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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Sainz shines on a starry night - Driver market merry-go-round leaves some in a spin


Under the lights, it was Sainz’s time to shine
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty

We’ve been waiting nine years but it finally happened. Singapore’s turbulent climate decided to dump its daily rain shower during the race and set up a classic. Drivers and teams didn’t know what direction to go in from the start and it was the top runners that were left looking foolish. That left some of the junior drivers to star and show their maturity as they kept it out of the wall, or their teammates right ‘til the end.

Sainz storms to best ever finish

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 10th, Finished 4th

Under the lights, it was Sainz’s time to shine. While one Spaniard went for glory from the outset, Sainz was the man to secure a huge result when it was on offer. In fact, it was Toro Rosso’s best result since Verstappen’s fourth place in Texas in 2015. Sainz played the long game, knowing that the race isn’t won in the first corner. He started on inters, like the front runners and was cautious into turn one, gaining only one place despite the chaos at the very front as Palmer, Vandoorne and Ocon made their way through, gambling on full wet tyres.

Ironically, especially in Singapore, it was teammate Daniil Kvyat’s crash that really put Sainz in the pound seats as his main competitors all saw it as the ideal opportunity to ditch their wet tyres. The stops saw Sainz vault up to fourth past Hülkenberg, Pérez, Palmer, Ocon and Vandoorne. This really put the cat among the pigeons, suddenly if Sainz could match the pace of the big three left in the race in the damp a podium was on.

Ironically, especially in Singapore, it was teammate Daniil Kvyat’s crash that really put Sainz in the pound seats

The restart left the Spaniard more preoccupied with holding back his new teammate for next year as Renault looked on song. Eventually Sainz had to yield, as Hülkenberg jumped him at the stops. A career best was still on if he could hold off Sergio Pérez which he did admirably despite a power deficit and without DRS. Fourth place was on once again though as Hülkenberg’s run of rotten luck when big points are on offer continued. With the safety car in for the third time, all that was left was a 19-lap slog to the finish, holding off Pérez without putting a tyre even a millimetre into the damp stuff. Easy, right? He made it look it, celebrating his move to a works manufacturer with 12 points and getting one step closer to a maiden podium.

Landmark result proves too late

Jolyon Palmer, Renault F1 Team: Started 11th, Finished 6th

Palmer held his nerve and under great pressure
Credit: Renault Sport F1

While it may be too late for Jolyon Palmer, you have to admire his professionalism, courage and pace in Singapore. With his F1 career all but over, and the eyes of the F1 world watching, the Brit silenced the doubters and put on a show with his second ever points finish and his best result by far.

What’s more he was on Hülkenberg’s impressive pace and carried the flag well once the German’s race was prematurely ended. Palmer was right on the edge of a Q3 performance once again, ironically being edged out by his successor for next year Sainz.

In the race, Renault made the right call on tyres for the start before making a critical strategy error that could easily have seen Palmer – or Hülkenberg – secure a result in the top four. The wets gave the best traction off the line and Palmer launched up to sixth and then the extra grip gave Palmer great confidence and even saw him pass a Mercedes, passing the nervous Bottas for fifth on lap five. That said they were always a short-term solution.

The trouble was Renault ended up in the worst of all worlds, pitting under the safety car but waiting a lap to do it, losing crucial track position. It dropped Palmer to seventh from fifth and chasing Sergio Pérez’s rear wing for the rest of the afternoon, whilst both Renaults lost out to their new team member Sainz. As with most of the points scorers, Palmer struggled to make a move once the ultrasoft tyres came out of their blankets, with just one usable line through most of the corners. That said, Palmer did well to hold off the impressive Vandoorne with some strong defensive driving. Palmer held his nerve and under great pressure secured a career best result, jumping Renault above Haas in the constructors’ championship.

Hamilton cashes in on Ferrari calamity

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport: Started 5th, Finished 1st

Hamilton took a huge gamble going around the outside of turn one
Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT

Lewis Hamilton got his miracle. While fifth was a disappointing best possible result in qualifying, the Brit couldn’t believe his luck as all bar Ricciardo in front crashed out of the way. Hamilton took a huge gamble going around the outside of turn one but just about got away with it before Vettel spun in front of him.

From there, Hamilton was dominant and stopped Ricciardo’s challenge in its tracks. That being said, the form and pace that Hamilton showed was incredible. He didn’t put a foot wrong in the race, nor did he emulate his hero Ayrton Senna in the wrong way by binning it and throwing away a race win, as the Brazilian did in Monaco in 1988.

It would have been easy to yield to Ricciardo and cash in on Ferrari’s screw up but he was determined to inflict the maximum damage and kept well clear to crank up the pressure on Vettel and the Scuderia.

Vandoorne saves McLaren’s bacon

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren Honda: Started 9th, Finished 7th

Vandoorne harried Palmer but was unable to make a move and had to settle for a career best seventh

There was another team when it was left to the junior driver to score crucial points in the championship. Six points may not be enough to help McLaren jump Haas and get involved in the midfield constructors’ battle but it was enough to all but secure ninth ahead of Sauber – how the mighty have fallen.

Vandoorne deserves huge credit for dragging the McLaren into Q3, qualifying ninth and just two tenths and one place behind double world champion teammate Fernando Alonso.

While Alonso went gung-ho into turn one, Vandoorne was rather more circumspect and cashed in as a result, moving up to seventh. Starting on the wet tyres, the Belgian lost out to Stroll during the safety car period as he changed tyres but got back past the Canadian with a great move on lap 20. That left Vandoorne in a rookie sandwich between Palmer and Stroll, he harried Palmer but was unable to make a move and had to settle for a career best seventh place finish.

Vandoorne deserves huge credit for dragging the McLaren into Q3
Credit: McLaren Honda