GRAND PRIX: Singapore: Over in 50 metres

Posted on October 9, 2022.

Rarely seen daylight view of The Streets of Singapore.
Dusk falls
A more familar night scene
Charles seemed contented with second...
...whereas Carlos was grumpy with 3rd. As if he'd lost £1000 down the back of the telly.

Report by Tony Cotton.

I had delayed writing this report because I hoped to pick up the most exciting news of the F1 season: the report of the accountancy working group arising from the release of Certificates of Compliance to the Financial Regulations. Obviously, accountancy is the one thing guaranteed to raise the excitement of an F1 fan to fever pitch. I prepared by skim-reading the 2021 financial regulations, and they are a truly wondrous document. So much is excluded, including drivers’ costs and that of the three highest paid employees. Though, as with all FIA documents, they look to be foolproof, I can assure you that there are creative accountants in the world who make Adrian Newey look like a rule-slave.

I’m slightly intrigued by the opportunities to employ people in two roles, one in the F1 business and another as a “marketing consultant” in a related business, say a road car manufacturer.  Or for the highest paid employee to personally pay subcontract employees?  I’m a boring accountant, so these are probably naïve ideas; the teams will be far more subtle and nuanced.

But I am looking forward to seeing how “minor breaches” (ie less than 5% overspends) are dealt with. The rules say that for a “Minor Overspend Breach, the Cost Cap Adjudication Panel may impose a Financial Penalty and/or any Minor Sporting Penalties.” And the “Minor Sporting Penalties?” That includes, surprisingly, deduction of Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship points awarded for the Championship that took place within the Reporting Period of the breach. That’s a meaning of “minor” that’s new to me. I look forward to seeing the report after Japan.

The idea that something “minor” can blow up was a feature of Singapore. A bad decision in qualifying by RedBull delayed the finalisation of the Championship. Unless of course you are very cynical and think that Liberty told them to stretch things out a bit…..


One of the virtues of Singapore in October is its climate. According to its local weather website, October is an “inter-monsoon” period, where it merely has thunderstorms, and 2 hours before qualifying that’s about what we got. The track was still damp when qualifying began, meaning inters.

Q 1 was dominated by Verstappen, Hamilton and Leclerc. The hapless Ricciardo dropped out, as did Ocon. But this was nothing to the shock of Q2 when Russell was eliminated. His problem was later described as the engine “pushing on” into corners. Toto Wolff used the expression “torque following”, which is new to me. In any event, he was 11th and for all the good he subsequently did, he should have caught the A380 home and saved the engine at that point.

By Q3 it was dry enough for slicks and surprisingly Alonso joined VerHamlec in fighting for pole, but in the last few minutes Charles took pole, from Perez. Hamilton initially looked to be threatening but lost time later in the lap and settled for 3rd. Verstappen took a run but slid in turn 18. At first it seemed he could recover by carrying on, and with tyres in the window it was undoubtedly a pole lap. Except that he’d started it with inadequate fuel and as he entered sector 3 the team told him to pit urgently. “Goodness me, that’s surprising!” opined the jovial Dutchman, thrice. (Select “1950’s English to F1-speak” on Google Translate if you need to find his exact words.) His earlier lap gave him 8th. To have continued would have left insufficient fuel for the sample and dropped him to the back. Error by RedBull, the fault of Verstappen for messing up his earlier run, or good TV for Netflix?

Charles lined up behind Hamilton, ahead of Alonso, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly. Kevin Magnussen qualified ninth and Tsunoda finished in 10th place.


The rain fell again, so the start was delayed for 60 minutes, which gave time for everybody to go to intermediates. The race outcome was actually decided at the start, when Sergio Perez managed to get ahead of Charles, who after leading off the line got some wheelspin on the damp track. Carlos got past Lewis Hamilton at the first corner to go third in what was a slightly robust move that put Hamilton off track. Hamilton then entertained by blaming his pits for the wrong tyres; he knew better and he’d told them. Verstappen’s troubles worsened as he bogged down and temporarily sank to 12th.

