Lewis Hamilton drove a masterful race to win the Singapore Grand Prix and take a stranglehold on the title as rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out.
The race began, and Hamilton started reeling off fastest laps, and he remained serene through a madcap race that started wet, was dry for almost half its distance, featured three safety cars as a result of a series of incidents and ran to only 58 of its scheduled 61 laps because of the two-hour time limit.
It could be a defining moment in the championship. Vettel was expected to re-take the lead at a track on which Ferrari had an advantage over Mercedes. Instead, Hamilton heads into the final six races of the season with a 28-point advantage.
Hamilton did so after one of his most impressive drives. Mercedes went into the race thinking about damage limitation, with team boss Toto Wolff talking about the best possible result being to limit the loss of points to Vettel.
Having qualified fifth for the Singapore Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton knew it would take something extraordinary for him to win – and that ‘something’ duly arrived in the form of the first rain in the race’s history.
Admittedly the first-lap elimination of three key rivals aided his cause, but Hamilton insisted he knew victory was possible as soon as the umbrellas started going up in the Marina Bay stands shortly before the start.“I didn’t pray for a miracle –
I didn’t pray for anything to happen – but when it rained I thought, this is it: I can win from fifth in the rain,” said the Mercedes driver, who took the chequered flag 4.5s clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo after a gruelling two hours’ racing.
“I (@LewisHamilton) “THE GOAT”, was so sure I was going to be able to do something and then everything happened – everyone disappeared. I was really, really happy – no mistakes, just a really well-controlled race in those conditions.
”The result was particularly sweet for Hamilton, who – after Mercedes’ poor qualifying form in Singapore on Saturday – had expected Sebastian Vettel to retake the lead in the title standings.“Yesterday we struggled, we had no idea what was going to happen today, but we tried to stay focused, to get ahead,” he added. “Obviously it was very fortunate with the Ferraris at the beginning, but I couldn’t be happier or more grateful.
“And to come here today, with the idea of damage limitation, thinking I’m going to come out of here behind again in the championship – and actually I’m further ahead. So I definitely count my blessings and don’t take it for granted.”
It was action from the off in Sunday evening’s Singapore Grand Prix – the first night race in F1 history to be run in wet conditions. With both Ferraris and a Red Bull eliminated in a coming-together at the start, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton stormed to his 60th F1 victory, extending his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel from three to 28 points with just six races to go.
|2||DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING||+4.507s||18|
|4||CARLOS SAINZ||TORO ROSSO||+22.822s||12|
|5||SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA||+25.359s||10|
|10||ESTEBAN OCON||FORCE INDIA||+44.795s||1|
In a race that ran to the full two-hour limit thanks to three safety-car periods, Daniel Ricciardo made the Marina Bay podium for the fourth year in a row, as he took second place for Red Bull ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
Carlos Sainz scored his best-ever result with fourth for Toro Rosso; Jolyon Palmer did the same as he finished sixth for Renault; and likewise Stoffel Vandoorne with seventh place for McLaren. The remaining points places went to Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in fifth and tenth respectively, Williams’ Lance Stroll in eighth and Haas’s Romain Grosjean in ninth.
The recap of the race, as it happened:
With the forecast rain having started to fall just prior to the start, Vettel led off the line from his hard-won pole position, but as Max Verstappen lagged alongside him, Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen came creeping down the inside of the Red Bull heading to Turn 1. That was where the Dutchman found himself getting pinched in a Scuderia sandwich, and the three collided.
Verstappen and Raikkonen were done for the night, sliding off on the outside of the corner and collecting an innocent Fernando Alonso, who had rocketed his McLaren off the line in typical fashion to briefly nose as high as third.
Vettel clung to the lead as Hamilton jumped to second place round the outside, but then the German’s car damaged spun in a straight line, ripping off its nose and prompting his retirement.
Hamilton thus led Ricciardo as the debris was cleared under the first of the three safety-car deployments.
When the race resumed on the fifth lap, Hamilton began opening a gap to Ricciardo that was wiped out in the 11th lap when Daniil Kvyat crashed his Toro Rosso into the Turn 7 wall.
Once again Hamilton rebuilt his advantage with another series of fastest laps, and by the 24th lap conditions were dry enough for slick tyres.
Ricciardo took ultrasofts on the 28th lap, Hamilton a lap later, and yet again the Mercedes pilot opened up a lead, only to see it eradicated once more when Marcus Ericsson crashed his Sauber on the 37th lap after spinning on the Anderson Bridge.
By then Ricciardo had been trading fastest lap with Hamilton, but when the track went green for the last time the Englishman was still able to draw away as he wished and eventually won by 4.5s.
It was a great evening for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas bringing his car home third, albeit a long way behind the Red Bull.
Carlos Sainz drove an excellent race for Toro Rosso and resisted race-long pressure from Force India’s Sergio Perez to take fourth place, 14s behind Bottas.
And it was a good day at last for Jolyon Palmer who, after Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg had fallen back from an excellent fourth place with mechanical problems, resisted attacks from Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren to finish sixth.
Vandoorne was comfortably ahead of Lance Stroll’s Williams which benefited when the team split their early strategy and put him on intermediate tyres and kept Felipe Massa on full wets. The Canadian was chased home by Romain Grosjean’s Haas, as Esteban Ocon took the final point for Force India. Massa, in 11th, and Pascal Wehrlein in 12th, were the final finishers.
Besides Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Kvyat, Ericsson and Hulkenberg, Alonso recovered from his first corner delay but retired his damaged McLaren with mechanical problems which led to loss of power, while Kevin Magnussen, whose Haas had a problem with its MGU-K, was the final DNF.
With six rounds to go, Hamilton now leads his Ferrari rival by 28 points, 263 to 235. Meanwhile team mate Valtteri Bottas, who finished third, is now only 23 points behind Vettel in third.