australian went through Giovinazzi was sent wide on the outside. Ricciardo now has a puncture. It was not the smoothest move, he was quite late on the brakes but it wasn't great from Giovinazzi, either. A racing incident, I think. 

2:14PM

Lap 33 of 61 - Top 10

  1. VET
  2. LEC
  3. VER
  4. HAM
  5. GIO
  6. BOT
  7. ALB
  8. RIC
  9. HUL
  10. NOR

It's working out well for Hulkenberg at the moment. However, he stopped on the first lap so these hard tyres will have to go for 60 laps. Is that possible? I'm not sure. Vettel now has a six second lead over his team-mate. This has not worked out well for him, despite leading for the entire first stint. 

2:12PM

Lap 32 of 61 - Verstappen goes up the inside of Gasly

And takes fourth place. Once these midfield runners who have yet to stop are out of the way we will have the real race back underway and without further impediment. Gasly finally pits and will surely go onto the mediums. 

2:10PM

Lap 31 of 61 - Vettel retakes the lead

Not much resistance, as expected. Leclerc passes Ricciardo but he has lost a fair amount of time in this stint. I can't see how he wins this one from here. But he was not happy about Vettel using the undercut. Fair enough, really. 

2:09PM

Lap 30 of 61 - Vettel gets his elbows out...

Vettel runs Gasly off the track and takes second! That was a really robust move. He came from a long way back, there was slight contact but Gasly had to run off the track to avoid any serious issues or damage. Vettel will be coming up on Giovinazzi for the race lead soon enough and I don't expect he will offer much resistance, being a Ferrari academy driver himself. 

That Gasly and Vettel incident is not going to be investigated. 

2:07PM

Lap 29 of 61 - Leclerc and Vettel pass Stroll

They needed that desperately. Vettel is the net leader at the moment. Ferrari pitted him first and that worked out well for him as he undercut his team-mate. This is working out VERY well for Gasly on the hard tyres. His current race pace is better than the quicker cars behind him, or it was until they passed the traffic. 

2:05PM

Lap 28 of 61 - Top 10

  1. GIO*
  2. GAS*
  3. RIC*
  4. VET
  5. STR
  6. LEC
  7. VET
  8. HAM
  9. BOT
  10. ALB

*yet to stop.  

2:05PM

Lap 27 of 61 - Giovinazzi leads Gasly and Ricciardo...

"What do you think we should do?" Hamilton asks. We just need to close up onto the back of him, the race will happen at the end, he is told. I mean, that's kind of true but how is Hamilton going to get past the three cars ahead of him? They will have to be lapping three, four or even five seconds a lap slower for Hamilton to have a chance.

I can't see that happening myself. Still, they could end up with increased tyre wear battling with the midfield runners ahead who have yet to stop...

2:02PM

Lap 26 of 61 - Hamilton comes in!

Giovinazzi will lead. Vettel is struggling to get past Stroll and is losing time. Mercedes waited for Ferrari to be held up by the midfield runners ahead who have yet to stop.  Hamilton still comes out in fifth but just ahead of Bottas, who Mercedes told to slow up. That worked out well for Hamilton in that regard but he's been severely compromised by his strategy here. Yes, he has much fresher tyres but he's not going to be able to overtake Verstappen, Leclerc and Vettel ahead of him...

1:59PM

Lap 25 of 61 - Hamilton's pace is not brilliant at the moment

He's lapping over three seconds off Bottas's pace. Vettel is 22 seconds behind him, Leclerc 23.4. But surely Hamilton can't go too much longer on these tyres as the time that Vettel and Leclerc lose will be offset by the time he is losing on worn tyres. Bottas is told to slow his pace to basically keep Hamilton ahead of him. Which seems a bit strange...is that an admission that they've made an error here? Hamilton is going to be out in fifth at this rate. 

1:57PM

Lap 24 of 61 - What are Mercedes hoping for here?

For the Ferraris to be held up by the midfield runners yet to stop ahead of them? They are about to approach them and that will cost them. And they won't get blue flags. Vettel is approaching Stroll. When Hamilton pits, Antonio Giovinazzi is going to be leading this race. Pierre Gasly, who is on the hards and is almost certain to run very long, will almost certainly lead the race. 

