Rosberg hangs on to grab Singapore win and championship lead

2016 Singapore Grand Prix review

Posted on

| Written by

Nico Rosberg’s third consecutive victory has fired him back into the lead of the drivers’ championship – and piled pressure on his team mate at title rival.

Lewis Hamilton was forced to settle for third place. And that was one position higher than he might have finished had it not been for a questionable strategic call by Ferrari.

With Hamilton off his game, that left Daniel Ricciardo to take the fight to Rosberg. And the Red Bull driver came within half a second of taking the victory.

Hulkenberg’s start line crash

Hulkenberg’s race ended very early
For once both Mercedes got away from the line well, though in Hamilton’s case it wasn’t well enough to take second place away from Ricciardo. At any rate they wouldn’t be racing for long, as the Safety Car was summoned moments later due to unfolding chaos behind them.

Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull had made another of the sluggish getaways which have spoiled his races since the summer break. “It wasn’t as bad as Monza,” he explained, “but it wasn’t good.”

“I had a lot of wheel spin and then with [Nico] Hulkenberg spinning in front of me, I had to brake even more which compromised my whole start.”

Hulkenberg was gyrating because he had got away very well, only to find himself competing for the same patch of road with Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

“I had made such a good start – probably my best getaway off the line this year,” said Hulkenberg. “I went for the gap between the two Toro Rossos, which was there, but obviously things got very tight.”

“I had Daniil [Kvyat] on my right and Carlos on my left, and Carlos hit my left rear, which sent me into the wall.” His race was over before he’d even reached the first corner.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Marshal’s near-miss

A marshal had a terrifying near-miss
The race was restarted at the end of lap two after little delay but the speedy resumption of racing almost had serious consequences. One marshal near turn one had not yet returned to his post, and had to sprint for cover as the cars hammered towards him approaching top speed. He was still running alongside the track as Rosberg and the rest came by.

Ricciardo, who’d started on super-soft tyres, edged towards Rosberg’s ultra-soft-shod Mercedes in the first laps at racing speeds. But from lap seven the Mercedes began to increase their pace and Rosberg edged away.

However all was not well for the 2016 pace-setters. Both drivers were receiving warnings about their brake temperatures – and Rosberg’s were particularly urgent. Nonetheless he continued to edge further ahead of Ricciardo.

Crucially, he was also able to eke a sufficiently long stint out of his ultra-soft tyres. By lap 15 Red Bull decided it was time to get on with their programme and brought Ricciardo in, a lap before Rosberg arrived in the pits for his first stop.

Hamilton came in on the same lap as Ricciardo which, in his view, wasted an opportunity to get closer to the Red Bull. He also wasn’t pleased with the choice of soft tyres for his second stint, believing it was too conservative. Rosberg was on the same rubber while Ricciardo took another set of fresh super-softs.

This allowed the Red Bull to make some inroads into Rosberg’s lead, bring it down to 3.8 seconds before his tyres began to wilt. Mercedes weren’t having things all their own way.

That was particularly true for Hamilton, who was still struggling with his brakes. On lap 33 he ran wide onto the kerb at the exit of turn seven – a place he’d been struggling at all weekend – and Raikkonen pounced. The Ferrari driver was up into third, but this change of positions set up a thrilling conclusion to the race.

Ferrari’s strategy blunder

Raikkonen lost his grip on third place
Hamilton’s second set of soft tyres put him on course to finish the race. But early in the stint Mercedes advised him they were switching to ‘plan B’ and he swiftly increased his pace: he would be stopping again.

“Once my signal of brake overheating reduced, I was able to start to pick up the pace,” he explained. “I was still getting the warnings towards the end but like the last ten laps, I just kind of just let it continue flashing as a warning and hoped for the best.”

He returned to the pits with 16 laps to go to take on a set of super-soft tyres. All eyes were now on Ferrari to see whether they would react. Hamilton had been 2.1 seconds behind their man on the lap before his stop, but the performance gain from a set of fresh tyres at Singapore was huge, putting Raikkonen at great risk from the ‘undercut’.

Nonetheless Ferrari chose to bring him in. He was sent away with a set of ultra-softs bolted on but he wasn’t able to make use of them before Hamilton whistled past. Raikkonen was characteristically blunt in his response to his engineer’s reminders about obtaining the maximum performance from his car. “What do you want me to do in the pit lane? Go faster?”

