Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2014 Singapore Grand Prix
With only 0.569 seconds covering the first nine cars in qualifying, the 2014 Formula One field was closer than ever before at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Mercedes remained at the front, but their advantage over the rest of the field appeared somewhat diminished. Red Bull led the chasing pack—and both their drivers led the race—as they out-scored the Silver Arrows for only the third time this season.
Also close behind were Ferrari. Fernando Alonso had his most competitive showing of the year, shadowing the Bulls all the way to the chequered flag.
Felipe Massa and Williams secured a valuable fifth-place finish at a circuit which didn't suit their car, Jean-Eric Vergne scored his and Toro Rosso's best result of the year in sixth and Sergio Perez mixed luck with skill to finish a fine seventh.
But further back, Sauber are still without a point, while Marussia and Caterham continue their battle at the back.
Looking at reliability, qualifying and race pace, here's how the teams currently rank.
Caterham's weekend got off to a poor start. Kamui Kobayashi was their top qualifier, in 20th; his best lap was a whole second down on Marussia's Jules Bianchi's best.
The Japanese was less than a tenth ahead of Max Chilton in the other Marussia. Marcus Ericsson hit issues and didn't really put in a competitive lap. He started last.
Hopes will have been higher for the race, but they got off to a bad start here too. Kobayashi was out of the race before it had even begun with a power unit failure.
Ericsson turned out to be their saviour. He got to the end in 15th, ahead of both Marussias. Though he didn't get there on pure pace—a major safety car assist was needed—he did a decent job holding Bianchi back over the final eight laps.
But Caterham remain 11th.
Jules Bianchi once again led the back-marker battle in qualifying, his time of 1 minute, 49.440 seconds only six-tenths shy of a spot in Q2. Max Chilton was a second slower, behind one Caterham but ahead of the other.
At the start, Bianchi remained ahead. He couldn't quite hold on to the back of Pastor Maldonado's Lotus, but pulled clear of his main rivals.
The safety car compromised him as it did so many others, allowing Ericsson through. The Frenchman pushed hard at the end but couldn't get by, ending up a disappointing 16th.
Chilton dropped behind Ericsson at the start. A puncture cost him over a minute, but he was close to the rear of the field when it came in at the end of Lap 36.
But he was very slow. He ended up last, over 40 seconds down on Bianchi.
Marussia hold station in 10th.
Singapore is not a "power circuit", so Lotus would have hoped to be closer to the front-runners than usual. Unfortunately for them, so were the other teams at the rear of the midfield.
Romain Grosjean was their best qualifier, but he could only manage 16th. Pastor Maldonado—until recently considered good over a single lap—was 18th.
Neither made much impact early in the race, but the post-safety car chaos brought them into play. Maldonado was in line for points until six laps from the end, but lost out to Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen.
He crossed the line in 12th, with Grosjean right behind in 13th.
Lotus remain ninth.
Sauber couldn't quite score that elusive first point of the year in Singapore.
It looked possible after qualifying. Though Adrian Sutil could only manage a disappointing 17th, Esteban Gutierrez was just four-tenths of a second from making it through to Q3 for the first time in his career.
He lined up 13th.
Sutil had an anonymous afternoon, never really challenging. His primary contribution was a collision with Sergio Perez, which resulted in the safety car being deployed.
Gutierrez ran as high as eighth early on due to a late stop, but was forced to retire shortly afterwards with an electrical problem. He seemed rather angry in the garage afterwards, perhaps thinking he might have scored points.
Maybe in the post-safety car melee if Sauber had got the strategy right, but not on raw pace.
They remain eighth.
7. Toro Rosso
We now come to the tight grouping around the centre of the midfield, and 2014's great underachievers—Toro Rosso.
The team again did quite well in qualifying. Daniil Kvyat made it through to Q3 and lined up 10th (ninth after Rosberg vanished), while Jean-Eric Vergne was 12th.
But in true Toro Rosso style, something went wrong. Kvyat's drinks bottle failed, and if there's one race at which you don't want that to happen, it's Singapore. Suffering some degree of dehydration from an early stage, he struggled all race.
On Lap 44, he told his team on the pit radio (h/t F1Fanatic), "Oh my god. Without the drink... I’m dying here." Given a driver can easily lose more than three kilograms in sweat during this race—and that he doesn't really have many kilograms to start with—it was only a slight exaggeration.
Fortunately, Vergne had a rare trouble-free race and drove a blinder. The Frenchman was up to ninth after the first round of stops, a position he still occupied when the safety car came in.
He was forced to make a late stop for soft tyres, dropping back to 14th. But as all the cars ahead began to suffer wear problems, Vergne came at them like a rocket. He was opportunistic, aggressive but fair, and muscled his way through to a career-best sixth.
It's a very tight thing for sixth and seventh here, but the Toros are edged out this time around.
They drop a spot to seventh.
6. Force India
As is becoming the norm, Force India had a poor qualifying session. Whether it's a case of fewer upgrades than their rivals or just poor setup and suitability to the circuits, the two drivers have only managed one Q3 appearance between them in the last three races.
Nico Hulkenberg managed 13th on the grid, only a few hundredths of a second quicker than Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber. Sergio Perez was even slower, lining up 15th.
Neither had much of a say in proceedings until Perez, fresh from his second stop attempted to pass Adrian Sutil on Lap 29. The German seemingly didn't notice the Force India trying to creep around the outside into Turn 8, and drifted across the track.
Perez had nowhere to go, and the resulting contact damaged his front wing. It fell off a few corners later, covering the track with carbon fibre shards and bringing the safety car into play.
The Mexican dropped a lap down while receiving repairs, but was allowed to make it back behind the safety car. When the race resumed at the end of Lap 36, he was 17th.
