Ferrari won the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix in style, but not without some internal controversy. Why Sebastian Vettel was able to undercut Charles Leclerc for the race victory? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Sebastian was able to maintain a short gap towards the race leader until he stopped for tires at lap 19. Vettel’s average delta was less than 2.5 seconds to Charles, but that gap seemed to be increasing by the end of his first stint. It was then, that Ferrari decided to call Sebastian to make a pit stop.
Vettel had a pit stop of 3.02 seconds, which is on the slower side for a team like Ferrari. His total time spent in the pit lane was of 29.384 seconds. By the moment Seb came out of the pits, his delta to Charles was of 31.6 seconds.
Charles stopped on the next lap for new tires. His pit stop of 2.47 seconds was one of the best of the night, but his total time spent in the pit lane was of 29.168, only a couple of tenths faster than Vettel’s time.
As we all know, Sebastian overtook Charles just after turn 2. Vettel managed to beat Charles by only 0.426 seconds after turn 2, but that was enough. The German managed the race and remained in prime position to take victory by the end of the scheduled 61 laps.
The key aspects
Pit stop and pit lane time
The approximate time spent in the pit lane was of 29 seconds, not 27 as stated by most sources. The lowest time spent in the pit lane was of 28.606 seconds, spent by Alex Albon in lap 20. Now, was this a key factor? It is hard to say.
What was a key factor was the total time spent in the pit lane by both Ferrari drivers. Charles’ pit stop was half a second faster than Vettel’s, but he spent only 2 tenths less in the pit lane than Seb. How could this be? Perhaps Seb took a slightly shorter line when entering and leaving the pit box. It is hard to say, but the numbers do not lie.
If Charles could have been half a second less in the pit lane than Sebastian, his chances of retaining the lead would have been much higher.
Vettel’s lap before going to the pits was of 1:49.010, while Charles did a final lap of 1:49.609. You would expect Charles to have tires in better condition than Seb, since there is no dirty air damaging the tires. Unfortunately, only the team has that data, so perhaps this assumption is actually not correct.
What we know is that by the time Seb came out of the pits, his delta to Leclerc was of 31.6 seconds. Since Charles spent 29.168 seconds in the pit lane at the end of the lap, then this meant that Seb had to cut a deficit of approximately 2.432 seconds.
This delta becomes harder to quantify since stopping for new tires means that the lap is effectively “incomplete”. The driver coming out of the pits skips turn 1 entirely, and comes directly into turn 2. A driver going into the pits skips turns 22 and 23 in order to get to the pit lane.
What we know, however, is that Seb posted a blistering lap after coming out of the pits.
If we compare Leclerc’s last full lap, meaning one lap before stopping for new tires, to Vettel’s lap after coming out of the pits, we see some major differences in pace. Forget about sector 1, the time is obviously not comparable, but pay close attention to sectors two and three.
Just in the middle sector, Seb would have been around two seconds faster than Charles, while he would have been around 1.6 seconds faster in the last sector.
The difference between the used softs and the new hards, was massive. Vettel’s time on lap 18 was of 1:48.716. Vettel’s time on lap 21, with new tires, was of 1:45.453. The difference? 3.263 seconds per lap.
Leclerc was right to be angry, but the margins were so tight that not even the team must have known that the undercut was likely. Vettel did what he had to do, coming out of the pits with fury and attacking the lap as hard as possible.
After crossing the finish line at the end of lap 20, he had 20 seconds to catch up Leclerc. Charles was still driving his way out of the pit lane at that particular time. The final result? Vettel overtaking Charles by less than half a second.
It is easy to say something in retrospective, knowing all the data after it happened, but in real time, things were really dicey. Ferrari not only took the win, but a 1-2 podium. A perfect result for the Italian team.
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