Ricciardo chases Rosberg

Ricciardo chased Rosberg – to no avail
While Raikkonen did not have enough time in hand to pit and come out in front of Hamilton, Ricciardo did: and Red Bull took full advantage. Mercedes, however, were more alert to Ferrari of the threat of being ‘undercut’ if they brought Rosberg in. “Box,” they told the race leader after Ricciardo came in, “but stand by for abort”.

The high buildings around Singapore present teams with the added complication of poor GPS data. That is crucially important when making these last-tenth-of-a-second decisions – something Mercedes have bitter experience of from Monaco last year, when they inadvertently threw away a certain victory for Hamilton. Since then the team has produced new software to work more reliably in these circumstances, and in Singapore it served them brilliantly.

Monitoring Ricciardo’s progress and Rosberg’s delays in traffic closely, the team urgently told Rosberg “staying out” the instant it became clear he could no longer preserve his lead over Ricciardo. But he would have to hang on until the end on his older, harder tyres.

Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race on the 49th tour. It was his first full lap back on the super-softs, and at 1’47.187 it was a stunning 3.7 seconds quicker than Rosberg managed on the same lap. It tore the first chunk from his 25-second lead which Ricciardo decimated over the remaining laps.

Rosberg kept some pace in reserve – he backed off to the low 1’51s for a few laps – but the advice from Ricciardo’s engineer that a 1’50.3 represented Rosberg’s true pace was bang on the money.

A critical moment came on lap 57. Rosberg got his pace back down to that level just as Ricciardo was losing time in traffic. But concern grew on the Mercedes pit wall as it became clear Rosberg was going to come awfully close to catching a three-car train of lapped cars on the final tour.

It was close – but not close enough for Ricciardo. He began the final lap two seconds behind Rosberg. Kevin Magnussen, the first of the driver they were catching, did his personal best first sector on the leader’s final lap. Had he caught blue flags a few corners sooner, Ricciardo might just have done it. As it was he crossed the line less than half a second behind Rosberg.

Nonetheless Ricciardo was pleased his team had taken the gamble. “I think we did the right thing in the end,” he said. “Obviously it still didn’t give us victory but I think staying on the same tyre probably wouldn’t have
given us any better chance.”

Vettel climbs to fifth

Vettel made moves on his way to fifth
The lack of Safety Car appearances after the second lap of the race was a surprise to many. The early appearance at least helped Sebastian Vettel minimise the time he lost by starting last, and a plentiful supply of fresh tyres made his progress back into the top five fairly straightforward, though he had to get his elbows out along the way.

Fernando Alonso held fifth place at the end of the first lap and briefly entertained hopes of picking up a few more places if a Safety Car period fell in his favour. But none came, and he inevitably dropped back behind the faster cars of Vettel and Verstappen.

However seventh place was an excellent result for McLaren at a track where Toro Rosso looked quicker. Sainz was unlucky to receive the black-and-orange flag due to loose bodywork on his car following the collision with Hulkenberg, which wrecked his chances of scoring points. Team mate Daniil Kvyat lost time behind Alonso and scrapping with Verstappen on his way to ninth.

Kvyat was also out-done by Sergio Perez, who worked his usually deft way with the tyres on his way to eighth. Force India got him off his used ultra-softs during the Safety Car period, and a 36-lap run on the soft tyres got him back into the points following his double penalty yesterday.

Kevin Magnussen also deserved considerable credit for earning Renault’s second points finish of the year with tenth place. A disappointed Esteban Gutierrez notched up his fifth point-less 11th-place finish for Haas, though that was at least better than his miserable non-starting team mate managed.

Rosberg back ahead

Rosberg took the title lead from his team mate
As Rosberg explained, his win was especially sweet for Mercedes 12 months on from their disastrous 2015 showing at Singapore.

“We got destroyed by Red Bull and Ferrari,” he reflected, “and we understood what we did wrong and came back this year and beat them on their strongest track. That’s really awesome to see that.”

Rosberg marked his 200th career start with his eighth win of the year, one which fires new energy into his championship bid. He went into the summer break having lost the lead to Hamilton, but has come back hard at his team mate as the championship moves into its final phase.

