Singapore Crash: Vettel’s Red Mist or Racing Incident?

The lap one collision between Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen at the Singapore Grand Prix denied what could have been a three team scrap for the win in challenging conditions.

The aftermath of the collision takes away the spotlight from what was a commanding drive for Lewis Hamilton. Yes, he didn’t have to overcome the Ferraris or Verstappen to take a healthy lead (and no, not because of a plant-based diet), but Hamilton did show excellent pace to keep Ricciardo at bay in second.

The Red Bulls looked really strong all weekend, and one would have put the blue cars ahead of the Silver Arrows in terms of race pace going into the Grand Prix. If anything, Mercedes were on for bronze at Marina Bay against the other two-thirds of the “big” three.

To keep the Aussie at a distance, Hamilton once again highlighted why he is constantly a title contender. It was a calculated win from the “miracle” scenario that could become his 2017 title rival’s ultimate undoing.

Any remorse for the Ferrari team quickly vanished with the team tweeting out an audacious claim that Max Verstappen was in the wrong. Of everything that emerged from this incident, this was possibly the most ridiculous.

Ferrari don’t help themselves it seems. Out of the three, Verstappen was the last guy anyone should have been pointing their finger at. The way Vettel aggressively covered the left of the track approaching the corner had to be an act dictated by emotion, there is no other explanation as to why a driver in desperate need of a strong finish, especially with Hamilton starting fifth, would throw it all away after the first corner.

Did he like that the young Dutchman got the jump on him? His teammate Raikkonen wasn’t doing badly either, and had it been a clean drag race to turn one, the Iceman appeared to have the momentum to lead.

Had the German kept his line around the outside of turn one, the worse case scenario would have been emerging in third place with Verstappen ahead and a very obedient teammate in the lead. Hamilton made a good start too, but would have been battling Alonso for fourth.

It has been an ideal Singapore GP for sensationalism. Sometimes it’s tempting to generate motives and sometimes the truth is a bit boring too. The crash actually looked more like a comedy of errors.

Vettel likely hadn’t seen Kimi’s car on Verstappen’s inside until it was too late, and the lack of visibility would have been similarly blind for Kimi. Verstappen was an innocent bystander who could see both Ferraris pinching and probably realised there was going to be a collision before the teammates did.

In terms of darting aggressively at the start, we’ve seen this far too many times at other race starts to warrant it as unique behaviour. Vettel did what most drivers on pole attempt when defending their grid position, but this time it was a bit messy and over in a flash.

It looked like Vettel was to blame because in the frame in which the crash occurs, he is veering left but could have believed at this point that Verstappen had a bit more room on his left than he had, due to Raikkonen’s excellent start. If anything, it was a costly error that broke the golden chalice of F1 and then broke it again. Don’t take out your teammate, and don’t crash out of the lead of the race.

After the race, former F1 driver Mark Webber gave a frustrated account of how an incident can be misinterpreted, presumably something he experienced in his own career too.

“It’s a joke. It’s done. Seb’s leaving here in pieces. Ferrari’s got no points. Max’s has got no points. All of them have been wiped out.

I just get frustrated is because we’ve had a car race, we’ve left the track, these boys are in the barriers, they’re massively frustrated — they’re burning inside, these boys.

Then they’ve got to sit and listen to some guy say ‘well, you know, I’ve got a slo-mo, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do this’, it’s not real.”

– Mark Webber

The only cold fact appears to be that Vettel’s 2017 title hopes have been largely reduced due to the messy start, and Hamilton, after expecting this race to be one of “damage limitation” now takes a 28-point lead to Sepang.

The Brit is the big winner and the breathing space to Vettel could be a large enough margin to allow the Ferraris to have the stronger package at two of the remaining race weekends and still come out on top. It’s an uphill battle for Ferrari, and they may look back to the opening ten seconds of the Singapore Grand Prix with regret.