It was all change at the top of the World Drivers’ Championship, as the pendulum swung in favour of Lewis Hamilton after his Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team-mate Nico Rosberg was forced to retire after a nightmare start to his Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton dominated the race from start to finish, surviving the safety car period and a late pit stop to change on the Soft Pirelli tyres that saw him fall briefly behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, and the Briton was obviously delighted to claim the championship lead from his team-mate.
“It was great to come here after winning in Monza and start the final leg of the season with such a competitive car,” said Hamilton. “It would have been a really hardcore race if Nico had been at the front, as we clearly had the pace. It was all running pretty comfortably until the Safety Car came out, which gave me some problems.
“I was driving hard to build the gap but then the tyres started dropping off and I wasn’t sure what to do – keep pushing or back off to look after them. So we pitted straight away and I came out behind Seb. But I knew they were on a two-stop strategy and that his tyres were old. I went for it down the back straight – the gap was pretty small and maybe I could have chosen another point on the circuit. But I luckily squeezed through and made it stick.
“Of course, it’s not an ideal result with Nico retiring, so that shows we still have work to do to get on top of reliability. But it’s been a great job from the team at everyone at the factories to make this mega car. Now we need to keep pushing hard for Japan in two weeks’ time.”
Team-mate Rosberg’s race was compromised even before he reached the grid, with a wiring loom failure delaying him out of the pits and then prevented him from pulling away on the formation lap. He soldiered on but struggled to pass Max Chilton’s Marussia and then could not pass the Caterham of Marcus Ericsson, before calling it a day in his pit stop when the car would not change out of neutral despite a change of the steering wheel.
“The problems with my steering wheel began in the garage even before the race and it was a difficult moment when I couldn’t pull away from the grid – the car didn’t get out of neutral,” said Rosberg. “When I left the pit-lane, I was only able to change gear – there was no radio, no DRS and reduced Hybrid power. We were hoping that the systems might come back to life, like the radio did, and that we could change the situation.
“But after we changed the wheel another time, we had to retire the car. It was a tough day for me and unfortunately another reliability problem for the team. It was at least something good for the team that Lewis was able to take the win. Now we need to analyse what happened and to optimise everything further because reliability is our issue this year.”