1:55PM

Lap 23 of 61 - Top 10

Plenty of drivers yet to stop yet. 

  1. HAM*
  2. GIO*
  3. GAS*
  4. RIC*
  5. STR*
  6. VET
  7. LEC
  8. VER
  9. BOT
  10. ALB

*yet to stop

1:54PM

Lap 22 of 61 - This is strange from Mercedes

Hamilton is going to come out behind Verstappen at this rate. Those who have stopped are so much quicker than he is. "It's close," Mercedes have said. But are they telling him the truth or just telling him what he wants to hear? They surely aren't going to put him on used mediums. Bottas pits...he will come out behind Verstappen and in P9, by a long way. 

BTW Giovinazzi is in second, Gasly is in third!

1:52PM

Lap 21 of 61 - Can Vettel keep out ahead of Hamilton?

And can Leclerc? This is going to be close. So close! Hamilton's pace is good. Hamilton has stayed out again for another lap. Is that going to cost him? Are they hoping for a safety car? Leclerc is not happy at coming out in second...Vettel sets the fastest lap. This has played out superbly for Ferrari...so far. 

1:51PM

Lap 20 of 61 - "Let's undercut him"

Hamilton says. But Leclerc will be coming in this lap. Hamilton does not, though...he's going longer! Could that work? I'm not sure but a mistake from Leclerc on his out lap could be costly. It's a super fast stop from Ferrari but Vettel has undercut Leclerc and Vettel is ahead of him! The undercut was SO powerful there...

1:49PM

Lap 19 of 61 - Vettel and Verstappen pit

Hamilton is entering undercut territory now. And there is a gap for him to slot into now, I believe. Bottas doesn't have so much of a gap but he's in undercut territory, too. Vettel pits from third! Let's see how quick he is on the fresh tyres. He's onto the hards. Verstappen mirrors him. Vettel gets out ahead of Hulkenberg in P11 but Verstappen does not...

1:47PM

Lap 18 of 61 - We are entering the latter stages of the first pit window

Hamilton has closed the gap again by 0.4s. The gap for the pit window is now opening and I think we will see some action soon. Grosjean has to get his elbows out to keep Hulkenberg behind but he succeeds. Just. Hamilton now within a second of Leclerc, two out on their own at the front now. Tyres starting to go off now...

1:45PM

Lap 17 of 61 - Leclerc leads Hamilton by 1.5s

Hamilton found four tenths over Leclerc on the last lap. Decent. The leaders finally the two quickest men on the track. Vettel, Verstappen and Bottas not on the same pace at the moment. Kubica gets mugged by Perez and Kvyat towards the end of the lap as he slips back to P18. 

1:43PM

Lap 16 of 71 - Sergio Perez sets the fastest lap of the race

And it was over two seconds quicker than Leclerc's lap time on the same lap. Yes, the Mexican has fresh tyres but that's not the only reason. Anyway, Leclerc gets on with it with his fastest lap of the race, a 1.48.3...his lead has been extended to nearly two seconds. Hamilton struggling with his tyres. 

1:41PM

Lap 15 of 61 - This is EXTREME pace management at the front

Surely they have to explode into life soon. Heaven knows this race needs it. Anyway, midfield update: Raikkonen 11th, 1.1s off Gasly, Ricciardo 0.8s behind the Finn and in 12th. Leclerc finds a few tenths of a second as he is told to go to "mode: race". Perez and Raikkonen have pitted from the midfield. 

1:39PM

Lap 14 of 61 - Top 10

  1. LEC
  2. HAM
  3. VET
  4. VER
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. GIO
  9. MAG
  10. GAS

1:39PM

Lap 13 of 61 - The pace at the front far from electrifying

The gaps between the top six are almost uniformly one second. Norris actually gaining on the leader, now nearly within eight seconds. I think we could see the first stop from the frontrunners soon. But maybe not as all of them would come out in heavy traffic. So being the first not to blink is the aim of the game. 

1:36PM

Lap 12 of 61 - I wish I could bring you some action at the front

But we haven't even seen them on TV for several laps now. Which says a lot. The quickest man on track is Ricciardo, and that's by a whole second. Yeah.  As Martin Brundle points out on Sky, if Leclerc was to pit now he'd come out in P18...

