Safety car comes out as interloper seems oblivious to danger, Lewis Hamilton forced to retire and lead reduced to 41 points.
Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, has demanded a full report from track officials in Singapore following the arrest of a man for walking on the Marina Bay circuit in the middle of Sunday’s race.
The incident overshadowed a disappointing race under the lights in which Sebastian Vettel won for the third time this season, while Lewis Hamilton retired to have his lead in the world championship cut to 43 points.
It was on the 37th lap of the 61-lap race that a man was seen shambling along the side of the track on the straight near turn 13. He also stumbled across the track. Police later confirmed a 27-year-old man – thought to be English – had been arrested.
It was the second track invasion of the season, following an incident during practice before the Chinese Grand Prix in April, when a man ran into the pits before attempting to enter the Ferrari garage, saying he wanted to drive a car. And at Silverstone in 2003 the demonstrator Neil Horan ran on to the track at the entrance to Hanger Straight wearing a kilt and carrying a placard which read: “Read the Bible – the Bible is always right.”
Sunday’s incident had a tactical impact on the race, because it led to the introduction of the safety car for the second time in the race, and for the 12th occasion in eight races at this circuit. Daniel Ricciardo, who was second, thought the interruption had damaged his slim chances of victory. “I was tempted to swerve and clip him,” he said, jokingly.
It could have been much worse than that, both for the interloper and for one of the drivers. A FIA statement following the race read: “We are awaiting a full report from the clerk of the course in order to determine the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
The incident shocked drivers and team officials at Marina Bay. The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, said: “It looked as though he had come straight out of a nightclub. It shouldn’t be possible to get on to the track. I am sure the FIA will be having a good look to see how the crowd can be prevented from ending up on the circuit. It is not only dangerous for him but very much so for the drivers.
“If someone is on the track, you have to put a safety car on the track because you don’t know where he is going or what he is going to do.”
Jenson Button shared Horner’s worries. He said: “A Formula One circuit is a very safe environment for a F1 car. We’ve done so well in terms of making the car stronger, making the circuit safer. But there’s a human being on the track – he’s obviously a bit of a nutcase, because who walks on to an F1 circuit, you wouldn’t walk on to a motorway.”
At the risk of glibness there were at least two men here who showed signs of liquid intake. Vettel celebrated his fourth victory here with such enthusiasm that he later said the champagne had hit him more than he thought. He described the uninvited guest on the track as “pretty crazy”.
Vettel powered away from his pole position and led from start to finish for his 42nd victory, taking him ahead of Ayrton Senna and into third place in the all-time list, behind only Michael Schumacher (91) and Alain Prost (51).
His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was third and he was followed by Nico Rosberg, who clawed back 12 points of Hamilton’s lead.
Hamilton’s unhappy weekend continued. He was unable to make quick progress from his starting position of fifth and on the 26th lap suddenly lost power and collapsed down the field. In the end, he was almost pleading with his Mercedes team to let him come in. “Guys, we could be killing the engine here. Why don’t we save it. I’m just going farther and frther back.” Eventually.
There was more misery for McLaren. First Fernando Alonso and then Button retired with gearbox issues, though in Button’s case the damage to his car was compounded by running into the back of Pastor Maldonado in the closing laps.