Vettel shows he is still a winner
Four-times champion never doubted he would be back on top of the podium after critics wrote him off
Sebastian Vettel waited more than a year for his 53rd Formula One victory but, though written off by some critics, the Ferrari driver never doubted it would come.
The 32-year-old raced to victory in Sunday’s floodlit Singapore Grand Prix, leading a one-two with teammate Charles Leclerc.
It was the first time the quadruple world champion had stood on top of the podium since the Belgian Grand Prix in August 2018.
“Maybe less satisfying than you think,” said the German when asked by reporters how it had felt to answer those who had doubted him. “As I said about form and stuff, I don’t think there was anything wrong.
“Things weren’t maybe falling in place, plus I messed up in the race in Monza (Ferrari’s home Italian Grand Prix), that’s my mistake. But overall it’s part of the game. I’ve been around now for a long, long time. It’s just how the tide turns sometimes.”
Vettel came into the Singapore weekend under pressure, after a messy outing at Monza where he spun off in an unforced error and was sanctioned by stewards for rejoining the track in a dangerous manner.
Leclerc, his 21-year-old teammate in his first season with Ferrari and second in F1, meanwhile won the hearts of the team’s passionate fans by handing the Italians their first win on home soil since 2010. A week earlier he had scored Ferrari’s first win of the season in Belgium, prompting talk that he was now the team’s number one.
In contrast, Vettel’s slump in form had fuelled speculation, despite his statements to the contrary, that he might not see out his Ferrari contract which runs to the end of 2020.
Despite the slightly controversial nature of his win in Singapore, after he benefited from Ferrari’s strategy to pit earlier than Leclerc, it was clear how much it meant to the German.
“I just got a lot of energy in the last couple of weeks from messages that I received from the racing world, from people that I know from a long time ago, but especially fans,” said Vettel. “When you read through some of the notes and people’s struggles in life, some intimate and private, it gets to you and it gave me a lot of belief and just confidence to just keep trying.”
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion who was a big rival of Vettel’s boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, hailed his return to the top.
“I think there were a lot of people looking at this race and saying the guy is finished,” the Briton told Sky Sports television. “Some people were saying he’s never going to come back from that (Monza nightmare). Well, he did.”
Robert Kubica to leave Williams
Robert Kubica will leave former champions Williams at the end of the season, a move likely to bring the curtain down on the Polish driver’s extraordinary F1 racing comeback after a rally crash eight years ago.
The 34-year-old made his race return this season after suffering near-fatal injuries, including a partially severed right arm, in a minor rally in Italy on the eve of the 2011 season.
“To evaluate other opportunities I have taken the decision that I will not continue more with Williams after this year,” he told reporters at a Singapore Grand Prix news conference.
“It took a lot of time to recover and come back to the sport. I said this year will be a goal to remain in F1, but not at every cost. I have to first of all do what will bring me back a bit of joy of racing. This season has been tough from a performance point of view, but it has been also demanding. Being back in F1 after a long time is not easy.”
Williams are last in the championship after 14 races with an uncompetitive car and just one point scored by Kubica in Germany after drivers ahead of him were demoted by penalties.
The Pole, a race winner with now-defunct BMW-Sauber in Canada in 2008 and once seen as a potential champion, remains the Polish driver to have competed in the F1 championship.
French driver Romain Grosjean said the Pole had been an inspiration. “In motorsport he is an example, but also in life generally, to come back to the highest level and fight the way he fought back is impressive.”
Williams said they would announce their 2020 line-up in due course.
British rookie and 2018 Formula Two champion George Russell is backed by engine provider Mercedes and is sure to stay, with Canadian reserve Nicholas Latifi seen as Kubica’s likely replacement.
Latifi, who is second in the F2 championship, has put in three practice appearances for Williams. Nico Hulkenberg, who is being replaced by Frenchman Esteban Ocon next season at Renault, could also be in the frame.
Marquez within grasp of sixth MotoGP title
Honda’s Marc Marquez celebrated his 200th start and moved within reach of a sixth MotoGP title on Sunday with a commanding win from pole position in front of his home Spanish fans at the Aragon Grand Prix.
The reigning champion has 300 points and a lead of 98 over nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso, who finished second for Ducati at the MotorLand circuit near Alcaniz. Australian Jack Miller was third for non-works Pramac Ducati.
The points tally means Marquez will wrap up his fourth successive championship with four races to spare if he wins the next race in Thailand on October 6. The victory was his eighth of the season.
Dovizioso could claim the ride of the day, with the experienced Ducati rider qualifying 10th on the grid but making the most of his bike’s power to carve his way through the field.
Miller used his bike’s speed to good effect, passing Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales for the final podium place on the last lap to end the European part of the season on a high before heading home to Australia for a few days off.
Vinales had started on the front row, alongside French Petronas Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo, who dropped back to fifth at the finish. Italian great Valentino Rossi was eighth for Yamaha.
SA’s Brad Binder won the Moto2 race on his KTM, ahead of Speed Up’s Jorge Navarro and championship leader Alex Marquez on a Kalex. It was Binder’s second victory of the season and he is fifth in the championship.