The next Singapore Grand Prix is already the thirteenth edition of the Night Race. Street races in Asia have already provided a lot of spectacle. Max Verstappen also rode some memorable versions under the lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, which took place exactly seven years ago, will still stand head and shoulders above the rest for the Red Bull Racing driver.
In 2015, Verstappen made his Formula 1 debut for the Toro Rosso team. So that year was the first time a driver drove on the Singapore Street Circuit. Racing on the track is often very challenging, as the temperature is often relatively high and there is often high humidity. But for Verstappen, the race immediately became more difficult at first. It was even questionable whether the then Toro Rosso driver would ever race a grand prix.
Verstappen lost his good starting position when out of the limelight
Verstappen had a great weekend leading up to the race on Sunday. During the free training sessions, the driver actually managed to set good times. Friday set for the seventh and tenth time in a row, while scoring the ninth time during the third free practice. Verstappen was able to take that form to qualify later on Saturday. Driver Toro Rosso made it to Q3 and eventually qualified himself for eighth. The Dutchman then reacted, “It really couldn’t be better.” “It is very important that we stand up to our direct competitors. I am very happy with that. However, this euphoria was short-lived on Sunday.
Once the five red lights went out, Verstappen didn’t move. All 14 drivers behind the Toro-Rosso driver passed the parked car. The car is stuck in first gear. what do I have to do now? ‘ asked Verstappen from the cockpit. The team’s response was, “We’ll push you back into the pit lane and then try to get the car back on.” Verstappen stood there for a while, but eventually managed to keep going. The driver did this by lap behind the rest of the field.
However, Verstappen has shown he would never consider giving up. The driver showed fast lap times all weekend and that was no different during the race. On the sixth lap he managed to catch up with the drivers in the back field. Verstappen was of course still in the lap, but he managed to do a quick job with the first set of drivers. However, it was almost impossible for Verstappen to keep up with the leading group, led by Sebastian Vettel Ferrari. So the Limburger needed a little luck.
Crash Hulkenberg and Massa provide hope to Verstappen
The luck Verstappen needed came in the thirteenth round. Felipe Massa was just coming off the pit lane and trying with all his might in front of the Nico Hulkenberg Force India. That didn’t end well for either driver. Hulkenberg closed the door, but Massa was determined to get ahead of the German. The two drivers met at Turn 3 and the Force India suspension broke. Hulkenberg shot straight ahead and had to stop his race. Massa also took damage, but was able to continue on his way. On the 30th lap, the Brazilian’s race ended due to gearbox problems.
After the accident, the safety car entered the track and Verstappen provided the perfect way out. Meanwhile, the driver mixed up with the other drivers, but of course he was still in the back. So Verstappen was told he could bypass the safety car and then get back to the back of the field. The rookie then still held the last position in his hands, but the hope for points suddenly became more realistic.
Verstappen makes his way to the points
Once the safety car is back, Verstappen can really start to race to catch up. The Marussia drivers, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi, were the first to quickly secure the Toro Rosso in the youngster’s hands. Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, who captained the Sauber team, were easy prey for Verstappen.
Everything happened in the race. Massa retired on lap 30, but on the three laps after that Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso retired respectively due to technical issues. At the time, Verstappen was driving on twenty-lap old tires, while other drivers had just changed their tyres. Verstappen was under pressure from Sergio Pérez and decided to dive on lap 37. This was perfect timing for the young driver, as the safety car pulled out at the same time. Someone found a way to get to the track and steadily walked several meters on the asphalt.
Verstappen is back in twelfth, but once the race starts again, he is fast in P11. After that, things went quickly for the Toro Rosso driver as a number of things went wrong. As a result, Verstappen quickly regained two positions and also passed his teammate Carlos Sainz. On lap 46, he overtook current world champion Romain Grosjean for eighth. He didn’t concede it in the remaining fifteen laps of the race.
Verstappen quarrels with Sainz and Toro Rosso
Verstappen and Sainz had a fiery relationship during their time at Toro Rosso. It is only natural that the two young players want to prove themselves and thus force a step towards the great Red Bull Racing. Of course, a catch-up race in Singapore would have helped Verstappen, but the driver also disobeyed Team Toro Rosso orders. The Italian racing stable wanted Verstappen to ditch Sainz on the penultimate lap. The Spaniard had newer tires and the team felt they would have a better chance of overtaking Perez, who was in P7.
“Max we want to exchange positions,” was the instruction to Verstappen. The driver’s response was very simple and clear. ‘number!’ However, his engineer did not give up. “Max, just do it.” However, Verstappen stuck to his post. As a result, the team tried again once it was on the last lap ahead of Vettel, the race leader. “Max, we have to let him go now.” This time he remained silent in the cockpit of Verstappen. So Sainz had to settle for ninth.
However, Verstappen was resolute after that. “I started the race behind one lap and in the end I was the team lead car. There was no reason to let me pass. I don’t know if I would get in trouble, but I am happy with my decision. Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost (and now also at AlphaTauri) agreed, Finally with the Dutchman. “We thought Carlos was faster, but it wasn’t like that. Max said no, and he was absolutely right. All is well and ends well for Verstappen.