Nico Rosberg led the Singapore Grand Prix from start to finish to claim a potentially championship defining victory.
But his win ended in tense moments after a fast charging Daniel Ricciardo finished in second by only 0.488 seconds, while Hamilton managed to secure third after a tight battle with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Sebastian Vettel started in last but worked his way through the field to take fifth ahead Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso.
Early Drama Adds Edge
The race began with an early dose of drama and the return of a safety car – a fixture of every Singapore Grand Prix.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean struggled all weekend with an engine issue and then two crashes caused by brake problems. The pit team couldn’t fix the cause and a visibly angry Grosjean was left in the garage to stew over the car.
On the track, Max Verstappen struggled off the line with massive wheelspin. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg took to the inside of the track to get around the slow Red Bull only to be clipped by Torso Rosso’s Carlos Sainz causing a dramatic crash with most cars still yet to cross the start line.
The safety car took to the track, and after a track steward narrowly avoided being hit while collecting debris, Nico Rosberg got a fast start and immediately began to build a lead.
Both Rosberg and Hamilton were repeatedly urged to control their brake wear around the luminescent street circuit. But it was tyre strategy that proved critical to gaining – or for Rosberg retaining – places.
Daniel Ricciardo took a second pit stop on Lap 33 to change to soft tyres seemingly to take them to the end of the race.
But with Hamilton behind him losing third place to Raikkonen and switching to a three stop strategy a wave of pit stops was triggered and Ricciardo also moved on to super soft tyres.
Hamilton’s move got him back in front of the Ferrari to secure him a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo returned to the track 30 seconds behind Rosberg with just 13 laps remaining. The Australian initially took a whopping 3 seconds a lap out of the deficit but as his tyres started to fade so too did his prospects of taking the victory.
Still, second place proved a relief for Ricciardo.
“I’m not going to stand here and be disappointed,” said Ricciardo
“I am pretty happy – I did all I could.”
“Obviously the strategy still didn’t give us victory, but it was good fun to push to the last lap and know I was at least putting some pressure on, and giving the crowd some hope.”
“We’ve come close on numerous occasions, we gave it a good shot and got within half a second.”
For Rosberg, his third win in a row and first in Singapore now puts him 8 points clear of title rival Hamilton.
“I’m not focused on points,” he said. “As I always say, I’m just happy with the win.”
The teams return to Asia for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a fortnight and the break will give Hamilton time to ponder his championship defence.
“It doesn’t always go well and this has been a difficult weekend for me and my side of the garage,” Hamilton said.
“But we will reunite and regather and understand what went wrong and try to rectify it for the next race.”