1:34PM

Lap 11 of 61 - Norris holding the best-of-the-rest spot very well

In P7. Meanwhile, Perez gets past Kvyat. What's happening at the front, though? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Everyone holding place. To show you how slow they are going, Lando Norris is still within nine seconds of the lead after 11 laps...yeah. 

1:32PM

Lap 10 of 61 - Ricciardo getting on with it, at least

Daniel Ricciardo is hustling Daniil Kvyat all around the track. After a few attempts he finally pulls it off at turn 15! Nice move. Stroll also gets past and Perez will also be past soon as well. The Russian really struggling. Ricciardo up to P12 now. He judged that perfectly. 

1:30PM

Lap 9 of 61 - Leclerc extends his lead

As Hamilton falls back a bit towards Vettel. But we are talking a tenth or two here, nothing too significant. The field are very bunched up. Only 23 seconds from first to Grosjean in P16, who hasn't yet stopped. Bottas within 0.5s of Verstappen now and looking to have good pace on these tyres. 

"I can't really go much slower," Hamilton says. Yeah, it's a bit of an annoying part of the race, to be honest. GET ON WITH IT LADS. Maybe?

1:27PM

Lap 8 of 61 - Ricciardo gets past Stroll for P13

Points a definite possibility for him now. "Let's go boys," is his rallying cry on the team radio. 

1:26PM

Lap 7 of 61 - Lap 11 is the start of the pit window

So it's now a case of waiting to see who blinks first. Tyre preservation the order of the day. I reckon everyone will be trying to get these softs as long as possible. That said, because the gaps are so small it gives Red Bull a chance at a handy undercut here. And as it's a long lap it could work quite nicely. But we'll see...

1:25PM

Lap 6 of 61 - It's all quite stable at the front

Gaps between everyone in the top six between 1.1 and 0.7 seconds. Verstappen close to Vettel ahead. It's not like anyone is close enough to make a move, though. Hulkenberg and Russell the quickest men out there...

1:23PM

Lap 5 of 61 - Top 10

  1. LEC
  2. HAM
  3. VET
  4. VER
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. GIO
  9. MAG
  10. GAS

1:22PM

Lap 4 of 61 - Hamilton closes the gap  

Hamilton gets within DRS range of Leclerc early in the lap. Not sure if Leclerc made a mistake somewhere as he was two tenths quicker than Hamilton on the last lap. Hulkenberg shoved Sainz up the inside and gave him a puncture. Not sure if that was a racing incident but it didn't look like Sainz's fault to be honest. Verstappen now being harried by Bottas, who is within DRS range.  It's all a bit of a phoney war at the moment...

1:19PM

Lap 3 of 61 - Leclerc leads by a second

Hamilton, having got some breathing room behind, is the fastest man on the track at the moment. He's within 1.1s of Leclerc at the start of the lap. Now Verstappen is closing up on Vettel, Albon is hanging onto the back of Bottas at the moment, P5 for the Thai driver would be a very good result today. Incident involving Hulkenberg and Sainz being investigated. Sainz is finally out of the pits after over a minute...

 

1:17PM

Lap 2 of 61 - Hulkenberg pits and goes onto the hards

He must have had damage at some point, most likely after contact with Sainz somewhere. Ricciardo got hit somewhere, too. He's currently up into P15, though. It was Russell and Ricciardo who collided but it was very soft. Sainz comes onto the pits from last but the mechanics can't get the car up on the jack due to the damage. Oh dear...

Top 10:

  1. LEC
  2. HAM
  3. VET
  4. VER
  5. BOT
  6. ALB
  7. NOR
  8. GIO
  9. MAG
  10. GAS

1:16PM

THE SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX IS GO!

Leclerc has to wait a long time in his grid slot. At least 20 seconds, if not longer. 

The lights go out. It's a very good start for Leclerc who keeps his lead as Vettel hassles Hamilton in the opening part of the lap, Vettel is very close going into the heavy braking zone of turn seven, Hamilton has to cover - he's all over the track now! Verstappen gets ahead of Bottas early on, Albon holds sixth but Carlos Sainz has dropped down to P20, not sure what happened there...