Six laps later he was 14th and didn't really have anything to lose. He came in again, switched to the faster supersoft tyres and began to fly.
Taking advantage of his fresh rubber, in just 15 laps Perez went from 17th to seventh. That's where he finished.
Hulkenberg did not take the same gamble, and came home ninth.
Force India rise a spot to sixth.
Kevin Magnussen secured his 11th Q3 appearance of the year, his lap of 1:49.250 good enough for ninth. Jenson Button was 11th, missing out on joining Magnussen by just two-hundredths of a second.
But he made up for it on the first lap. A blistering start and some opportunistic passing saw Button climb to seventh before the start of Lap 2.
He wasn't quite fast enough to take the race to the Williams' and Kimi Raikkonen, and they gradually moved up the road. But when the safety car came in, the Brit found himself seventh and on slightly fresher tyres than Valtteri Bottas ahead.
Sadly for him, his car failed just as he was about to mount an attack. The drive deserved better.
Magnussen had a nightmare, though not from his own doing. A radiator seal failed early in the race, venting hot air directly into his cockpit. It not only caused him great discomfort (and per Yahoo Eurosport, minor burns), but also heated his drink to such a temperature he couldn't even manage a sip.
He came home in 10th. On the team website, he called it the "hardest point I've ever earned."
McLaren remain fifth.
In terms of competitiveness, this was without question Ferrari's best weekend of the season.
Fernando Alonso qualified in his customary fifth place, behind the two Mercedes' and Red Bulls. It was the first time since China that he'd out-qualified both Williams' on a dry track.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was close behind in seventh.
Alonso made a great start and was ahead of the two Red Bulls going into the braking area of the first corner, but overshot and went over the run-off. He had to give one place back, to Sebastian Vettel, and settled into third.
At the second round of stops, he jumped Vettel for second and looked set to finish there—but the safety car scuppered his plans. The team chose to pit him for soft tyres that would last until the end, dropping the Spaniard to fourth. That's where he stayed, glued to the rear of the Red Bulls all the way to the chequered flag.
Raikkonen also got away well, but lost a place at the first round of stops.
The Finn ended up down in eighth after the safety car, pursuing Valtteri Bottas after Jenson Button dropped out, but the F14 T didn't have enough straight-line speed to challenge either of them.
After being caught up in the scramble in the closing laps, Raikkonen finished eighth.
Ferrari were probably the second- or third-fastest team here—but on an average circuit, Williams should be ahead.
They remain fourth.
Singapore was not expected to be a strong circuit for Williams, so the team and drivers deserve credit for qualifying so well. Felipe Massa lined up in sixth, with Valtteri Bottas in eighth.
Neither made good starts, but held their grid positions going into the second lap.
Their races followed similar paths early on, with the team opting for an aggressive pit stop strategy which saw both make up places. When the safety car emerged, they were fifth (Massa) and sixth (Bottas), looking good to remain there until the end.
Massa did. Managing his tyres brilliantly throughout a mammoth 38-lap stint. He later told the press (h/t crash.net) that he made it to the end on the set of softs because he was "driving like a grandmother.”
Bottas fared less well. A power steering problem resulted in increased wear, leaving him under attack for most of his 37-lap final stint. He defended beautifully all the way to the final lap, when his tyres finally let go.
Passed by four cars, he slid home in 11th—but the team will have been grateful he (unintentionally) protected Massa from attack for so long.
Williams were, at best, fourth-fastest in Singapore—but should be back to third at Suzuka.
They remain third.
2. Red Bull
Singapore was perhaps the only remaining circuit where Red Bull might have had a prayer of beating Mercedes on merit. They fell short, but it was closer than at any other race so far.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified third, less than two-tenths of a second behind polesitter Lewis Hamilton. Beside him on the grid was Sebastian Vettel, who set a time just half a tenth slower.
Vettel got off the line better than his team-mate and established himself as Hamilton's main challenger. Early in the race they lapped at a similar pace, pulling away slightly from the rest, but late in the second stint Fernando Alonso closed up.
He undercut Vettel at the second stops, and may have had the pace to beat him to the chequered flag. The German was at this stage (probably) struggling slightly with a failed monkey seat, which according to Craig Scarborough had been broken since before the first stop.
But the safety car forced Alonso to pit. He was passed by Vettel and Ricciardo, who had been following the duo ahead.
Vettel pulled away a little immediately after the safety car came in, but Ricciardo closed up late on. They crossed the line second and third—Vettel's best result of the year, and Ricciardo's seventh podium.
They remain second.
Mercedes negotiated a potential banana skin and left Singapore with the win—but again, reliability let them down.
Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole by the slenderest of margins, just 0.007 seconds ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg. For the sake of comparison, an average blink of the eye takes 0.2 seconds.
We were all set for a great battle between the title contenders, but it wasn't to be. Rosberg suffered a mysterious electrical problem before the start of the race. He was unable to get off the line and had to start from the pits.
He might have recovered from there, especially with a safety car, but the problem had left him stuck in an ultra-conservative engine mode—he was so slow, he couldn't even pass Marcus Ericsson.
The German retired at his first pit stop. The issue was later revealed to have been caused by what the team called contamination by a foreign substance, which caused an intermittent short-circuit.
After (intentionally?) allowing the F1 world an hour or so to invent some new conspiracy theories, the team got round to explaining in full.
To clarify, the contaminant was a substance used in normal pre-event servicing of the component. #NotAConspiracy :)— MERCEDES AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) September 26, 2014
Hamilton had a straightforward race until the safety car emerged. Suddenly under threat from the Red Bulls—he had to stop again, they didn't—he put in a blistering sequence of laps to build a lead.
The stop dropped him a few seconds behind Vettel, but he was past on the next lap and went on to record his seventh win of the year.
Mercedes remain on top.
Their servicing department does not.