Lewis Hamilton Wins the Singapore GP As Sebastian Vettel Falters

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Lewis Hamilton secured another consummate win at the Singapore GP and extended his lead in the drivers’ championship over Sebastian Vettel to 40 points. Hamilton recorded his 69th career win and his seventh win of the 2018 season. Max Verstappen finished second with a mature drive. Vettel completed the podium places, even as his title hopes faded significantly at a race he was expected to win.

Valtteri Bottas finished fourth, as Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth respectively. Fernando Alonso with another gritty drive finished seventh and “best of the rest”. Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, and Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top 10 positions.

Lewis Hamilton Wins the Singapore GP As Sebastian Vettel Falters

The race started under the night skies with air temperature at 29 degrees C and track temperatures at 32 degrees C at the Marina Bay street circuit. Lewis Hamilton started from pole position after a magical lap that blitzed the field in qualification. Max Verstappen joined him on the first row.

Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas were on the second row. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo lined up on the third row. Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Ocon, and Nico Hulkenberg lined up behind them.

None of the drivers had penalties and they started as they qualified. All the drivers in the top 10 were on the pink-striped hypersoft tyres which were not expected to last long. Alonso and Sainz, outside the top 10, had a free choice of tyres and started on the longer lasting ultrasoft tyres.

The Start With a Clash Between Perez and Ocon

Hamilton made a good start with Verstappen and Vettel jostling behind him through Turn 1. Behind them the Racing Point Force India drivers had a shunt that saw Perez hitting Ocon. Ocon’s race ended and brought out the Safety Car (SC). Just before the SC was deployed, Vettel overtook Verstappen to take second place behind Hamilton.

Sergey Sirotkin with front wing damage caused by debris from Ocon’s car pitted under the SC for a new set of soft tyres. On lap 4, the SC period ended and Hamilton controlled the restart to lead the pack. The order at the end of this lap was Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Perez, Grosjean, Alonso, Sainz, Hulkenberg, and Gasly.

The First Pitstops And Ferrari Blunders

In the first stint, the gap between Hamilton and Vettel remained around 2+ seconds, with the drivers behind also closely bunched up together.

Vettel was the first of the frontrunners to pit. The German pitted on lap 15 for the ultrasoft tyres and rejoined P7 behind Grosjean. It was a rather puzzling choice of tyres as a two-stop strategy would be a slower one. So Vettel would have to either make the ultrasofts last for 46 of the remaining 61 laps or pit again. The pitstop also put Vettel in traffic behind Grosjean and Perez and he lost crucial time.

Next lap, Hamilton pitted and fitted on the soft tyres and rejoined P5 in front of Perez. Even as Vettel was stuck behind Perez on his new tyres, Hamilton pulled away to extend the gap to his rival.

On lap 17, Bottas and Verstappen also pitted for the soft tyres. Red Bull Racing made use of the fact that Vettel was stuck in traffic after his pitstop and jumped him and helped Verstappen regain second place.

Raikkonen and Ricciardo stayed out for a long first stint and were in the lead of the race. On lap 23, Raikkonen pitted for a set of soft tyres. Finally, Ricciardo pitted on lap 27 for ultrasofts and rejoined P6 behind Raikkonen.

After the first set of pitstops, the order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Sainz, and Leclerc. The drivers behind them who had started on the more durable tyres had long first stints.

Sergio Perez’s Day Gets Worse

In a narrow track like the Marina Bay street circuit, the frontrunners who pit early have a tough time overtaking the backmarkers who have not yet pitted. Perez found himself behind Sirotkin’s slow Williams after his first pitstop. For lap after lap, the Mexican could not overtake the Russian who had pitted on the first lap under the Safety Car.

Finally, when he was in the process of overtaking him, Perez hit Sirotkin and damaged his car. Perez had to pit for fresh tyres and rejoined at the back of the field. To add insult to injury, Perez was given a drive-through penalty for the incident.

Racing Point Force India drivers qualified in the top 10 and should have brought home a double-points finish for the newly rebranded outfit. But they scored zero points and the experienced Perez had a forgettable race day.

Hamilton Suffers Anxious Moments Getting Past Backmarkers

On a day when Hamilton followed up his exceptional pole lap with a professional performance on the track, the only anxious moments came as he overtook the backmarkers. On lap 38, Hamilton was stuck behind Sirotkin and Grosjean squabbling for positions and they ignored the blue flags.

The race leader had to be cautious and avoid any mishaps and this allowed Verstappen to close within DRS-range. But Hamilton pulled away after passing Grosjean and coasted to the chequered flag for a comfortable win. Grosjean was given a 5-second penalty for ignoring blue flags. Sirotkin was given a similar penalty for forcing Brendon Hartley off the track.

Behind the leaders, Vettel had the onerous task of preserving his ultrasofts and settled for third behind Verstappen. The only excitement in the final laps was created by an off-colour Bottas defending against Raikkonen, with Ricciardo right behind him. They finished in that order with Alonso dragging the slow McLaren challenger to seventh position.

Sainz and Hulkenberg finished eighth and tenth respectively and gave Renault a double-points finish to preserve fourth–place in the constructors’ championship. The Ferrari-bound Leclerc finished P9.

Hamilton’s Perfect Weekend

The Singapore GP was considered Mercedes’ Achilles heel. But Hamilton clinched his seventh win of the season and extended his lead to 40-points over Vettel. With just six races remaining, Vettel and Ferrari have a tough fight on their hands after a lackluster performance under the Singapore night sky.

The Formula 1 circus heads to Sochi next for the Russian GP (Sept 28-30 2018) in two weeks time.

Singapore GP Race Results:

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 61 1:51:11.611 25
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 61 +8.961s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 61 +39.945s 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 61 +51.930s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 61 +53.001s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 61 +53.982s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 61 +103.011s 6
8 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 60 +1 lap 4
9 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 60 +1 lap 2
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 60 +1 lap 1
11 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 60 +1 lap 0
12 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 60 +1 lap 0
13 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 60 +1 lap 0
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 60 +1 lap 0
15 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 60 +1 lap 0
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 60 +1 lap 0
17 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 60 +1 lap 0
18 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 59 +2 laps 0
19 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 59 +2 laps 0
NC 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 0 DNF 0

Note – Grosjean received a 5-second time penalty for ignoring blue flags.

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