Norris up to P8, Hulk in P7.  Leclerc leads by 1.2s at the end of the lap. 

1:11PM

Formation lap underway

Starting tyre types: top 9 on softs, everyone else apart from Gasly on the mediums. Gasly on the hards and I am re-thinking my decision to say he'll put in a good performance here...

Anyway, everyone gets away cleanly on this very long formation lap. No dramas. The short run to the first turn will be crucial here on a track that'd difficult to overtake. And Ferrari will desperately want Vettel to get second or at worst keep third. 

1:08PM

Predictions?

For me: a safety car on the first lap, Hamilton and Leclerc to have contact, Bottas to struggle and Vettel to shove it into the wall. Gasly to put in a very good performance to get into the top eight. Romain Grosjean to do something Grosjeanesque. 

Winner? Leclerc. 

1:06PM

A big race for Alex Albon today

He looked to be struggling to get clear of the midfield in qualifying yesterday but managed it comfortably in the end, qualifying within 0.265s of Max Verstappen - and that's on a very long track, too. Pierre Gasly was rarely that close. The crucial thing is how close he can get to him in the race, though. 

1:02PM

Does Leclerc have a problem?

A bit of a commotion at the back of his car and there was a delay in starting the car up. It seems to be okay now, though, according to Sky's Karun Chandhok. Leclerc now getting his belts on. Not ideal. 

1:01PM

Daniel Ricciardo speaks to Sky Sports about his penalty for a technical infringement and DSQ from qualifying

Can he find some Honey Badger magic from down the grid? 

We'll see. Unfortunately it's not really the track for it but I'll try. Obviously I'll do what I can. I feel alright. They have definitely taken a big opportunity away... I am not impressed at all. That's where I stand at the moment. 

It does seem unnecessarily harsh given that it gave him a microsecond's advantage and that wasn't even on his quickest run. But rules are rules. 

12:56PM

Drivers standings after 14 rounds

I mean, it's all over isn't it? Despite Hamilton (relatively) struggling in the past few rounds. 

I'd like to say stranger things have happened but I am not sure they have. Bottas needs a hell of a lot of luck to win the title now.  

12:53PM

Mercedes strategy head says the mediums won't come into play...

...unless there's a late safety car. Mercedes have no fresh medium tyres to use, so will have to use used ones. If they use them at all...that suggests, then, that they will be going straight from the softs to the hards. Both Bottas and Hamilton have one new set of hard compound tyres. Interesting. 

12:50PM

Martin Brundle on his millionth grid walk

He's waiting for Charles Leclerc for a chat, but no luck so far, so he talks us well through the Ferrari's modified front end for the time being. It's worked pretty well so far. Bit of a non-event for the grid walk so far, never mind. He collars a bearded Adrian Newey who says that it's annoying that Ferrari have improved their performance on higher downforce circuits. 

12:40PM

Could we see a hard-racing Lewis Hamilton this weekend and the rest of the season?

12:39PM

Where did Ferrari find all this time from?

Yes, they were winners in both Belgium and Italy but this was a track that was not supposed to suit them. But suit them it has. Here's what team principal Mattia Binotto had to say about it all:

"Today things went better than we had hoped. After the two wins in Spa-Francorchamps and Monza we all came out here somehow hoping to continue the momentum and do something special, and somehow we did it. We brought a new aero package here, which proved positive but more importantly, it shows that our development is going in the right direction.

We have clearly identified our weaknesses and we are addressing them, which is also useful for next year. I still believe that our rivals are very strong and that we need to improve in some areas but at least we are on the right path."

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto Credit: REUTERS

 

12:36PM

The final starting grid

We will get underway in about 35 minutes. 

12:34PM

A bit of strategy here for you

But perhaps the most important thing will be when the safety car comes out as it is almost certain to do. 

 Looking at this model from Pirelli you'd say that if there's an early safety car (i.e. in the first pit window) there's a chance for them to put on the hards and run to the end. But, really, given how little anyone has run on the hard tyre this weekend it might not be a goer and - if it happens around the pit window - they might just try and run a few laps longer on the mediums. Of course, a late safety car could give drivers the chance for a cheap stop, stick on the softs and then go hell for leather. I'm sure we'll see a degree of variation today whatever happens. 

