Lewis Hamilton

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Hamilton not changing approach despite increased F1 points lead

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Lewis Hamilton says he has no plans to change his approach in his bid for a fourth Formula 1 world title despite seeing his points lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel increase in Singapore on Sunday.

Vettel retired on the first lap after getting caught up in a crash with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, while Hamilton was able to dodge the chaos and score his seventh win of the season.

With Vettel failing to score, Hamilton saw his lead swell to 28 points, putting him more than one race win clear of his Ferrari rival in the standings with six races to go.

Should Hamilton win next time out in Malaysia, he would be able to win the championship by finishing second at all of the remaining races.

However, the Briton has no plans to change his approach to this year’s title race, stressing he will remain on maximum attack for the rest of the season.

“It definitely won’t change anything, because it’s working, the approach that I have. There’s no need to change it,” Hamilton said.

“It’s the perfect balance of being aggressive and being cautious at the same time. The formula works at the moment so I will just continue with it until the last race. It’s still soaking it up really.

“I can’t believe it’s my 60th grand prix win and I don’t know why it’s not sunk in yet. Also the gap [to Vettel] is also quite hard to believe. I definitely went into today thinking it was about damage limitation, trying to minimize the loss somehow.

“If I’d stayed behind Kimi [Raikkonen] I could have just been finishing fifth, I could have come out a lot worse. So to come out in completely another direction for sure is a shock but I’ll take it.

“I’m grateful for it and as I said we’ve been working so hard as a team. I think today was fortunate conditions towards our direction.”

Hamilton ‘very fortunate’, but was confident of Singapore win in rain

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Lewis Hamilton admitted he got “very fortunate” during Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix after a three-car crash at the first corner eliminated both Ferraris, but always felt confident of victory in the rain.

In the first wet night race in F1 history, Hamilton was able to jump from fifth to first on the opening lap when title rival Sebastian Vettel tangled with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen at Turn 1.

Hamilton managed to negotiate the wet-to-dry phase, three safety car periods and race-long pressure from Daniel Ricciardo to bag his third straight victory, extending his lead over Vettel to 28 points – the largest gap at the top all season.

“Yesterday we struggled, and we had no idea what was going to happen today, but we just tried to stay focused and try to get ahead,” Hamilton said.

“Of course we were very fortunate with the Ferraris in the beginning. I couldn’t be happier, I’m really grateful. God blessed me today for sure.

“I capitalised on the incident. Who would have known that would happen? Really unfortunate for the Ferraris but a great result for the team, Daniel put up a really good fight today. I enjoyed racing him.”

Hamilton said on Saturday after qualifying he needed a “miracle” to leave Singapore still leading the championship, coming in the form of the first-lap clash.

However, he always fancied his chances at Marina Bay when it started to rain in the build-up to lights out.

“I needed it to rain, and as soon as it rained, I knew where I was going to finish,” Hamilton said.

“I knew I had the pace when it rains, but unfortunately we just didn’t have the car in the dry, but today it raining, those are my conditions.”

Hamilton dodges first lap carnage to win Singapore GP, F1’s first wet night race

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Lewis Hamilton took a huge step towards winning a fourth Formula 1 world championship by taking a dramatic victory in the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, dodging first-lap carnage that eliminated title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Growing rain in the lead-up to lights out in Singapore left teams split on choosing intermediate or full wet tires for the start, but regardless of their picks, it would be the first wet night race in F1 history.

Good getaways from Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen saw them move to the inside of pole-sitter Vettel, only for the trio to crash together in a dramatic incident.

Raikkonen and Verstappen were eliminated on the spot, while Vettel suffered damage that caused him to spin into the wall as he tried to get back to the pits, also leaving him out of the race.

To make matters worse for Vettel, championship rival Hamilton had dodged the drama to move into the lead ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were also able to rise up the order under the safety car.

Hamilton led the field away when the race returned to green with Ricciardo in tow, and was quickly able to open up a five-second lead through the spray, only for it to be wiped away a few laps later when a crash for Daniil Kvyat sparked a second safety car period.

