One of the ongoing questions about the Singapore GP from people new to F1 is how they stay awake running that late at night. Even with the drivers and teams using their European timetable, it’s a wonder anyone was left awake by the end of the race. It was a dull affair that livened up a bit at the end only to fizzle out as Nico Rosberg retook the championship lead with his third win in a row.
Nico Rosberg started the race from pole with teammate Hamilton starting from 3rd. The big story out of qualifying was a parts failure that left Sebastian Vettel starting shotgun on the field from 22nd. At least he was doing better than Romain Grosjean whose car didn’t make the grid and cleared the 20th grid spot for Vettel.
The lights went out with a bang. Nico Hulkenberg got off to a great start that turned bad quickly as the grid had to dodge the poor starting Max Verstappen. As everyone swerved around the Red Bull, The Hulk was the sole loser as he was spun into the wall and out of the race by Carlos Sainz’s evasive maneuvers.
This led to one of the race’s few highlights or perhaps a blooper. The safety car was called in unusually quickly which caught one marshal off-guard. He was seen sprinting off the track as Rosberg accelerated out of the final turn and down the pit straight. The marshal was still in the run-off area in front of the grandstands as the field charged by him into Turn One, though under a waved yellow flag. How that wasn’t a virtual safety car or even double-waved yellow is a question that the FIA won’t rush to answer.
The race only came alive in its final act as Red Bull put Daniel Ricciardo on a final-stint sprint to the finish which caught Mercedes with their pants down. Unable to adequately respond in pit lane, they decided to leave Rosberg out and hope for the best. The best was Ricciardo getting slowed by traffic which would delay him and wear out his tyres. It turns out that this was the correct strategy as Rosberg barely held on to win the race.
Rosberg’s win might have been by only a half-second but the bigger margin worth noting is the eight-point margin in the World Drivers’ Championship standings over Hamilton. Ricciardo finished second but didn’t pull a shoey this time out. Lewis Hamilton finished third thanks to a decent strategy call, especially when cared to Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 4th. Vettel pulled out an absolute wonder race as he climbed from 22nd to 5th. Verstappen could have challenged at the front but his start left him 6th. Fernando Alonso showed that the McLaren chassis can occasionally overcome the Honda engine with the best of the rest performance of 7th. Sergio Perez was the lone surviving Force India in 8th. Daniil Kvyat had a much-needed if too late performance in 9th. Rounding out the points was Kevin Magnussen in 10th.
There was a little bit of massive news in the world of Formula One as US media group Liberty Media bought a share of Formula One for a transaction valued in excess of $8 billion. Of that, $4.1 billion is the assumption of debt while $4.4 billion is an equity transaction in F1.
The acquisition sees Liberty purchase 18% of the Formula One Group but that share will increase to 35.3% when the deal is completed in early 2017. Liberty has experience in sports management as owners of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. They also shares in a number of media companies, including Live Nation, Viacom, Time Warner, Sirius XM and Charter.
For the moment, the teams seem happy with their new overlords. They believe that Liberty Media’s involvement in the sport will result in greater returns to the teams from the Formula One Group. Teams believe that current owners, CVC Capital, have been taking too large profits from the sport and that a change in ownership will benefit the team. However, many business pundits look at the purchase price and are concerned that Liberty could be worse as they need a big return on investment to recover the purchase price of F1.
That being said, Liberty is already looking at ways to increase the sport’s revenue stream and fans may not be happy. One of the first plans they’ve floated is the move of F1 TV to pay services. An increase in F1 sponsors and races are also on the cards under Liberty’s management. Fortunately, Liberty is looking at increasing F1’s digital offerings which is quite welcome.
Also, never fear. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will still be in charge of the sport for the next three years though there are already rumours of conflicts with Liberty that will result in Bernie leaving at the end of the season.
Little happened in terms of silly season since Formula One left Europe.
There was a short-lived story that Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man and telecommunications magnate whose Telmex backs Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, had purchased Force India. That story lasted about a day before denials got the best of rumours and it was killed.
Generally in Formula One, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. He wouldn’t be the first insanely wealthy person to get involved in Formula One. Even recently, we’ve seen the likes of Richard Branson, Tony Fernandes and Vijay Mallya involved in F1 while the Benetton Group and countless car manufacturers have also poured millions of dollars into the sport.
Speaking of the rich putting big money into F1, young Canadian Lance Stroll will qualify for his FIA superlicense after guaranteeing a top three finish in European F3. He is currently working on a testing program in a 2014 Williams and his father is expected to provide sufficient backing to secure him an F1 seat next season. It seems more and more likely that the second Williams seat will come down to who has the most money between Stroll and perhaps Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.
The next round of the 2016 Formula One World Championship is this weekend. Moved from its usual early season calendar spot to allow for a complete repaving and some reprofiling, it time for the Malaysia Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.
The hot weather allowed Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to score the win in last year’s Malaysian race but the Ferrari is the 3rd best car on the grid this season. The usual hot weather issues that the Mercedes have will slow them down but it remains to be seen if they will be badly affected in Sepang. When Mercedes run into trouble, the Red Bull boys are there to capitalize so we’ll see if they can do the same next time out.