Hamilton has fallen behind his team mate in the championship, but he’s recovered larger deficits in less time already this season.

“We’ve come from 43 points down so theoretically eight points isn’t anywhere near as steep as that,” he said.

“But still, Nico’s been performing fantastically well. This weekend he’s done an amazing job. I expect him to continue like that so I’ve got make sure that I do the same.”

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

56 comments on “Rosberg hangs on to grab Singapore win and championship lead”

  1. It will be a disgrace if Rosberg wins this championship. He’s an average driver who was being beaten by a 43 year old Michael Schumacher on pure pace lol.

    1. If Rosberg is an average driver then that doesn’t exactly reflect well on Hamilton. In fact, that reflects very poorly on Lewis.

      When looking at the champions from the past 20 years alone, Rosberg is a faster driver than Hill, Villeneuve, Raikkonen and Button.

      1. At one race. Also, how many technical issues has Hamilton had this year and almost recovered from?

        1. “Nico Rosberg’s THIRD consecutive victory… “

          1. Completely. But Rosberg lost to Hamilton the past two years. So, saying Rosberg is average (which I don’t believe) doesn’t reflect bad on Lewis.

          2. @x303
            In their past 4 years together, Hamilton has struggled to truly dominate Rosberg like Senna did to Berger, Schumacher did to Barrichello, Alonso did to Fisichella, and Vettel did to Webber. I would say that if Rosberg is average, that does reflect very poorly on Lewis (who is supposed to be a great).

      2. He’s certainly not better than Raikkonen or Button. Not sure about Hill or Villeneuve as I wasn’t watching when they were racing.

    2. Beaten by Schumacher? What series were you watching?

    3. I think that Rosberg has shown over the past few years that he is far from “an average driver”, especially not if we accept Hamilton to be something special.

      In 2014 he took the fight to the last race, Hamilton won and stepped up a notch to dominate the early goings in 2015. But Rosberg found new form after Singapore 2015 and would have won the next few races if not for misfortune. In the end he saw Hamilton take the title because he himself made a mistake in the wet and since then he has taken another step up.

      He hasn’t let losing that large early point lead get to him, and has now won 3 races in a row again. Winning 8th this season already and he is even with Hamilton on poles so far this year.

    4. Even an average observer would rate Rosberg higher than an average driver.
      And an expert like Hamilton rates him as “performing fantastically well”.

    5. He is not an average driver. In fact he deserved to win this year’s WDC over Lewis.

      1. When you can’t hold a 43 point lead then you deserve nothing

        1. Hamilton turned a 19 points advantage in a 8 points deficit in 3 races…

          1. Yeah, Lewis was so bad at Spa he started last. Oh wait!

    6. This ‘average’ driver just out-qualified Hamilton by 0.7 seconds….

    7. i don’t agree, he’s only average in the wet.

      1. In their first year as teammates I remember rosberg constantly beating Hamilton in the wet.

        1. I sincerely hope it will be close to the end. With a finish like last year, Roberg might come out on top. He just needs to avoid racing Hamilton on track, that is where it will go wrong. This year looks like one that is for Rosberg to thrown away, only by himself, mechanical misfortune or a wet race.

      2. Yeap, wet is his problem; and letting Lewis past; he “lost” 19 points in Monaco for letting Lewis past when he did.

        Lewis better start doing some “rain dances” because if it’s dry, there is a 50/50 chance Rosberg will get the title.
        Poles so far are 8 to 8.

    8. Rosberg has not been beaten by Michael, and if he’s an average driver then so is Lewis;
      They are both great drivers!

    9. An absurd comment. Whether he is better than Hamilton overall or not, he’s not simply an average driver, and he certainly wouldn’t be not deserving of a championship. It would definitely not be “a disgrace”

    10. I’m so tired on Hamilton fans always hating on anybody.

      1. Me too.A lot of them have only followed F1 since 2007 or more recently and think they know everything.

  2. “What do you want me to do in the pit lane? Go faster?”. Someone show me Kimi’s top ten radio quotes. I loved the one from Monaco 2015: “Come on, where is the blue flags? Do I have to ******* try to overtake him or what? lapped car!” Or his one from USA 2015: “That guy keeps pushing me off the circuit everytime when I am next to him. So if that’s legal then next time I will do the same!” Or how about: “What the **** is this Marussia doing? He has been 3 corners now in the middle of the road!”

