Imperious Hamilton dominates Singaporeposted in F116 | 09 | 2018

    LEWIS HAMILTON CAPITALISED on the qualifying lap of his career to dominate the Singapore Grand Prix. Comfortably finishing 8.961secs ahead of second-placed Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, more importantly the Mercedes ace was 39.945s ahead of his main title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. With just five races remaining, Hamilton heads to the Russian GP with a 40-point lead. (Related: Hamilton delivers Monza masterpiece)

    It was Hamilton’s 44th GP win from pole position, the 69th of his career and his fourth win in Singapore. The Brit has now won four of the last five GPs this season as he strengthened his hold on a fifth title.

    “I’m so excited,” Hamilton said afterwards. “I came here knowing that Singapore is a hard one for us. But I’m always optimistic, thinking that if we’re really diligent and do our work, we can create some chances.

    “Saturday didn’t start off well, but then all of the sudden that special lap came in. Knowing that we would start on pole, I knew it was a great opportunity for us to capitalise on. I had a great start and from then I was able to manage it.

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    “When I hit the traffic, I was just mindful not to take any risks. When you start to get closer to another car, you start losing grip and start sliding around more, so there’s a higher chance of mistakes. If you’re lucky you catch the cars at the right point and they let you by so you don’t lose any time, but today I always caught them at an unfortunate point.

    “So when Max was right behind, I had to go on the defensive, and I thought to myself “Bro, you’re not getting by – not today!” It was physically such a demanding race, so I’m relieved it’s over now – it felt like such a long night, but I’m super grateful for the result.”

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    The four-time world champ Hamilton had stormed to pole position at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, a track expected to be dominated by Ferrari, with a dazzling lap. His 1min 36.015s was 0.613s ahead of Vettel.

    Once the race started under the bright floodlights, Hamilton was again at his imperious best. That superiority applied more pressure to Ferrari who committed yet another tactical blunder.

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    Off the line Hamilton led, as Verstappen fended off the Ferrari of Vettel to hold second place. Behind them, Sergio Perez nudged his Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon into the outside wall at Turn 3. The Frenchman was forced to retire, and the safety car was deployed.

    But before the SC signs were lit round the track, Vettel took advantage of a better exit from Turn 5 to draw alongside Verstappen and pass him on the outside into Turn 7.

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    Once the race restarted on the fourth lap, the frontrunners cruised round the circuit at what — relatively speaking — was a sedate Sunday pace as Hamilton managed his fragile hypersoft tyres in a bid to extend the first stint as far as possible.

    The pace lifted on lap 10 as the pitstops loomed, and it was Ferrari who blinked first, pitting Vettel. Strangely, the team fitted a set of ultrasofts to the leading Ferrari. Even worse, the German emerged behind Perez and spent two laps bottled up behind him.

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    Hamilton and Verstappen then pitted on successive laps to take on soft Pirellis with a clear strategy of running to the end with no further stops. Hamilton emerged still comfortably in the lead, but Verstappen — whose Renault-powered Red Bull stuttered and stammered as it left his pit box — just eased out ahead of Vettel into Turn 3.

    Frustrated, third-placed vettel was soon on the radio telling his team: "We were again too late. We will not make it to the end."

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    Further back in the field, Perez was again the focus of controversial action when, having been unable to pass the slower Williams of Sergey Sirotkin, he swerved into the Russian’s car him as he finally went past at Turn 17 on lap 33. The action resulted in the Force India suffering a puncture and allowed the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg to also pass the irate Mexican.

    Then, as the Haas of Romain Grosjean tried to follow Hulkenberg through, the pair baulked Hamilton as he came up to lap them. The delay allowed Verstappen to close into attacking range.

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    But once clear again, Hamilton stretched his margin out to 3s and remained out of reach until the chequered flag, eventually finishing 8.9s clear,  with Vettel a further 30.9s down the road.

    Behind the podium finishers, Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished fourth, fending off the late challenge from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

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    The ‘best-of-the-rest’ was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who crossed the line seventh — having started 11th — ahead of the Renault of Carlos Sainz, who ironically will replace the Spaniard at McLaren next year.

    The final two points-scorers were the Alfa Romeo Sauber of Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc and Hulkenberg. (Related: Alonso quits F1 for 2019)

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    F1 — Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit (Result):

    1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 61 laps

    
2. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing + 8.961s


    3. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 39.945s


    4. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 51.930s


    5. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Scuderia Ferrari + 53.001s


    6. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Aston Martin Red Bull Racing + 53.982s


    7. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren F1 Team + 103.011s


    8. Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP Renault Sport Formula One Team + 1 lap


    9. Charles Leclerc MON Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team + 1 lap

    
10. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault Sport Formula One Team + 1 lap


    11. Marcus Ericsson SWE Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team + 1 lap

    
12. Stoffel Vandoorne BEL McLaren F1 Team + 1 lap


    13. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas F1 Team + 1 lap


    14. Pierre Gasly FRA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap


    15. Lance Stroll CAN Williams Martini Racing + 1 lap

    
16. Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team + 1 lap


    17. Brendon Hartley NZL Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap

    
18. Sergio Perez  MEX Racing Point Force India F1 Team + 2 laps


    19. Sergey Sirotkin RUS Williams Martini Racing + 2 laps

    Retired:

    Esteban Ocon FRA Racing Point Force India F1 Team 0 laps

    Related: Ricciardo shocks F1 with switch to Renault

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    Jim McGill

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