The race was defined by a series of safety cars, virtual and real. The first was on lap 6  when an optimistic pass by Zhou on “Vampire” Latifi (when he looks in his mirrors, he doesn’t see anything) resulted in a broken Alfa on track and a broken Williams in the pits. At the restart, Verstappen moved up to 7th, passing Vettel and Gasly. There was then a bit of fun as F1’s token racer (as opposed to driver) baited Verstappen a bit. It took the World Champion in his RedBull 10 laps to pass the old man on race 350 in the Renault, only managing it when the engine gave way and Alonso went up an escape road. Despite my witless criticism, Renault must be praised for their bravery in developing a new split turbo engine and failures are inevitable. It’s also interesting that Alonso, whilst holding Verstappen off, was complaining that under the lights he couldn’t see the dry line due to reflections.

Russell, meanwhile, was like many others struggling to overtake on the streets. On lap 21 he tried slicks, but it was a failed strategy which helpfully warned the other teams. It was then Albon’s turn, returning from intensive care only 2 weeks earlier, to bring out the virtual safety car. He gracefully slid into the turn 8 barriers, reversing out but dislodging the TecPro. 2 laps later Ocon’s drive also failed and the VSC was again deployed. On lap 33, Hamilton, running 4th, lost it under late braking and nose-butted the barriers. He reversed out with a slightly damaged wing, dropping behind Norris and in front of Verstappen. He stopped for a new one, dropping to 9th.

With Russell, Pirelli’s answer to litmus paper, no longer struggling but putting in fastest lap, it was time (lap 34) for Charles to take on mediums. It was a slightly lengthy stop, but in the end that had little effect. The problem was simply passing. If it’s hard for Verstappen to pass much slower cars, how hard must it be to try to pass a reasonably equal car? Carlos swapped tyres on the next lap and within a lap he was back to 3rd.

On lap 36, it was Tsunoda’s opportunity to cause a safety car. He later disarmingly took complete responsibility. Inadvertently, he was responsible for the only problem Perez seemed to have all afternoon. During the safety car period, he dropped back a bit too far so was penalised 5 seconds. This was his second such offence of the afternoon. Poor old Derek Warwick was again one of the stewards and they got a fair amount of criticism for issuing their decision so long after the race. How hard can it be to make your mind up quickly? Michael Massi seemed to be able to do it. (Not a good example – Ed)

At the restart, Leclerc set off in pursuit of Perez, pressuring the Mexican almost to the finish. There was undoubted excitement as Charles was within car lengths of the Mexican, but in the closing laps, he began to have some problems with the front tyres which saw him drop to 7.5 seconds behind the leader, reduced to two after Perez’s penalty was added.

Meanwhile, Verstappen lined up an attack on Norris at the restart but he made the what can only be described as a comedy hero overtake. He locked up badly and was forced down an escape road, continued and dropped to P8. After pitting to shed flat-spotted tyres for new softs he rejoined in P14 and finished in 7th.

Charles and Carlos drove effectively faultless races to finish where they were after 50 metres – 2nd and 3rd. Lando Norris also didn’t visibly put a foot wrong for 4th, while his team mate Ricciardo proved that safe sometimes trumps fast with 5th. The Astons sandwiched Verstappen, who just managed to sneak by Vettel on the last lap. One of his most error prone and badly self-managed races left Hamilton 9th ahead of Gasly.


A lot went on in the race, but not much happened of real interest because the track doesn’t allow overtaking. For a race to be won in 50 metres is disappointing.

Perez is a notoriously good tyre manager. Had Charles been fighting Verstappen in the closing laps, could things have been different? Was Perez lucky to get only one 5 second penalty?

Although from the outside, Carlos looked to have an excellent, controlled race, he didn’t agree. “It was quite a strange race for me to be honest. I had a good start and managed to get Lewis, but for some reason I struggled with pace in the first part ……. I’ve been quick all weekend and today I lost all feeling with the car.” Some of us wish we had even a tenth of that level of feeling in club racing cars…

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