    1. I don’t think I will ever understand this phenomenon. If pronounced by any other driver, all but the first quote would probably be perceived as whining.

      1. His accent is just magic.

    2. i can’t muster a top 10, but this is my Top 5 Kimi quotes (not just radio messages):

      5. “Driving is the only thing I love about F1.”

      4. Interviewer: “The most exciting moment during the race weekend?”
      Kimi: “I think so it’s the race start, always.”
      Interviewer: “The most boring?”
      Kimi: “Now.”

      3. Engineer: “We need to keep working all four tyres, please. Keep working all four–”
      Kimi: “Yes, yes, yes. I’m doing all of that. You don’t have to remind every second minute.

      2. Engineer: “Ok, Kimi, Alonso is five seconds behind you. I’ll keep you updated on the gap…”
      Kimi: “Just leave me alone, i know what i’m doing”

      1. Brundle (as interviewer): “Kimi, you missed the presentation by Pele…”
      Kimi: “Yeah, I was having a shit!”

      He always seems rude, blunt or bored, but at least he’s genuine.

  3. As for the Verstappen start, it seems the team had already found an issue with the clutch on saturday, the FIA allowed them to inspect it, but because it was not terminal they couldn’t replace it, so they knew up ahead that his start would not be easy –

    1. @bascb makes you wonder, if that’s the case, why Verstappen moved to the middle of the track after the green lights… pretty dangerous if you ask me.

      1. Duncan Idaho (@)
        19th September 2016, 3:23

        Because he thought that the inside line would be full of macerated FI just up the road?

        1. @didaho
          If that was the reason behind his move, he must be a psychic. The footage ( shows that he was well on his way to the middle of the track *before* the accident happened. His positioning contributed to the collision.
          I wouldn’t blame him for it, though.

          1. Duncan Idaho (@)
            20th September 2016, 3:27

            it was a joke – kind of a nonsensical statement that I occasionally employ to relieve the stress of breathing all the time.

          2. @didaho
            Fair enough, you had me there, :-)

        2. @didaho @fer-no65 @bascb It’s pretty standard for drivers to move over to get a better line, whether they get a good start, bad start, or average start. It’s just very rare and unfortunate for four cars to happen to meet in the same spot. It is surprising that it doesn’t happen more often, but I certainly wouldn’t call it (Verstappen’s driving) dangerous. It’s just one of those things that happened.

  4. Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race on the 49th tour. It was his first full lap back on the super-softs, and at 1’47.187 it was a stunning 3.7 seconds quicker than Rosberg managed on the same lap. It tore the first chunk from his 25-second lead which Ricciardo decimated over the remaining laps.

    Ricciardo’s lap of 1’47.187 also smashed the previous lap record of 1:48.574 by Vettel in 2013. These cars are awesome.

    1. @juan-fanger Not the same layout. I like these cars though.

      1. cantrecallmyusename
        19th September 2016, 10:25

        Please excuse the following pedantry.

        Decimate means to reduce by 10% or from it’s Latin origin “to kill one in ten of the enemy soldiers”.

        It’s misuse, sadly, is becoming the accepted meaning which goes to show that when given command of the English language going forward, the Americans have allowed laziness and ignorance to take precedence over the true meaning of many words.

        To return to topic, yes it was exciting to watch RIC catch up to Rosberg but as soon as he got close, Mercedes simply turned the engine up and that was that. It was like watching a mouse being tortured by a cat, allowed to think it was getting away only to be pinned down and let go time and again.

        1. I was at the race, and Mercedes might well have turned up the engine – hard to see at the track. But what they most certainly did do is allow him to work the brakes far harder. All through the weekend it was Mercedes and Williams who were working them harder – glowing far more than other teams. In the second half of the race Rosberg greatly reduced his braking and was coasting far more – until the final few laps when he lit them up again and pushed far harder.

          The braking of the Mercedes and Red Bull is noticeably superior when viewed live at a track.

