Sebastian Vettel ended his 22-race losing streak by controversially beating Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The four-time world champion jumped a furious Leclerc in the only round of pit stops to take to the top step of the podium for the first time since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix in August.
Max Verstappen finished third for Red Bull with Lewis Hamilton only fourth.
Hamilton, however, extends his title lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas to 65 points with just six rounds remaining. Bottas finished fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
Leclerc, 21, had looked on course to win for a third time in as many appearances after controlling the opening third of the 61-lap race from pole position.
But the race turned on its head when Ferrari stopped Vettel for tyres first. Leclerc came in a lap later, but Vettel had taken advantage of his new rubber to leapfrog his team-mate.
Sebastian Vettel or Charles LeClerc?
Naturally, the move by Ferrari angered Leclerc. “To be completely honest with you I don’t understand the undercut,” he moaned over the radio. “We will discuss after the race,” He added.
Over at Mercedes, the world champions decided to keep Hamilton on track as their rivals changed tires, but the 34-year-old was rapidly losing time on worn rubber.
Hamilton was soon in no man’s land, and when he did eventually stop, six laps later than Leclerc and seven laps later than Vettel, the Briton re-joined the race behind both Ferrari cars and Verstappen, too. Indeed, Hamilton only stayed ahead of Bottas for the fourth position after Mercedes ordered the Finn to slow down.
The spectacular night race is notorious for safety cars, and there were three here, the first of which entered the action following George Russell’s coming together with Romain Grosjean on lap 35.
Leclerc was also back on the radio to protest Ferrari’s decision to stop Vettel first. “I won’t do anything stupid,” he said. “But I just think it is unfair.”
Did the right Ferrari win?
It remains to be seen whether this victory will do anything to stem the tide Vettel is facing in the challenge of Leclerc at Ferrari, for while he drove well to seize victory when the chance to do so was provided to him, in many ways the ‘wrong’ Ferrari won at Marina Bay on Sunday.
It was Leclerc who took a brilliant pole, with an extrovert and acrobatic lap in which he danced with disaster against the walls to snatch top spot from Vettel, who was ahead after the first runs in final qualifying and who also fell behind Lewis Hamilton. More on this story HERE
Three Safety Cars
A third safety car period ensued when Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat collided at the first corner in the closing stages.
But despite the drama around him Vettel kept his cool to bounce back from his horror show in Monza to end his barren run and claim the 53rd win of his career.
His Ferrari team celebrated three consecutive victories for the first time in 11 years. British teenager Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren.
Thailand hopeful Alex Albon finished in a credible sixth ahead of Norris.
Are Mercedes worried?
Ferrari’s one-two came very much against expectations, and for them to be so strong on a track on which they were expected to struggle based on their performances so far on similar circuits suggests on the face of it that they will be strong everywhere for the rest of the season.
Ferrari introduced a major aerodynamic upgrade for this race, and it certainly worked. But Binotto said that on its own “cannot explain what we have seen”.
Mercedes’ suspicion is that Ferrari’s victory was founded on setting their car up for pace over one lap – with a darty, oversteery set-up – and sacrificed race pace. Leclerc’s extravagant moments on his pole lap – on which he nearly lost the car twice – suggest they might be right. Read more from Andrew Benson at the BBC HERE
Singapore done onwards to Russia next.