F1 Raceweek: Can Vettel recapture Ferrari's number one spot after Singapore GP glory?

Sebastian Vettel ended a long wait for a Grand Prix win at Singapore on Sunday, but now faces the task of holding off Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Sebastian Vettel with Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc after the Singapore Grand Prix.   -  Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel's long wait for a Formula One victory is over.

The four-time world champion clinched a triumph at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, securing his first race win since August 2018.

It was a victory which did not come without controversy - Vettel's team-mate Charles Leclerc, who had been hunting a third straight win, was left angered by Ferrari's pit-stop tactics.

Leclerc had started on pole and was in a dominant position until his team-mate was allowed to undercut him and he came out of the pit stops at the Marina Bay Street Circuit behind the German, who had been running third.

The 21-year-old complained over the radio: "To be honest with you, I don't understand at all the undercut. But whatever. We'll discuss it after the race."

While Leclerc's 2019 form has seen him usurp Vettel as Ferrari's number one driver in all but name, a strong end to the season will see the German stake his claim to lead the team once more next year.


HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Charles Leclerec (in the background) watches on as his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel kisses the Singapore GP trophy.   -  Getty Images

 

Despite a superb drive and benefitting from team tactics, Vettel was unwilling to rest on his laurels after the victory.

While he believes the critics have perhaps been too harsh, he affirmed that nobody has higher expectations than he does.

"Maybe less satisfying than you think," Vettel told BBC Sport after the win about whether he had answered his critics.

"Recently, I think there was nothing wrong in general. Things weren't maybe falling in place, plus obviously I messed up in the race in Monza, that's my mistake.

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"I have the highest expectation on myself and I'm not happy when I'm not delivering what I know I can. I know that I can improve from there, and I can't be happy with that. But equally I know that it wasn't as bad or disastrous as maybe people put it together."

Mattia Binotto, meanwhile, explained the circumstances that led to Ferrari prioritising Vettel in Singapore and opting not to swap the drivers back to their original order, despite the frustration of golden boy Leclerc.

"The undercut was effectively more powerful than expected," he said.

"We were not expecting such a big number [a 3.5 second advantage] and we thought Charles stopping the lap after would come out ahead of Sebastian.

"I understand Charles is disappointed. He did his best to win the race and he could have won the race. We did consider to swap [the drivers]. We are still discussing with the drivers whether it was the right choice or not."

VETTEL MUST DRAW ON EXPERIENCE

Leclerec was clearly unhappy with Ferrari's pit-stop tactics.   -  Getty Images

 

Leclerc's fearless displays have been a main factor in his rise to joint-third in the driver standings, but Vettel is only six points behind with as many races remaining.

Vettel is a wily operator and his experience could prove crucial now that he has the winning feeling once more.

A first Ferrari one-two of the season dealt a blow to Mercedes as the Scuderia secured a third straight win. That is Binotto's main concern, but the individual results of their drivers will be an interesting sub-plot for the remainder of 2019.

ALSO READ | 'We should have won in Singapore'- Lewis Hamilton

First on Vettel's agenda will be halting a miserable run in qualifying that has seen Leclerc in front of him on the grid at eight consecutive races to put him in a better position once each Sunday arrives. The Monegasque has five poles this season to his one.

Then, he must cut out the sloppy mistakes on race day, which he did to great effect in Singapore after a dreadful outing in Monza.

With the F1 calendar moving straight to Russia this week, the 32-year-old knows it will take much more than one race to win over critics who have suggested his best days are behind him.

But he now has a great chance to ensure he goes into a 2020 season where Ferrari hope to challenge for the drivers title with, at the very least, an equal standing to Leclerc.