12:28PM

Lewis Hamilton: GOAT or an inspirational quote in human form?

12:21PM

It looked, for a while, that Vettel was back to his best in Q3

But it was a false dawn. Or, more accurately, a slightly unrepresentative state of affairs after the first runs. Both Mercedes hit trouble in their out laps and Leclerc, clearly, had bags of time to find; which he did.

Sebastian Vettel will start in third Credit: Getty Images

Vettel said this after qualifying yesterday:

"I'm not completely satisfied with my Q3, as I wasn't able to improve on my second attempt. I made a mistake in sector 1 and I realised I was not improving, so I decided to abort the lap. It started off very well, but I wasn't able to put together the lap I potentially had. Overall, first and third is great for the team and even if I cannot be entirely happy we can say that we were able to extract the most from today."

12:16PM

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel blast F1 owner's plan to spice up grand prix qualifying with reverse grid race

It did not go down too well. 

Asked about Liberty’s qualifying idea, Hamilton, who has a 63-point lead in his march to championship number six, shook his head. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “The people that propose it don’t really know what they are talking about.”

Vettel was even less complimentary. Read more of their thoughts on the format shake-up here.  

I actually think it's worth discussing and even trying. That said, I think the current qualifying format is decent and the real issue is improving the racing on Sundays through the regulations without tinkering with the formats too much. Get the basics right and then you won't need outlandish solutions. 

12:01PM

Leclerc's pole lap in all it's "on the limit" glory

Came a bit close to smashing it into the wall on a couple of occasions...

11:53AM

Final times after qualifying

  1. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1min 36.217secs
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:36.408
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:36.437
  4. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:36.813
  5. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:37.146
  6. Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:37.411
  7. Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:37.818
  8. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:38.264
  9. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:38.329
  10. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:38.620
  11. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:38.697
  12. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:38.699
  13. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:38.858
  14. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:39.650
  15. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:39.957
  16. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:39.979
  17. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:40.277
  18. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:40.867
  19. Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:41.186
  20. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault DSQ

Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from qualifying after stewards found that "the competitor exceeded the MGU-K power flow limit permitted under Appendix 3, per Article 5.2.2 of the 2019 Formula One Technical Regulations". He will start last on the grid. Renault estimate that it gained him 0.000001s on his lap (which wasn't even his quickest of the session) and was caused by hitting a kerb. 

11:38AM

Can Charles Leclerc take a hat-trick of 2019 victories at the Singapore Grand Prix?

He starts in pole position and he already has a hat-trick of those and, traditionally, it's quite difficult to dislodge the pole position man in Singapore. In fact, just three of the 11 times the race has been held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit has a man who wasn't on pole won. It's possible and history will not dictate the outcome of the race but it's a good sign for the Ferrari man, to be honest, especially with the form he's in. 

If Leclerc were to follow up his first and second victories with a third in a row, completing the hat-trick, he'd join an elite club that includes Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen. And nobody else. Leclerc already has the most pole positions of anyone this season, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas behind him on four each, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen on one each.

Another couple of interesting stats: Hamilton has never had this few pole positions after 15 rounds since 2011. And Leclerc will start from pole for a fifth time, without ever having started second on the front row. I am not sure if that's some kind of record, but it's impressive anyway. 

Charles Leclerc will start on pole in Singapore Credit: Getty Images

It was somewhat of a surprise that Ferrari were anywhere near competitive enough to challenge the front row, let alone pole position but their new aerodynamic package is working brilliantly in Singapore. So well done to Ferrari. It's arguable that they should have locked out the front row but Hamilton found some time on his second run in Q3 whilst Vettel - who was at that time quickest by a few tenths - messed up his second hot lap and had to abort it. The German qualified third with Max Verstappen in fourth and Valtteri Bottas in fifth. 

"I am extremely happy about today," Leclerc said afterwards. "It was a very good lap but there were some moments where I thought I lost the car, but I got it back.

"We came here knowing that it would be a difficult track for us but the team has done an incredible job to bring the package we needed. I had a tough Friday, it was not my day, and I didn't feel comfortable in the car, but the hard work has paid off."

It's a long, hot race and it's going to be interesting strategically. It's lights out at 1.10pm BST and I'll be here with you from now until the chequered flag.