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26th September 2019

Vettel steals the show as Ferrari outgun Mercedes at Marina Bay

The German beat his teammate thanks to an expert undercut, with the team clinching their first one-two since 2017
Vettel steals the show as Ferrari outgun Mercedes at Marina Bay
Photo: Mypoorbrain @ Wikimedia Commons

Sebastian Vettel ended a year-long wait for a Grand Prix victory as Ferrari clinched their third straight victory in Singapore.

The intelligent use of the undercut by Binotto’s team proved decisive, in a race where Mercedes were frustrated in refusing to follow suit, eventually suffering from excessive wear on the Silver Arrows.

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff admitted that the decision to not pit  Lewis Hamilton on the same lap as Vettel left the team with only one option: To attempt to gain a boost from fresh tyres late in the contest.

Ferrari’s victory was however not without controversy, as it was decided that Vettel would pit first, handing him an advantage over teammate Charles Leclerc, who had won the previous two races in the championship.

Ferrari had aimed to move Vettel ahead of Hamilton by handing him fresh tyres, and expected Leclerc to regain his lead after he pitted just one lap later.

Despite this, Vettel gained 3.5 seconds through the early undercut, putting him ahead of Hulkenberg, who had also stopped early.

The result was that Vettel came to undercut his teammate, an unconventional practice in F1.

Binotto confirmed that after the incident, the team was considering swapping lead drivers, although they had not disclosed this to either Vettel or Leclerc.

Audibly frustrated with the undercut when speaking on team radio, Leclerc is learning the difficulties of having to align his meteoric rise with working alongside a four-time world champion.

Although the result of the undercut was unintentional, the start of a high-pressure team rivalry – akin to that of Hamilton and former partner Nico Rosberg – may be underway.

Elsewhere, Max Verstappen made the podium, finishing just 3.8 seconds behind the Ferrari pair. Sergio Pérez, George Russell, and Kimi Räikkönen all failed to finish.

Hamilton was the other big loser of the race, dropping from second in qualifying to finish fourth overall.

The 34-year-old is now winless since the summer break, although he still holds a healthy 65-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas, and a further 31 points over Verstappen and Leclerc.

Yet the story of the race at the end of the Singapore GP weekend was Ferrari’s strategic outmanoeuvring of rivals Mercedes, on a track notable for the difficulty to overtake, alongside the fact the Scuderia have gone from looking like they couldn’t buy an F1 victory at the start of the season, to now winning three-in-a-row.

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