MARINA BAY, Singapore — After championship contender Sebastian Vettel crashed on the first lap, Lewis Hamilton drove a methodical, metronomic race to dominate Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix. Hamilton led every lap, helping him to pad his Championship lead.
The win was Hamilton’s 60th win, and he said he hadn’t registered the milestone.
“Oh jeez, I hadn’t even realised,” Hamilton said. “And I didn’t hear you say that before. Wow. I guess I need some time to digest it. And I didn’t hear you say that before. Wow. I guess I need some time to digest it.”
“These kind of wins are a lot more satisfying than pole to win or… these wins when it is those tricky conditions. It is the toughest race for us. There are so many white line that are painted white and also painted black, it’s so tricky. Any little mistake. Plus, all I needed to was bring it home, but I’ve got Daniel behind me, I can’t make any mistakes today, so it was a real challenge today but one I thoroughly enjoyed.”
It began to rain minutes before the start, with puddles forming, and though it eased, it still would be a challenge. Race Director Charlie Whiting told teams that they might need to change tires within three minutes after the start unless he called for wets.
It was a wild start, with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crashed into each other, taking out Max Verstappen as well. Vettel came across Verstappen’s nose as Raikkonen came down his left side, and Vettel and Raikkonen touched. Raikkonen and Verstappen were out at the first corner, clipping Fernando Alonso’s McLaren.
“At the start I had a very good jump, then I got hit; that was the end of our race,” Raikkonen said. “I don’t think I could have really done anything differently to avoid it, apart from doing a bad start and not being there. It’s a pity, one of those things you pay a big price for. I don’t think I could have really done anything differently to avoid it, apart from doing a bad start and not being there. It’s a pity, one of those things you pay a big price for.”
“Whatever the cause or the issue, it doesn’t change the end result unfortunately. We go to the next races ready to fight and do our best.”
Verstappen was equivocal about the incident, preferring to focus on the weekend as a whole.
“My start was a little bit better than Seb and I think he saw that so he tried to move to the left to squeeze me out of the line a bit but he did not know Kimi was on my other side,” Verstappen said. “I think it wasn’t the smartest move and you can’t make excuses for it when you are fighting for a world championship. Kimi had a great start and was alongside me very quickly, I didn’t try and defend that as I knew it would be a long race, he then started to squeeze me also, at which point there wasn’t a lot I could do.”
“The rear wheels are wider than the front so I was locked in the sandwich with no way out, even when I braked. If I made a mistake myself I would be upset or angry but there was nothing I could do today. We all lost out in the end so we all experienced some pain rather than someone making a mistake and then being able to carry on. We have to take the positives from the weekend, we were quick in qualifying and the practice sessions with good potential going into the race, we can hold onto this and move on to the next race.”
Vettel made it a few more corners before he spun, losing the nose and front crash structure of his Ferrari. The chaos allowed Hamilton to lead the event from Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Four laps after the safety car came out, the track went green, and Hamilton opened up a 2.3-second lead over Ricciardo. It was estimated that the full wet runners would have to change to intermediates within a few laps as the track began to dry, and Ricciardo told Red Bull that the intermediates would be the right tire.
“I had an average start and then I moved slightly to the left trying to defend my position from Max,” Vettel said. “Then I got bumped on one side as Kimi’s car hit me. I’m not sure what happened. I spun at turn 3, but that’s because the car was damaged already.
“Today we were on the wrong side of the track, which doesn’t help. But there is nothing we can do now and for sure it is bitter, and it’s a pity we couldn’t show our pace today; but we have other races ahead of us and I am sure there will be more opportunities for us.”
Alonso’s McLaren lost the telemetry, leaving the team blind to what the car was doing in the Spaniard’s hands. Alonso came in on lap 10 and retired the car.
“My start was brilliant,” Alonso said. “The car did an amazing launch and I managed to gain several positions, up to third place, but after that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t aware of what was happening on the inside, all I know is that at Turn One some cars crashed and hit us. In that situation, you are just a passenger, there’s nothing you can do.”
Daniil Kvyat slammed into the barrier at Turn seven on lap 11, triggering a second safety car period. The safety car came in at the end of lap 14, and Hamilton opened up a one-second gap over Ricciardo. Teams were wondering if it was possible to change to dry tires, which Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg decided against. However, Kevin Magnussen switched to dries on lap 25, then Massa followed. Hamilton, meanwhile, set the fastest lap on inters, but Magnussen did on lap 29.
More cars pitted in for dries, and Hamilton did on lap 29. At the halfway point, Hamilton led Palmer, Ricciardo, Bottas and Hulkenberg. Palmer pitted in, handing second to Ricciardo, but the Australian was 8.9 seconds behind Hamilton.
Marcus Ericsson spun his Sauber on lap 38, bringing out the safety car. That closed the gap between Hamilton and Ricciardo, and when the race went green on lap 41, the event switched to a timed race, and Hamilton began to pull away, opening the gap to 2.131 seconds by the end of the lap. 25 minutes was the call from race control, and Hamilton used it to his advantage, pulling away slightly from Ricciardo.
Mercedes wanted Hamilton to slow it down in case a safety car came out so as not to allow Ricciardo the ability to undercut Hamilton on a possible pit stop. Hamilton didn’t agree, and Mercedes left it up to him.
Hulkenberg retired his Renault with about 10 minutes to go, surpassing Adrian Sutil as the driver weith the most starts with no podiums. Magnussen slowed with an MGU-K problem on his Haas.
Hamilton drove well to win his seventh Grand Prix of the year and pulled out a 28-point lead on Vettel with six races left. He said he wouldn’t change how he approached these final six events.
“Definitely won’t change anything,” he said. “Because it’s working. Whatever it is with the approach that I have, there’s no reason to change it.”
“It’s a perfect balance of being aggressive and cautious at the same time. So, the formula works at the moment, so I’ll just continue with it. Right to the last race. I’ve not really thought about it, it’s still soaking up really. It’s hard to believe. Firstly it’s my 60th grand prix win. I don’t know why but it’s not sinking in just yet, and also the gap, it’s kind of hard to believe. It’s a long, long race and I definitely went into today thinking it was about damage limitation, it was trying to minimise the loss somehow. If I’d got stuck behind Kimi it could have been just finishing fifth. It could have come out a lot worse. So, to come out the complete other direction, for sure it’s a shock. But, I’ll take it and I’m grateful. I’m grateful for it. As I said, we’ve worked so hard as a team, I think today was just fortunate conditions, really just fell into our direction and we capitalised on it.”
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Daniel Ricciardo
3. Valtteri Bottas
4. Carlos Sainz
5. Sergio Perez
6. Jolyon Palmer
7. Stoffel Vandoorne
8. Lance Stroll
9. Romain Grosjean
10. Esteban Ocon
11. Felipe Massa
12. Pascal Wehrlein
13. Kevin Magnussen
14. Nico Hulkenberg
15. Marcus Ericsson
16. Daniil Kvyat
17. Fernando Alonso
18. Sebastian Vettel
19. Max Verstappen
20. Kimi Raikkonen