It was just the kind of a result that Lewis Hamilton would have hoped for at the Singapore GP but what he wouldn’t have expected was an uncontested victory under the lights. There were ominous signs before the start of the race for his Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg, and the German despite every effort from the Mercedes to fix a steering-wheel issue had to start the race from the pit-lane.
He retired from the race eventually and it was upto Hamilton to make the most of the situation and the British driver overcame tyre-wear fear to clinch victory at the Marina Bay circuit. Thus, came to an end in what was a Red-Bull/Sebastian Vettel domination in the three previous editions of the race leaving the Championship battle interestingly poised with 5 races to go.
Hamilton pulls ahead of the pack
The news of his team-mate starting from pit-lane was like a breath of fresh-air in the sweltering conditions for the British driver. But nevertheless Hamilton was wary of the two Red-Bull’s behind him waiting to gain from his mistakes. But while Hamilton lead cleanly going into the first corner, the surprise package was Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard had qualified fifth on the grid behind the two Mercedes and Red-Bulls but got off to an amazing start pushing back Vettel and Riccirado. The Ferrari driver was ahead of the Red-Bull’s but soon let Vettel pass through and managed to keep Riciardo behind. With his Championship rival left to handle his ill-struck Mercedes, Hamilton pulled away from the rest of the pack and quite eveident hungry to take the race win.
Heart-break for Rosberg
As the team started to head to the pit’s on lap 9 to get more of the super-soft tyres, Rosberg was trying to find his way past the back-markers but clearly the Mercedes wasn’t able to recover from the initial stop-start. No sooner the Mercedes team aannounced on the radio that a pit-stop was required and the German’s car would be replaced with an alternate stearing wheel.
“You’ll need to stall the car, so come in in first gear”,“we’ll drop you off the jacks because the clutch won’t work.” was the message from the pit-wall. But unfortunately for the German ace, the new wheel just couldn’t find the first gear leaving the Mercedes stranded in neutral. He was later seeing being consoled by Chief, Totto Wolff and the German described it as the toughest day of the year for him.
Safety-car tag remains Intact
The leagcy of having a safety-car in Singapore GP continued as the Mercedes sports car with yellow-lights came out with Sergio Perez losing his front wing after touching the Sauber of Adrian Sutil. The front wing went underneath the Force-India breaking it into pieces and leaving debris all over the track. The Safety Car period lasted for 7 laps before the race resumed under normal circumstances.
The safety-car period changed a bit of fortunes for some of the drivers. Fernando Alonso missed on an opportunity to build his lead after having undercut Vettel in the Red-Bull during the round of stops and instead was asked to pit by Ferrari as the cars slowed down and followed the safety-car.
For Hamilton the equation was quite a challenge having to extend his last stint on the super-soft tyres to be able to increase the gap between him and Vettel and also to pit for the last time and still lead the race. While Hamilton didn’t seem quite confident on the longevity of the tyres, his pit-crew was able to help him increase the lead and pit just at the right time. While Vettel became the race leader, Hamilton in a faster car and on fresher tyres aided by DRS made the pass on the former Champion (Vettel) and regain the race lead amidst a huge cheer from the crowd.
Vettel later admitted that he had no choice but to hand-over the position as his Red-Bull was struggling from tyre-wear and his best chance of a podium was to defend hmself against Ricciardo and Alonso till the Chequered flag.
Battle for Points
While the top 4 drivers(Hamilton,Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso) were intact till the end of the race, it was quite a battle for the top 10 finish. Felipe Massa had driven a patient race in the Williams and it paid rich dividends. Williams switched to a two-stop strategy for him after the Safety car was deployed and the experienced driver was able to make his tyres last the race distance. “I drover like a grandmother,” he said after the race.
A late surge from Jean Eric Vergne in the Toro-Rosso gave him sixth postion having had quite a roller-coaster of a race. He was handed two penalties both for exceeding track limits with the second one enforced in the final stages of the race. The determined French driver, going in for a 5-sec addition to his time in lieu of a stop-go penalty, in late surge overtook Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen and Valterri Bottas to finish a remarkable sixth.
Perez survived the front-wing damage to finish seventh and some exciting moves on his own team-mate and on Raikkonen and Bottas. Raikkonen in the Ferrari struggled for pace finding it difficult to pass the Williams of Bottas for multiple laps in a battle of the Finns. The younger Finn was unlucky and had a punctured tyre on the final lap allowing other drivers – Hulkenberg and Magnussen to finish among the points.
With just 5 races to go in the season and the final one being a double-points, the battle between the two Mercedes team-mates has reached an exciting point. Both separated by just three points would be gunning for it. But what adds to the excitement is the unreliability of the Mercedes which has seen unexpected drama on the track. The cavalary moves to Suzuka,Japan in two weeks and we have an interesting end to the season on our hands.