Hamilton Wins in Singapore; Extends Championship Lead
SINGAPORE—R.I.S.—Following a fantastic performance in qualifying the night before, Lewis Hamilton followed Sunday evening with an encore, taking his fourth Grand Prix of Singapore with a nearly nine second victory over Max Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel finished in third.
The victory now extends Hamilton’s championship lead to a comfortable 40 points over Vettel with six races to go.
"I got a great start and then after that I was really able to control the pack, control the pace and look after the tires," Hamilton said afterwards. "It definitely got a little bit interesting towards the end with some of the back markers which was incredibly difficult. You already felt the draft from the cars when you're five, six seconds behind and the car starts sliding a bit more.”
Hamilton took the lead right form the start of the race and held the lead until Vettel pitted on lap 15, in which the Briton followed suit. Their actions both put Hamilton in fifth and Vettel seventh. As the other front runners pitted, both moved up the grid as Hamilton regained the lead. But for Vettel, he failed to overtake Verstappen, as the Dutchman had a faster pitstop, putting him into second.
While it became easy for the front runners to keep their positions, it was a fierce battle down the grid. And both Hamilton and Verstappen found this out late in the race as both tried to pass back markers and found themselves in a traffic jam on the tight streets of Singapore on lap 38. Hamilton suddenly found himself threatened by Verstappen as the Red Bull driver was within meters of the Briton as he nearly found an opening. But once both had lapped their opponents, Hamilton found his speed and continued in first.
"Max (Verstappen) had an opportunity [to pass into] Turn 10.” Hamilton continued. “I had to go on a massive defense and even then, I was racing the back marker and they still weren't lifting as I was alongside them. You can't see the blue flags, they're very dark blue and in the smallest holes out there so you actually can't really see them until the light panels come on and then you can see. But even when the light panels came on a lot of the drivers weren't really responding so it made it very, very tough. It gets your hairs standing up for a second and then it's back to business."
In a race that had much attrition in the past, only one driver retired from the race. On lap one, Esteban Ocon was struck by his Force India teammate Sergio Perez, when the Mexican made no room following the first corner. The incident was considered a racing incident with the only time the safety car was initiated until lap five. Neither driver was penalized, but Perez lost a good chance to move up the grid when he was up against Sergey Sirotkin, who was slowing him down. Perez got impatient and intentionally swerved left and struck the Russian. Perez this time was given a drive through penalty that pushed Perez down the order.
A three-way battle commenced for fourth, but it was Valtteri Bottas who just finished ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. Fernando Alonso had a productive but boring evening, finishing his best for a while with his McLaren in seventh. Charles LeClerc gave Sauber more points finishing in ninth. Renault achieved double points by finishing Carlos Sainz Jr. in Eighth and thanks to Sirotkin slowing the pace down, along with the incident with Perez, Nico Hulkenberg found some daylight and picked up the last point in tenth.
For Hamilton, 40 points is very comfortable, but realizes that there are still lots of points available. And what he needs is for the team to keep going.
"Still lots of points are available but with this performance and with this focus that we have as a team I truly believe that we can deliver impactful weekends like this for the rest of the season.” He said. “The approach I have is working really well so I don't see the point in changing, you just need to keep getting better and better."
GRAND PRIX OF SINGAPORE
At Marina Bay
Final Race Results
1 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes
2 Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing—8.9 seconds behind
3 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari
4 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes
5 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
6 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing
7 Fernando Alonso (SPA) McLaren
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. (SPA) Renault
9 Charles LeClerc (MON) Sauber
10 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault
11 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) McLaren
13 Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso
14 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams
15 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
16 Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India
17 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso
18 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team
19 Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams
20 Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India- accident- lap 1
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.