F1’s last Singapore Grand Prix – from team orders to disqualifcation

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A modern classic, the Singapore Grand Prix is a race loved by Formula 1 fans and drivers in equal measure.

Whether it be the backdrop to running a race on the streets of Marina Bay, the stunning photography or drivers experiencing some of the toughest conditions of any Grand Prix anywhere, Singapore always delivers.

However the race has not been held since 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced F1 to stay away in ’20 and ’21, but restrictions have been lifted to allow F1 to head just 80 or so miles from the equator.

But what actually happened in the 2019 race? Why was Daniel Ricciardo disqualified in qualifying and who was aggrieved by his teammate in the race by team orders?

State of F1 before 2019 Singapore Grand Prix

Heading into the race, Lewis Hamilton was firmly in the lead of the championship after a third-place in the previous race in Italy.

The Mercedes driver was on 284 points, with Valtteri Bottas on 221 but only having won two races to Hamilton’s eight at this stage in the season.

However, despite winning in the previous three seasons, Marina Bay was not the strongest track for the Mercedes package, as Ferrari and Red Bull were the key players over the weekend.

Ferrari – and Charles Leclerc – had come off the back of two wins in Belgium and Italy, with Leclerc looking far more comfortable than four-time World Champion teammate Sebastian Vettel.

The Scuderia had found a turn of pace, with its straight-line speed advantage pushing them towards the front after an underwhelming first half of the season.

It would be Leclerc who took pole position ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen and Bottas with newly drafted in Red Bull driver Alex Albon a strong sixth.

			© Singapore GP Pte. Ltd.
© Singapore GP Pte. Ltd.

Ricciardo disqualified from qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo’s switch to Renault for 2019 had not gone as the Australian would have hoped, with just five points finishes prior to the race weekend – although he was fourth at Monza.

After qualifying in eighth place, Ricciardo was flung out by the stewards for a technical infringement after exceeding the MGU-K power flow limits.

The incident occurred in Q1, when after a kerb strike, the MGU-K exceeded the permitted allowance for one microsecond.

It was also not on his fastest lap, so Renault tried to plead its case to no avail.

As he was starting at the back after being granted dispensation to race, Ricciardo took a 10-place penalty for new engine parts – but would only climb to 14th at the end of the race.

Pit-strategy determines race

In the opening stages, the leaders, led by pole-man Leclerc were driving as slow as 15 seconds off the pole time of 1m:36.217s in a bid to save their tyres and open up as many strategy options as possible.

Vettel and Verstappen broke the train on Lap 19, diving into the pits to exchange their Medium tyres for Hard ones – emerging 12th.

Fortunately, and crucially for Vettel, he emerged in clear air and was able to push, leaving Leclerc vulnerable to a potential undercut.

Although it was a quicker stop for the Monegasque, he still blended into Turn 3 just as Vettel was going by – cue an apoplectic reaction in the #16 Ferrari.

Hamilton was goal-hanging for a Safety Car out front, but on Lap 26 he pitted only to come out behind both Ferraris and Verstappen – which left Bottas vulnerable.

He was ordered by the team to slow his pace to create a gap for Hamilton to drop into, or risk the British driver falling behind the likes of Albon and Lando Norris.

Three quick-fire Safety Car periods followed for Romain Grosjean nudging George Russell into the wall, Sergio Perez conking out and Danill Kvyat’s audacious failure of a move on Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1.

Behind these Safety Cars, Leclerc pleaded with the team to reverse positions with Vettel, feeling aggrieved that a Grand Prix win had been snatched away through no fault of his own.

The reversal never came as Vettel crossed the line for his 53rd, and to date, last Grand Prix victory, with Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas rounding out the top five.

Antonio Giovinazzi briefly lead the race for Alfa Romeo – the only time he would do that in his F1 career – spending four laps in the lead during the pit-cycles.

He picked up one point for a 10th place finish.

			© Singapore GP Pte. Ltd
© Singapore GP Pte. Ltd



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