Nico Rosberg celebrated his 200th Grand Prix in the best possible way by roaring into the World Championship lead with victory in the 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix from pole position – his first win at the night race.
This was pure street theatre: in the brilliant Singapore spotlights Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull mounted a dramatic late-race pursuit that came within half a second of catching Rosberg, who held on to claim his eighth victory of the season and the 22nd of his F1 career.
“It’s been an awesome weekend here in Singapore for me,” said Rosberg, “yesterday with the pole lap and then today, a great start, had a good car in the race. Of course Daniel tried to pull one up on me with the pit stop in the end there. We knew it was going to be tight at the end, but it worked out, so I’m really, really happy.”
The closing stages of the 61-lap race were among the most thrilling in its history as Rosberg’s teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton also saw the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen looming large in his mirrors. While Hamilton too held on for a podium place, his two-point lead was converted into an eight-point deficit with six races remaining in F1’s longest-ever season.
It was an action-packed night with little time for speeches, and Rosberg obliged by keeping his first one short. It was also a night of mixed messages, especially for the men in the Mercedes cockpits. Both Rosberg and Hamilton were warned about brake management early in the race; later, with Raikkonen’s Ferrari edging away, Lewis was told ‘We’re going to switch to Plan B, just need to pull Raikkonen in.’ It triggered ‘hammer time’ for Hamilton, who promptly set the fastest lap of the race to that point.
There was, too, an entertaining sub-plot supplied by Sebastian Vettel. The four-time Singapore winner started from the back of the field after a disastrous qualifying but launched a race-long comeback that saw him set a stunning new lap record of 1 minute 47.345 seconds on his way to fifth place behind teammate Raikkonen.
The action had begun in stunning fashion when Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India was squeezed into the pit wall seconds after the red lights went out at race start. The German magnanimously refused to blame Carlos Sainz, whose Toro Rosso was involved. ‘That’s racing – the dynamics of the start,’ he said. ‘Carlos didn’t go for any gap: he had to go round Max (Verstappen) who had a really poor start of his own.’
Daniil Kvyat and Verstappen laid on some of the most gripping moments in mid-race when Verstappen, who moved from Toro Rosso to take Kvyat’s seat at Red Bull, spent several laps locked in combat with the Russian. Verstappen had the last laugh by finishing sixth, with Kvyat ninth.
For Romain Grosjean it was a weekend, not of high drama but of low farce. The Haas driver endured the weekend from hell: crashes on Friday and Saturday, grid penalty for a replacement gearbox, persistent brake problems – and no sooner had he left pit lane to go to the grid than he was back in the garage. ‘We lost the brake-by-wire,’ he explained. ‘We couldn’t find the problem and the brake pedal was just going to the floor.’ So Grosjean was out of the race before it even began. That makes it two DNF’s, one DNS, two 13th and one seventh places in Singapore.
This year’s race attracted 73,000 spectators daily, with 219,000 spectators at the Marina Bay Street Circuit over the three-day race weekend. Against the backdrop of weaker local and global economic climate, the overall ticket take-up is 15% lower than the average attendance at the Circuit Park since the inaugural race.
This year’s off-track entertainment saw a ton of international superstars performing alongside Singapore’s local stars, including Kylie Minogue, Queen + Adam Lambert, Imagine Dragons, Bastille, Halsey, KC and The Sunshine Band, Pentatonix, Dynamo, Mirror Family Gold, The Koi Boys, Gentle Bones, Harlequin, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band, The Showhawk Duo, Charlie Lim & The Mothership, Samba Brasil & Bloco Singapura, Take Two, Wicked Aura, Sirens with Soul, Aarika Lee & The Next Movement, Cayote Ugly, Aaradhna, Zsa & Amanda, Prateek Kuhad, Zouk DJs, Funky Love Squad, Fiesta Tropicale, Living Statues, Slack Taxi Stilt Ballerinas, The New Conformity, Alia & Jamal, The Three Amigos Plus 1 and Jean Christophe.
Krado Low/Singapore GP