Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2018

Verstappen’s chance to put one over the title contenders

2018 Singapore Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Max Verstappen gave the smartest assessment of Sebastian Vettel’s miscalculation at the start of this race 12 months ago after it put the pair of them and two other drivers out of the race.

“When you’re fighting for the championship and then try to be that aggressive at the start when Lewis [Hamilton] is behind you, quite comfortably, it’s not I think the smartest move to do,” said Vertappen.

This year Verstappen has again qualified second and the championship is again a straight fight between Hamilton and Vettel. But will Hamilton be quite as uncompromising with Verstappen at the start? And can either of the title contenders afford to risk getting dragged into a fight with the Red Bull?

Vettel, against expectations, could only manage third on the grid. But he has a fast-starting Ferrari underneath him and all the incentive in the world to send one down the inside of Hamilton at the start.

By parking himself between the championship contenders, Verstappen has positioned himself perfectly to take advantage of their preoccupation with each other and make a bid for his second win of 2018. And while Verstappen is seldom short of aggression in wheel-to-wheel combat, the same goes for his strategy.

All of those who reached Q3 did so using hyper-soft tyres and therefore will have to start on them. But the quickest strategy in the race, according to Pirelli, is to start on ultra-softs, run around two dozen laps, then pit for softs.

This suggests and explanation why Vettel went to such lengths to persuade Ferrari to let him run on the ultra-softs again in Q2, He was convinced he could reach Q3 on them – and the data indicated he may have been right – and it could have made him the only driver in Q3 on the optimum strategy. It also begs the question whether Ferrari are more concerned about their performance on the hyper-soft tyres than their rivals.

Those starting on the hyper-softs are likely to begin looking at pit stops around lap 13, according to Pirelli. But keeping – or gaining – track position is going to be the overriding priority. The intriguing question will be whether Hamilton or Vettel bother to react to Verstappen if he comes in early.

The top six drivers are more thoroughly shuffled than usual, so team strategy could have less of an effect in the race. The danger for Vettel, of course, is that he may get beaten off the line by Valtteri Bottas, which would seriously compromise his efforts to stay in touch with Hamilton.

The punishing nature of the Singapore circuit and limited room for run-off means we’re likely to see a Safety Car – real or Virtual – at some stage. With those who choose to start on the ultra-softs potentially able to go 10 laps or more further into the race than the drivers who start in the top 10, a mid-race Safety Car period could pay a huge dividend to those drivers, and we could see some of them extend their first stint in the hope they’ll get lucky.

However if the latter half of the race stays green it’s likely that however many of the six front-runners remain, at least one of them will eye up the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres and go on the attack. This has been a feature of recent race at Singapore, and could add more drama in the final laps.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’39.4031’37.344 (-2.059)1’36.015 (-1.329)
2Max VerstappenRed Bull1’38.7511’37.214 (-1.537)1’36.334 (-0.880)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’38.2181’37.876 (-0.342)1’36.628 (-1.248)
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’39.2911’37.254 (-2.037)1’36.702 (-0.552)
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’38.5341’37.194 (-1.340)1’36.794 (-0.400)
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’38.1531’37.406 (-0.747)1’36.996 (-0.410)
7Sergio PerezForce India1’38.8141’38.342 (-0.472)1’37.985 (-0.357)
8Romain GrosjeanHaas1’38.6851’38.367 (-0.318)1’38.320 (-0.047)
9Esteban OconForce India1’38.9121’38.534 (-0.378)1’38.365 (-0.169)
10Nico HulkenbergRenault1’38.9321’38.450 (-0.482)1’38.588 (+0.138)
11Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’39.0221’38.641 (-0.381)
12Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’39.1031’38.716 (-0.387)
13Charles LeclercSauber1’39.2061’38.747 (-0.459)
14Marcus EricssonSauber1’39.3661’39.453 (+0.087)
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’39.6141’39.691 (+0.077)
16Kevin MagnussenHaas1’39.644
17Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’39.809
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’39.864
19Lance StrollWilliams1’41.334
20Sergey SirotkinWilliams1’41.263

