Lewis Hamilton has won the Singapore F1 night race and did so with a dominant performance from start to finish.
The race wasn’t without the almost obligatory first lap shenanigans. Force India’s two cars came together almost off the line, and resulted in Esteban Ocon finding himself without a race to be part of. Sebastian Vettel will rue the safety car period that was called as a result; he managed to slip into second from the start but a lap 14 tyre change had him back into second, behind a jubilant Max Verstappen.
It was silver in fourth with Vaterri Bottas keeping Ferrari’s Kim Raikkonen at arm’s length, Daniel Ricciardo finished where he qualified in sixth, whilst outgoing veteran Fernando Alonso claimed seventh. The 37 year old Spaniard qualified eleventh and after being able to utilize a better spread of tyres thanks to using less during the qualifying sessions, found himself ina position to smoothly carve his way through and avoid issues. Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc in another display of skill, and Nico Hulkenburg rounded out the top ten.
But a major talking point was Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Ocon had qualified ninth, Perez seventh, and both made a good first of the start. But racing room became precious very quickly and Ocon’s attempt on a pass had Perez not granting the beathing space required, with Ocon hip and shouldered into the barriers. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer was furious with the antics and later declared:” “It’s unacceptable for them to come together like that in an area where there is no run-off room, they have got to leave each other room. The team is more important than any one individual.”
A two kilograms lighter after qualifying Lewis Hamilton said he was spent after his courageous win. Singapore is renowned for its energy sapping conditions due to the warmth and humidity. During the just shy of two hour race, the humidity reached a draining 69 percent. Somehow, though, the Briton was able to power through and claim the win. Leading from start to finish it wasn’t until close to the end that Hamilton had a genuine threat.
Max Verstappen had been trailing Hamilton’s silver machine and the gap of two seconds looked unassailable. However a dispute on track between the Haas of Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin in his Williams closed off clean access for Hamilton, bringing Verstappen to within a tenth or two. Somehow Hamilton was able to find the vital gap he needed and pulled away from the Red Bull. Verstappen had reported issues with his car, with possibly gearbox related problems becoming a familiar tale of woe for the team.
Hamilton would go on to win by just under nine seconds and said later:” “I think I was unlucky with the traffic. These guys (Sirotkin and Grosjean) were moving around. It’s quite difficult to follow. Max was a bit lucky again with some of the guys in terms of what point in the track he caught them, and they wouldn’t let me by. But it was definitely close and my heart was in my mouth for a minute. Once I got clear of them I was able to put the pedal down and pull away.”
The win extends Hamilton’s lead in the championship to forty points over the despondent Sebastian Vettel. The tyre strategy call of bringing in Vettel to move to the ultra-softs, with Verstappen doing the same soon after and exiting pit lane ahead of Vettel, the Ferrari team were then forced to look at tyre management more than chasing a higher podium position.
There are six race left in the 2018 season, meaning the charge from Vettel to gain another championship becomes even harder. The championship heads to Russia and the Sochi Autodrom, a circuit based on the roads that were built inside the winter Olympics village, for the 28-30th of September.