        2. Decimate is pretty accurate given that it took 10 laps to catch up.

  5. (1st paragraph is supposed to be quoted – what I wouldn’t give for a “preview” feature)

  6. Felt really sorry for Hulkenberg but great job by Ricciardo.

  7. I think, to be honest it’s unfair to criticize Ferrari for their call. You have to remember the circumstances, Vettel had just pitted and set 3 ridiculously fast laps, about 3 seconds a lap faster than anyone else. So, it’s normal to assume that Lewis would do the same. In which case, Lewis would be on top of Kimi well before the end. So they were damned either way. Now in hindsight, the call they made didn’t work, but the other call might have worked (we don’t know). But they didn’t have hindsight. So they had to pick one.

    1. Ï think the only “trick” they really missed there was to pit kimi a lap before Hamilton, or on the same one and get the undercut, or at least not suffer from it. But they didn’t manage to do that and that was it for Kimi. I doubt that he could have kept his place had he not pitted, but as you mention, we will never know for sure.

      1. @bascb indeed, that was their error. They should really have done whatever Merc did. If they saw the Merc crew getting out for Hamilton, that is when they should also have headed out and brought Raikkonen in. That would have netted him the podium.

        That was their mistake. Not bringing in Raikkonen was risky: Ricciardo came from behind Rosberg and closed the gap – so surely Hamilton could have closed the gap to Raikkonen as well given the car delta’s (Ricciardo – Rosberg was the second fastest car on better tyres hunting the fastest car, Hamilton – Raikkonen would have been the fastests car on better tyres hunting the third fastest car) and given how he was ahead of Raikkonen already. So I agree pitting him was a better option, it was just the timing that was not good.

        1. “If they saw the Merc crew getting out for Hamilton, that is when they should also have headed out and brought Raikkonen in. That would have netted him the podium.”

          Well it is all well and good saying that, but what if they pulled Raikkonen in and Hamilton didn’t then pit? Then they would have had to rely on Raikkonen catching and passing Hamilton (which given Ricciardo vs Rosberg wasn’t a guarentee) and if he didn’t get back passed they would have still have people moaning at them in the comments.

          1. Well, he was stuck behind Hamilton anyway. I don’t believe he would have repassed him, and I think most will agree. 16 laps on the ultrasoft would have seen him easily close up the gap to a soft-shod Hamilton, as they knew Vettel did a mid-race 18-lap stint on the ultrasoft while maintaining good speed. So even in that situation it would have been the best shot at the podium.

          2. @Mattds, no raikonnen was in front at the time of the stops.

          3. “Well, he was stuck behind Hamilton anyway”

            Nope he was infront at the time Hamilton pitted

            “and I think most will agree. 16 laps on the ultrasoft would have seen him easily close up the gap to a soft-shod Hamilton”

            Yep and probably run out of laps for an overtake, just like Ricciardo.

          4. Yeah made an error there, Raikkonen was in front. Either way:
            – if he doesn’t pit and Hamilton does, then Hamilton could have easily closed the gap seeing what Ricciardo in the slower car did with the gap to Rosberg in a faster car. And Hamilton had two laps more than Ricciardo had. My thinking is there would have been a few laps to put in a few overtaking manoeuvres, Raikkonen is a sitting duck and gets passed.

            – if he pits and Hamilton doesn’t, then it’s basically Ricciardo-Rosberg fully mirrored but as he was ahead before the stop as opposed to Ricciardo being behind, he already gains a few seconds on the Ricciardo-Rosberg scenario. Added to that he gains a few laps too. Again a realistic shot of catching Hamilton a few laps before the end of the race and putting in a few overtaking attempts.

            So I consider pitting with Hamilton with the risk of him not pitting a better option than not pitting with the risk of Hamilton pitting, and better than pitting after Hamilton altogether.

  8. Superb control by ROS after nearly being compromised by the team’s efforts to save a podium for the erratic HAM. Absent divine intervention in the form of rain and/or ROS finding himself in circumstances requiring wheel-to-wheel jousting, HAM will not recover in time to defend his WDC. ROS is virtually flawless in his execution while HAM continues to commit unforced errors.

    1. Hamilton was 43 points behind and still took the lead and has presently a minor points disadvantage. It would be stupid to right him off. The best part about the F1 races at the moment is to see which one of the two Merc’s are going to have start issues.