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton26.263 (2)36.967 (2)32.785 (1)
Max Verstappen26.415 (4)36.857 (1)32.910 (2)
Sebastian Vettel26.207 (1)37.315 (4)33.045 (5)
Valtteri Bottas26.461 (5)37.284 (3)32.950 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen26.296 (3)37.344 (5)33.139 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo26.536 (6)37.453 (6)33.007 (4)
Sergio Perez26.806 (8)37.724 (7)33.455 (7)
Romain Grosjean26.772 (7)37.737 (8)33.693 (10)
Esteban Ocon26.853 (10)37.867 (10)33.634 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg26.994 (13)37.882 (12)33.501 (8)
Fernando Alonso26.840 (9)38.065 (13)33.722 (12)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.030 (14)37.835 (9)33.704 (11)
Charles Leclerc26.940 (11)37.873 (11)33.855 (13)
Marcus Ericsson26.969 (12)38.141 (14)34.148 (18)
Pierre Gasly27.121 (16)38.280 (15)34.049 (15)
Kevin Magnussen27.136 (17)38.369 (16)34.059 (16)
Brendon Hartley27.324 (18)38.400 (17)34.085 (17)
Stoffel Vandoorne27.119 (15)38.648 (18)34.040 (14)
Lance Stroll27.364 (19)39.026 (19)34.944 (20)
Sergey Sirotkin27.455 (20)39.154 (20)34.531 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari311.6 (193.6)
2Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari311.6 (193.6)-0.0
3Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes309.1 (192.1)-2.5
4Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes308.7 (191.8)-2.9
5Sergey SirotkinWilliamsMercedes307.0 (190.8)-4.6
6Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes307.0 (190.8)-4.6
7Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes306.4 (190.4)-5.2
8Charles LeclercSauberFerrari305.9 (190.1)-5.7
9Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes305.6 (189.9)-6.0
10Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari304.3 (189.1)-7.3
11Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari303.6 (188.6)-8.0
12Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer303.3 (188.5)-8.3
13Brendon HartleyToro RossoHonda301.6 (187.4)-10.0
14Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenRenault301.6 (187.4)-10.0
15Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari301.5 (187.3)-10.1
16Fernando AlonsoMcLarenRenault301.3 (187.2)-10.3
17Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer301.2 (187.2)-10.4
18Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault300.0 (186.4)-11.6
19Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault300.0 (186.4)-11.6
20Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda298.1 (185.2)-13.5

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Over to you

Will Vettel stop Hamilton extending his points lead even further? Can Verstappen take advantage of their title fight to grab another win?

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2018 Singapore Grand Prix

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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...

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25 comments on “Verstappen’s chance to put one over the title contenders”

  1. Interesting that Hamilton just had 1 fastest sector of all, and that the 3 fastest sectors combined belong to the 3 top teams. He really pulled one out of the bag.

    Looking at the speed trap data, could it be that Ferrari has been running consistently for the last few grand prix less wing than their rivals? They sure as hell look quick on the straights, but maybe they’re losing ever so slightly through the corners.

    1. On the same lines, Ferrari lost a lot of time in s3. Which means they lack peak downforce or are very hard on their tires. Either way, doesn’t bode well.

    2. Hamilton was dominant in the first sector, two relative long straights. Mercedes and Ferrari just 0.06 s apart> 0.2 sec won on Verstappen who was just 4th here.
      Verstappen was fastest in the 2nd sector > 0.1 back on Hamilton who was 2nd fastest
      It was the third sector where Verstappens engines stalled where Hamilton got pole > Verstappen lost another 0.2 sec there, though still was 2nd fastest.

      Renault just lacked top speed in the first sector, Ham 3rd best against Ver 15th best (!!) and so on in the next speed traps.

  2. I have high expectations of this race. I love this grand-prix in general. I consider a modern classic. I love that its a street circuit but you can still overtake, its unpredictability, the guarantee of a safety car and its long duration. And of course the contrast between the well-lit track and the night!

    Vettel shouldn’t have been so disappointed. You never know with this race. In my view, all of the top 6 drivers have a decent chance to win tomorrow.

    1. If Bottas wins I’ll eat my left rear tyre, promise.

  3. I really hope neither verstappen noir Bottas punt one of the two champ leaders out.

    1. I rather hope its not otherway around with Petulant child of Ferrari being root cause of 1st lap nutcase.

  4. The championship is really riding on Verstappen depending on who he takes out. And you know he will.

    1. Looking at the stats is more likely Bottas will take some out during the start. He is very good at that.

  5. Clearly Verstappen is going to someone‘s problem. Hamilton needs a good getaway and he’s all Seb’s.
    That said, given the non-optimum tyres the leaders are on, the race could easily be decided by the luck of an early safety car appearing at the right time.

    1. Hamilton has overall weak starts this year. If he gets a bad getaway like Britain or even an average and Seb and Max who have blistering starts could well pass him in the first couple of corners.

  6. Verstappen has an opportunity here to show he has some maturity, but his comment is a bit of a worry. I hope he understands he can’t win the race at the first corner, but he could wreck it for several others.

    1. The first corner is exactly where you have most chance on winning the Singapoore race, the track is notorious for not being to overtake.

      If one should be scared t is Verstappen who got taken out by both Ferrari’s last year and peple seem to forget about Monza 2 weeks ago where Vettel and Hamilton got in a first lap fight (??)

    2. This is probably the only chance Verstappen has to win another race this year. He has nothing to lose. He will be taking the risk…

    3. @johnrkh

      Max said that a year ago, after the race…

  7. Those starting on the hyper-softs are likely to begin looking at pit stops around lap 13, according to Pirelli.

    No. Those starting on hypersofts will dive into the pits when the safety car comes out on lap 1.

    This is Singapore, after all.

    1. Maybe, but I think most drivers will be stretching their first stints to avoid any traffic, waiting for the mid-race safety car to change tires.

  8. Will Vettel stop Hamilton extending his points lead even further? Yes, hopefully.
    Can Verstappen take advantage of their title fight to grab another win? Yes, possibly.

  9. Normally Max can’t overtake a Mercedes or Ferrari on the same strategy on track after the 1st lap. So it would be great if he gets a great start to pass Lewis at the inside.

Comments are closed.