Charlen Raymond from sport24.co.za explains the events that led to the Singapore crash last week:
Cape Town – The Singapore Grand Prix has been known for spectacular crashes over the years; the most infamous of them all Nelson Piquet Jr’s crash in 2008 that ultimately gifted Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso the win that year.
But at the start of the 2017 edition of the night race, the two Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen collided with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in spectacular fashion, sending all three drivers out of the race even before it got properly underway.
In the days following the race, pundits and fans were – and still are – throwing the blame around as to who was actually at fault.
Was it Vettel who veered into Verstappen’s path with his aggressive defensive manoeuvre?
Was it perhaps Raikkonen who should have known not to drive that close to another driver on cold tyres? What if the fault was not either of the Ferrari drivers?
What if the fault is entirely Verstappen’s for one simple fact: the boy is not race-fit in 2017.
Twenty drivers lined up at the start of the 2017 season, but the one who had the most pressure on his shoulders was Verstappen; a talented driver who has the world at his feet.
He is a star of the future, undoubtedly, but his season thus far has been plagued by incidents and bad luck. If it’s not his car failing on him then he’s involved in some scrap with another driver.
He’s fast off the starting line, aggressive into the first corner, and relentless in his pursuit to score maximum points in a race. Which are all great attributes to have, but if there is not enough race craft in a high-octane sport like Formula 1 to back it up, you’re bound to be reckless and dangerous on track.
At the end of the Italian GP, Verstappen was the driver with the least amount of laps under his belt. Out of the 13 races that preceded the Singapore GP, he only managed to accumulate 457 laps – the least of the 20 racers that signed-up to race this year.
The next racer to come close to Verstappen’s tally is Alonso, but his troubles are largely due to an unreliable Honda engine.
Verstappen lined up second in Singapore on the grid behind Vettel and ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Raikkonen. However, his lack in laps of driving competitively throughout the season and physically competing against other drivers has put him at a disadvantage.
Should’ve backed off
As the drivers got off the line in Singapore, Verstappen and Raikkonen clearly had the edge over Vettel and were on the verge of arriving at the first corner ahead of the German.
Raikkonen pulled up alongside Verstappen and got about half a car’s length ahead of the Red Bull driver. Vettel steered to the left to cut Verstappen off, clearly aware that he’s about to lose his position, but he did so without touching his rival’s car – a calculated move that paid off for a brief moment. Knowing that Raikkonen is alongside him, Verstappen opted to steer left and into Raikkonen.
This action took all three drivers out of the race and gifted Hamilton the win.
Verstappen, who had the best view of what was unfolding ahead of him, opted to keep his foot planted on the accelerator in order to retain his position.
If he had lifted even 10 percent off the throttle, Raikkonen would have gone past him, he would not have been embroiled into another incident, and he could have scored a fair amount of points. Perhaps even make it onto the podium or take the win – Red Bull had the pace to take the fight to both Ferrari and Mercedes.
Vettel’s move would have been hailed as a “masterstroke”; seeing that it was completely legal and fair, just so by the way. But Verstappen’s plagued season and desperation for a good result forced his hand to make a decision that was not thought through, nor calculated. 14 races have completed thus far this year, with another six remaining. Verstappen, sadly, only completed 50 percent of the races he competed in. Three of his 2017 retirements were because of accidents he was involved in, including Singapore, and four because of technical failures.
Driving for a champion team like Red Bull Racing brings with it a huge amount of pressure, but they’re sticking with their future prospect and will not demote him back to Toro Rosso like they did with Daniil Kvyat in 2016.