Hamilton zooms to fourth victory in Singapore, extends title lead to 40 points
Singapore, Sep 16 (PTI) Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel to 40 points after a hard-fought victory in the Singapore Grand Prix, capitalising on Ferrari's strategy error that pushed his title rival to the third spot in the race here on Sunday.
Pole sitter Hamilton stormed to his fourth win in the last five races, delivering under constant pressure from Max Verstappen, who eventually finished 8.9 seconds behind for a well-deserved second place.
Hamilton earned a maximum 25 points, making the German's job tougher with six races remaining as Vettel settled for 15.
Going into the weekend, Hamilton had a 30-point advantage over Vettel.
"What a weekend guys. We kept pushing, we kept pushing. That was a tough race. Felt like one of the longest races of my life, said Hamilton after his back-to-back win on the twisty streets of Singapore.
Ferrari erred by opting for ultrasoft tyres on Vettel's first pit stop while Mercedes went for the longer lasting softs for Hamilton, proving to be the difference in the end.
Valtteri Bottas finished fourth in the other Mercedes while Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the second Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull finished sixth after starting from the same position while Fernando Alonso improved to seventh in the McLaren after starting 11th.
Carlos Sainz of Renault, Charles Leclerc of Sauber and Nico Hulkenberg in the other Renault completed the top-10.
The safety car has been a regular feature here in the last 10 years and it was no different this time when Sergio Perez pushed his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon into the wall after Turn 3 on the opening lap, reminding of their heated battles last year, after which the Silverstone squad was forced to implement team orders.
The incident meant it was for the third year in a row that the safety car was deployed on lap one.
At the front, Hamilton made a clean start while a determined Vettel overtook Verstappen for the second place just before the safety car came out on track.
The Briton maintained breathing space between him and Vettel after the restart, extending it to more than two seconds by lap 13 at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The top-10 drivers started on fast degrading hypersoft tyres, making the timing of the first pit stop all the more crucial.
Vettel pitted on lap 15 in his bid to undercut Hamilton for a new set of ultrasofts but Hamilton managed to come out ahead of the German, albeit on a much slower soft tyre, hoping it would last for a successful one-stop strategy.
On lap 18, Verstappen pitted for a set of softs and thanks to a quick-fire stop, came out just ahead of Vettel despite being on the slower tyre, working to the advantage of Hamilton.
Ricciardo in the other Red Bull opted to stay out a lot longer than the other front runners, eventually making his first pit stop on lap 27 and that put Hamilton in the lead again.
It was getting from bad to worse for Vettel, who was clearly unhappy with the tyre choice of his opening pit stop when most opted for the longer lasting softs.
Meanwhile, Hamilton kept producing consistent laps with a clear track ahead of him and by lap 32, increased his lead over Verstappen to five seconds with Vettel another three seconds behind in third.
The second incident of the race took place on lap 34 when a frustrated Perez collided with Sirotkin, pushing the Mexican to the back of the grid.
Backmarkers Sirotkin and his teammate Lance Stroll were having a battled of their own in the Williams and that impacted Hamilton's pace.
Their duel brought Verstappen closer to Hamilton and he almost got past the reigning world champion but the Briton staved off the challenge.
With less than 10 laps to go for the chequered flag, Hamilton had built up a four-second advantage over Verstappen and was able to hold on to the lead despite constant pressure from the Dutchman