      I still think that Rosberg will win the WDC but ideally I expect him to be pushed all the way plus I think Rosberg will want to beat his team mate on track with him in a working car.

      The last thing he needs is for there to be a genuine excuse for Hamilton to say he lost title due to mechanical issues.

      1. I agree this points lead of Nico’s is nothing he should take comfort in, and I don’t believe he does, other than it inevitably must feel more comfortable than being 43 points back. But with so many points to be had, it is absolutely either driver’s WDC right now. They’ve both had and lost leads now.

        I agree that Nico would rather beat a healthy Lewis and not one handcuffed with unreliability, but that is out of his control and he will still take the WDC, as that is just racing. Yes LH and his fans will point out their mechanical issues, and they’ll put that down as a genuine excuse, but that is natural and that is racing. You can only play would-coulda-shoulda so far and if you argue something like ‘if only LH’s car was more reliable’ then you’d have to say same for Nico, or if only LH hadn’t taken them both out that day, or if only one or the other had nailed their start etc etc. You can’t wind the clock back nor can you play the woulda coulda game in a one-sided way, conveniencing only one party. What’s the point?

        Besides, just as many people still consider FA to be the best driver on the grid, better than the reigning WDC even, so will most argue NR is not better than LH, so if NR wins I think the majority will come up with ‘genuine excuses’ for that anyway, so it’s nothing Nico can control or do anything about nor even concern himself with.

        No matter what, Nico winning the WDC this year will, to many, mean he, as an inferior driver, snuck one in against a 3 time Champ who was at one point down 43 points due to unreliability. The only thing he could do now to try to quell that if he cared to, although he’s going to be striving for this anyway, is to stamp his authority on the remaining weekends like he did in Singapore.

        1. @robbie At the end of the day, Hamilton *has* been compromised in this championship by his cars reliability – if he’d finished second behind Rosberg in the races the latter won from pole (i.e. Bahrain, China, Belgium), then the championship would look much different. His comeback from a 43-point deficit was very good (to say anything otherwise is just bias), taking advantage of Rosberg having a sequence of *very* average races (some might say, no different to Rosberg taking the initial 4 races because his rivals were all broken down on the side of the road?).

          That said, it has zero bearing on anything at the end of the year – ‘it is what it is’. After all, Prost’s ’85 title is no less a championship win because of Lauda’s dreadful misfortune that year. If Nico wins this one, fair play to him – it’s no different than Button winning in ’09 due to the specific circumstance of that. Advantage due to car design or not, Jenson had more points that anyone else at the end of the year, as it will be for either Nico or Lewis this year.

          Lewis’s ‘comeback’ this year has sort-of excited me like Fernando’s surge mid-2012 in that dreadful Ferrari followed by his graceful downwards glide as Vettel reeled him in. That final race in Brazil was spectacular, given how Vettel was about 2mm from being eliminated. IMO, at the time I felt Alonso deserved that title for hauling that crate to where it didn’t belong, but I also accept Vettel did the better job.

          If Lewis and Nico keep trading wins between now and Abu Dhabi, it’s going to get similarly spicy. I wish the championship was ending in Brazil, because there would be a chance of rain throwing itself into the mix, but ‘it is what it is’! :)

  9. Mercedes pitting Hamilton for the third time was negligent. They risked Rosberg’s definite victory for the sake of gaining third place, which firstly had been lost due to driver error and secondly could possibly have been recovered if Hamilton could have passed Raikkonen on similar tyres. Realise Mercedes didn’t expect or want Raikonnen to pit, but this was a definite possibility to which Ricciardo would respond. At the very least Rosberg had to turn up his engine which may have consequences. Next time someone tells you Mercedes favour Rosberg…

  10. Nobody wins 8 F1 races in a season by chance or by just being average. Not sure the reason for some to downgrade Rosberg’s achievements this season. Exciting to see where it ends this year, but we have rarely if ever had anyone winning the WDC without deserving it.

  11. Los préstamos rápidos son una gran maanera de hacer frente a los
    complejos problemas financieros, y tienen una gran ventaja sobre los créditos de cnsumo estándar.

Comments are closed.