Fireworks synchronised with the moment Lewis Hamilton hoisted the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix trophy aloft on Sunday evening, but arguably, the real pyrotechnics occurred seconds into the start of the race.
In the wildest opening of the 10 editions of the night race, four cars crashed out, including three of the top-four starters (Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen), in a startling chain-reaction accident at Turn 1 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
And the recriminations continued long after the race, with accusing fingers pointed mainly in the direction of Ferrari’s Vettel even though race stewards cleared all parties of any wrongdoing after an inquiry.
The Scuderia cancelled the post-race media briefings with their drivers, but team principal Maurizio Arrivabene adopted a diplomatic tone and expressed his wish to move on from the fiasco.
In a communique via the team’s Twitter account, he said: “That (the accident) was very disappointing and it was definitely not the result we were expecting, but it doesn’t mean that the battle is all over, just that it has become more difficult.
“All of us, those here in Singapore today and those working back in Maranello, we all have the Prancing Horse stamped on our hearts and we guarantee that we will be fighting right to the final corner of the very last Grand Prix of the year.”
In contrast, the BBC’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson laid the blame squarely on the German driver, believing that the Ferrari man’s combative style could have cost him the drivers’ championship.
How much will Vettel come to regret the aggressive defensive move that contributed to the collision... this time it could cost him a world championship.
ANDREW BENSON, BBC’s chief F1 writer,feels the Ferrari driver gambled and lost
Vettel had started Sunday attempting to close a three-point gap on championship leader Hamilton, but ended the night 28 points behind as his early retirement and the Briton’s win in Singapore allowed the Mercedes driver to soar to 263 points.
Benson wrote: “How much will Sebastian Vettel come to regret the aggressive defensive move that contributed to the collision that took him out of the Singapore Grand Prix?
“It is something of a signature move of Vettel’s.
“He has used it to great effect in the past.
“He may well have learned it from his hero Michael Schumacher, who also specialised in that sort of uncompromising lunge. Usually it works to his advantage – but this time it could have cost him a world championship.”
Mercedes, whose driver Lewis Hamilton was the principal beneficiary of the crash, also weighed in, with non-executive chairman and three-time world champion Niki Lauda telling Reuters: “If he (Vettel) would not have moved (across) he could have won the race, there’s no question about it.”
The fireworks continued on social media for hours after the race, with Ferrari’s tweet – “VER took #Kimi7 out and then he went to #Seb5 – in particular raising not just eyebrows but also hackles.
Besides drawing a sarcastic reply from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who insisted that those who blamed the Dutch teenager needed to get their eyesight checked, fans were also up in arms as well.
@nikidenton blasted back: “Factual description if you are blind.”
@Shinto–P added: “I am a big Vettel fan but be honest here. Vettel pushed VER all the way into Kimi. That was the most useless move I’ve seen.”
The Scuderia later appeared to go on the defensive, tweeting: “What we tweeted was a factual description of events. No need to speculate on this.”
Many also took issue with the International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) decision to absolve the Ferrari drivers of blame.
@Beezz13 summed up his own sentiments with the tweet: “@fia = Ferrari International Assistance”.