Lewis Hamilton built his lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Sebastian Vettel to 40 points with six rounds of the 2018 championship remaining after taking his second successive victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver finished eight seconds ahead of second-placed man Max Verstappen, who struggled with driveability issues at low revs, with Vettel 30 seconds behind the Dutchman in third in a damaging weekend for Scuderia Ferrari.
Hamilton held his advantage out of Turn 3, whilst Vettel and Verstappen battled immediately behind him. The Ferrari initially edged ahead before the tight left, before Verstappen fought back to reclaim second spot. Vettel drained his battery to pass the Dutchman down the Raffles Boulevard stretch and into Turn 7, just prior to the deployment of the Safety Car – its third first lap appearance in a row in Singapore.
The pause was triggered by a collision between the Racing Point Force India F1 Team cars. Esteban Ocon tried to find his way past on the outside of Turn 3 and saw his path blocked firmly by Sergio Pérez; the Frenchman punted into the wall. The stewards sided on labelling it a racing incident.
After four laps, racing resumed. Hamilton opted against pulling away from the chasing pack, conserving his hyper-soft tyres in order to elongate his first stint. On lap 12, the Mercedes upped the pace after informing his team of the plentiful life left in the compound.
That sparked a run of fastest lap from Hamilton, stretching the gap to Vettel by around three seconds before the Ferrari’s pitstop on lap 15. Equipped with the ultra-soft tyres, the German rejoined the race in seventh as Hamilton set about utilising the performance left in his starting compound.
Contrarily to Vettel and Ferrari, Mercedes put the soft tyres on Hamilton’s car when he came in two laps later. Critically, the Brit emerged in fifth, ahead of Vettel and the remaining Force India of Pérez. As Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen and Verstappen all came in for fresh softs, Vettel became the anomaly and reported his worries over the radio that he may have to be subjected to a second stop later in the race.
His mood brightened as he swiftly dispatched of Pérez, but Hamilton – now lying in second place behind faux-leader Daniel Ricciardo – proved to be too much of a stretch. As did Verstappen. Even with a slow getaway from his pit box, the Dutchman had managed to get the leap on the championship chaser and started to close the gap to Hamilton.
Tyre issues continued to be the talking point although, rather adversely, Hamilton complained of being unable to get his softs into the required operating window as he reclaimed the race lead when Ricciardo dived into the pits on lap 28. Due to the length of his first stint, Ricciardo mirrored Vettel in taking on ultra-soft tyres.
Verstappen’s cause was aided by troublesome traffic, but hindered in equal measure. The battling Sergey Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean failed to adhere to blue flags, blocking Hamilton and Verstappen in the process. The scare was short-lived for Hamilton, bringing the gap out to three seconds once clear of the squabble, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver unable to issue to an adequate response.
The final gap between the top two stood at eight seconds, with Vettel having to nurse his ultra-softs to the end and finishing 39 seconds behind race winner Hamilton, who admitted that he was “totally spent” by the end. A gap of 40 points may be enough to perk him up by the end of the evening.
Bottas took fourth for Mercedes, staving off the late charges of Räikkönen and Ricciardo. The Finn spent most of the last ten laps pleading for blue flags for Nico Hülkenberg to no avail. Bottas felt his tyres were suffering too much to keep his countryman behind and was therefore unable to get within 1.2 seconds of the Renault in order to prompt action from Race Control.
For the first time since Australia, the McLaren F1 Team claimed ‘Class B’ victory, through Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s lonely seventh place marked the team’s best finish since Azerbaijan five months ago. The man he started directly ahead of finished directly behind him too. Carlos Sainz Jr. could not repeat his fourth place from 12 months ago, but still turned twelfth place into eighth for Renault. His team-mate Hülkenberg rounded out the top ten in his 150th Grand Prix, behind Charles Leclerc.
The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team gambled with both drivers late on, using a long first stint to have fresh tyres at the end of the race. Leclerc’s hyper-softs lasted around 20 laps, but Marcus Ericsson just missed out on points on ultra-softs.
Grosjean, Pérez and Sirotkin all incurred the wrath of the stewards for separate incidents. Grosjean received a five second penalty for ignoring blue flags in his battle with the Williams Martini Racing driver as the leaders closed, whilst Sirotkin earned his for needlessly forcing Brendon Hartley within a millimetre of the barriers. Pérez ended a miserable afternoon for himself and Force India with a drive-through for swiping across and hitting Sirotkin after a lengthy and frustrating battle with the Russian.
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