Singapore GP: Lewis Hamilton beats Max Verstappen to victory
Hamilton moves 40 points clear in title race; Vettel angered by Ferrari strategy; Verstappen finishes second
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 04/12/18 6:03pm
Lewis Hamilton has extended his world championship lead to 40 points with a consummate victory of the Singapore GP.
Faultless and supreme, Hamilton defied the hot and humid conditions to keep his cool to beat Red Bull's Max Verstappen to his 69th F1 win.
Faltering title rival Sebastian Vettel was third. But, on a circuit where Mercedes were forecast to struggle, the Ferrari driver crossed the line almost 40 seconds behind Hamilton having angrily denounced his team's strategy after being leapfrogged by Verstappen at the pit-stops.
"Keep pushing, we've got these guys," Hamilton said over team radio as he celebrated his victory.
With six races remaining, Hamilton's title lead has grown to an advantage of ominous substance.
"He is starting to look unbeatable," opined Sky F1's Martin Brundle. "He has one hand now reaching out for that world championship trophy."
A downbeat Vettel conceded: "With the way we raced today we didn't have a chance.
"I said before the weekend we could only beat ourselves and today we didn't get everything out of our package."
Drivers' Championship - top six
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||281|
|2) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||241|
|3) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||174|
|4) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||171|
|5) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||148|
In-fashion Hamilton turns on the style
Hamilton arrived in Singapore facing questions about his hectic globetrotting lifestyle after spending the two weeks in-between races launching his new fashion line.
But it was on track where he really turned on the style, delivering one of the finest laps of his career to land a critical pole position and his performance on race day was equally impressive.
A smart getaway was followed by smart strategy as Hamilton kept Vettel, who snuck ahead of Verstappen at Turn Seven just before the Safety Car was deployed on the opening lap, at arm's length before switching to soft tyres.
Hamilton's only moment of alarm came when he suddenly lost time in traffic with 20 laps remaining and was briefly challenged by Verstappen. But after holding off the Red Bull, Hamilton immediately responded by streaking clear again and his race-winning margin ultimately stood at nearly 10 seconds.
"We knew they [Ferrari] were going to be spectacular here this weekend and we knew it was going to take something quite special to beat them," said Hamilton.
"It is quite a monumental moment for us as a team."
Ferrari loses pace - and poise
The debrief into Ferrari's against-the-odds defeat this weekend will be long and searching at their Maranello base.
At a venue where they were predicted to prosper, the Scuderia lost their pace and then their poise as Vettel's frustration boiled over in the cockpit.
Vettel had been within two seconds of Hamilton before the pit-stops but lost position to Verstappen - albeit by the narrowest of margins - after losing time when he returned behind Sergio Perez's Force India while the Red Bull carried on for an extra lap.
"No chance, we were again too late," complained Vettel over team radio.
While Hamilton and Verstappen both put on the slower soft tyres at their stops, Vettel switched to ultrasofts in a flawed bid to undercut Hamilton.
"We went for an aggressive strategy," said Ferrari chief Maurizio Arrivabene. "Unfortunately, during the one lap that would prove to be crucial, we found ourselves behind another car and so we were unable to run at a fast enough pace."
Although Vettel was able to nurse his tyres to the chequered flag, his final 40-second deficit to Hamilton suggested the choice had been a critical strategic error.
"Overall we were not fast enough, we didn't have the pace," said Vettel. "We tried to be aggressive in the beginning and it didn't work out."
But Hamilton captured the thoughts of many when he asked: "I'm not really sure where their pace disappeared to."
Perez in the wars
Away from the elite and title challengers, the major post-race talking point centred around Force India's Sergio Perez.
The Mexican tangled at the first corner with team-mate Ocon, the collision propelling the Frenchman into the wall and triggering an early Safety Car period.
While the stewards adjudged the incident to have been a racing incident, they took a dim view of Perez's later confrontation with Williams Sergey Sirotkin. After finally passing Sirotkin, the slowest car in the race, Perez veered across the track and rammed into the side of the Williams, drawing a drive-through penalty and a wave of condemnation on social media.
Romain Grosjean was also penalised for holding up Hamilton and Verstappen.
How the Singapore GP unfolded
Lap 1: Hamilton keeps his lead off the line while Vettel squeezes past Verstappen at Turn Seven - just moments before the Safety Car is deployed for a collision between Perez and Ocon.
Lap 5: The race settles into an early lull as the frontrunners try to prolong the lifespan of their hypersoft tyres.
Lap 12: Hamilton suddenly increases his pace to double his advantage over Vettel to over two seconds.
Lap 15: Vettel pits for ultrasofts and returns to the track in clean air. "Give it everything you have," Vettel is told over team radio.
Lap 16: Hamilton pits and returns in the lead after putting on slower but more durable soft tyres.
Lap 17: With Verstappen in the lead, Vettel passes Perez - the only car between him and Hamilton.
Lap 18: Verstappen pits, puts on soft tyres, and emerges millimetres ahead of Vettel. "Yes!" shouts Verstappen over team radio as he reclaims second place.
Lap 19: "No chance, we were again too late," complains Vettel over team radio. "These tyres will not make it to the end."
Lap 22: Having led the race for five laps, Raikkonen pits. And unlike his Ferrari team-mate, puts on the soft tyres.
Lap 28: The last of the frontrunners to do so, Ricciardo pits for ultrasofts.
Lap 34: After repeatedly complaining about the Williams, Perez finally passes Sergey Sirotkin - but then rams into the side of the Russian's car.
Lap 38: Hamilton is suddenly caught by Verstappen after being stuck in traffic and is briefly challenged for the lead. "These guys are crazy," complains Hamilton over team radio.
Lap 39: Perez is handed a drive-through penalty for hitting Sirotkin.
Lap 41: Hamilton, critically, is able to build up a three-second lead over Verstappen again. Vettel consistently remains around five seconds behind.
Lap 43: Grosjean, one of the drivers to have held up Hamilton and Verstappen, is given a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags.
Lap 46: Sirotkin is also hit with a five-second time penalty after being adjudged to have forced Brendon Hartley off track.
Lap 52: Ricciardo, running on ultrasofts, catches Bottas and Raikkonen.
Lap 56: Hamilton edges over five seconds clear of Verstappen. Vettel has fallen over twenty-five seconds behind his title rival.
Lap 61: Hamilton crosses the line for victory - and a 40-point lead in the title race.
Singapore GP race result
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:51:11.611|
|2) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 8.961|
|3) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 39.945|
|4) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+ 51.930|
|5) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+ 53.001|
|6) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+ 53.982|
|7) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+ 1:43.011|
|8) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+ 1 lap|
|9) Charles Leclerc||Sauber||+ 1 lap|
|10) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+ 1 lap|
|11) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+ 1 lap|
|12) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+ 1 lap|
|13) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+ 1 lap|
|14) Lance Stroll||Williams||+ 1 lap|
|15) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+ 1 lap|
|16) Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 1 lap|
|17) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+ 1 lap|
|18) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 2 laps|
|19) Sergey Sirotkin||Williams||+ 2 laps|
|20) Esteban Ocon||Force India||DNF|
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