Hamilton profits from Vettel's first-lap crash to win in Singapore
Lewis Hamilton capitalised on incredible first-lap drama to win the Singapore Grand Prix and extend his Formula One world championship lead to 28 points on Sunday.
The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sandwiched Red Bull's Max Verstappen as all three collided in the rain before Turn One, with the latter two coming together again at that juncture.
Remarkably, Fernando Alonso was also caught up in the chaos and the Spaniard was later forced into yet another retirement in a race shortened from 61 laps to 59 - the McLaren man one of eight drivers who failed to finish.
But it was Vettel's withdrawal that handed Mercedes driver Hamilton the initiative as the Briton, who started fifth on the grid, led after the safety car went back in.
Having built on that advantage, championship leader Hamilton was frustrated by the reappearance of the safety car on lap 11 when Daniil Kvyat drove into the barriers.
However, the three-time world champion refused to wilt under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo to claim a third race win in a row, with the Australian and Valtteri Bottas completing the podium.
It was a remarkable start at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, where Vettel had been expected to convert his pole position into maximum points and climb to the summit of the standings again.
The first contact was between Raikkonen and Verstappen, with Vettel also falling victim to that incident as Ferrari's hopes of a one-two were destroyed within seconds of lights out.
Hamilton surged to the front – with Red Bull's Ricciardo also a beneficiary – and a timely reminder from his team to get the car home in one piece was heeded, making last year's runner-up the heavy favourite for the title with six rounds to go, even after Marcus Ericsson's spin led to another outing from the safety car.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF THE RACE
This was not at all what Vettel had in mind for his weekend in Singapore.
Having secured the 49th pole of his career, the German was widely expected to prevail here, but when his early demise arrived, the 30-year-old did not even see it coming.
He said: "I didn't see that much. I saw Max and then the next thing I see is Max and Kimi hitting me somewhere."
The damage to his car was evident, but it remains to be seen if the damage done to his title chances can be repaired.
ALONSO ON HIS OWN
It has been a frustrating season for Alonso, who had to retire for the ninth time.
Reliability issues with his car have plagued the man who won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, but on this occasion it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After being caught up in the early madness, Alonso was very much left flying solo, as the following exchange with his team showed:
Alonso: "What do you think?"
Race engineer: "We have lost data from the car so we don't know what is going on. You will have to manage things for yourself."
IN THE POINTS
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +4.507seconds
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.800s
4. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +22.822s
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +25.359s
6. Jolyon Palmer (Renault) +27.259s
7. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +30.388s
8. Lance Stroll (Williams) +41.696s
9. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +43.282s
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +44.795s
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 263
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) – 235 (-28)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 212 (-51)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) – 162 (-101)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 138 (-125)
1. Mercedes – 475
2. Ferrari – 373 (-102)
3. Red Bull – 230 (-245)
4. Force India – 124 (-351)
5. Williams – 59 (-416)
The Malaysian Grand Prix has got a lot to live up to after this one. Ricciardo had the honours there last year, with Hamilton surrendering pole following an engine failure.