Red Bull reacted immediately and pitted Ricciardo, costing him just one position that was regained when Renault swapped Hulkenberg from wet to intermediate tires one lap later, the German dropping down to fifth behind Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Hamilton stayed out on his starting set of intermediates, but now had Ricciardo for close company on fresher rubber, concerning the Mercedes driver at the restart.

Hamilton was able to eke out a gap over Ricciardo once again when the race returned to green, with the track starting to dry after the rain stopped, leaving those on intermediates wondering when they could make the switch to slicks.

The first man to roll the dice was Kevin Magnussen, who came in at the end of Lap 24 to take on a set of ultra-soft tires, with Williams’ Felipe Massa following suit soon after. With the rest of the field still lapping on intermediates, they would be watching the pace of the dry-runners closely.

Red Bull opted to make the switch first, bringing Ricciardo in at the end of Lap 28 for ultra-softs, only for a slow stop to cost the Australian an additional couple of seconds and give Mercedes some more room to breathe.

The German marque reacted one lap later, pitting Hamilton and getting him back out still comfortably leading by around eight seconds to Ricciardo, with teammate Bottas sitting third.

With the track getting dryer and dryer, lap times continued to tumble with Hamilton and Ricciardo trading purple sectors back and forth. Despite the Red Bull looking stronger in the dry on Friday over the long runs, Hamilton seemed to be in control at the front.

Another twist threatened to spoil Hamilton’s day when the safety car was called for a third time after Marcus Ericsson spun his Sauber and stopped on the tight bridge at Turn 9, causing the field to bunch again.

With the race already set to be run to time instead of its full 61-lap distance, the clock continued to tick down as the marshals took their time to recover the stricken Sauber, with the green flag returning with 27 minutes to go.

Hamilton and Ricciardo ran nose-to-tail across the line to resume the race, only for the Mercedes driver to once again put the hammer down and open up a healthy gap in little time at all, dropping his rival into the clutches of Bottas.

Hamilton was told over team radio to keep the field bunched for fear of another safety car period, prompting him to ease off slightly and allow Ricciardo to close once again. Uncomfortable with the tactic, Hamilton asked to push again, with Mercedes giving him the go-ahead to stabilize the gap.

With the gap gradually growing as the timer neared two hours, Hamilton took the checkered flag 4.5 seconds clear of Ricciardo to take his third straight victory, crucially extending his points lead over Vettel to 28 with six races remaining.

Ricciardo was left to settle for second for the third year in a row in Singapore, while Valtteri Bottas completed the podium for Mercedes, giving it a big boost in the constructors’ championship.

Just 48 hours after clinching his move to Renault for 2018, Carlos Sainz Jr. secured his best finish yet in F1 by taking fourth for Toro Rosso, while Sergio Perez wound up P5 for Force India.

Jolyon Palmer was another driver to celebrate his best grand prix result in P6 for Renault, with teammate Hulkenberg eventually retiring after an issue on his car despite early promise, becoming the record-holder for the most F1 starts without a podium in the process.

Stoffel Vandoorne took his second F1 points finish in P7 for McLaren ahead of Lance Stroll and Roamin Grosjean, while Esteban Ocon completed the top 10 for Force India. Felipe Massa and Pascal Wehrlein were the last classfied finishers in P11 and P12.

More to follow…

What to watch for: Singapore Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET)

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Sebastian Vettel took a huge step towards overturning Formula 1 rival Lewis Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ championship by taking an emphatic pole position on Saturday night in Singapore.

With arguably one of the finest qualifying displays of his illustrious F1 career, Vettel eked every last tenth of a second out of his Ferrari en route to his 49th pole position, and his fourth in Singapore.

Hamilton was left to settle for fifth as Mercedes lacked the pace to fight with Red Bull or Ferrari around the streets of Marina Bay, running as the third-fastest team.

Hamilton’s three-point advantage in the drivers’ championship looks precarious, but as Singapore has taught us time and time again, this race is rarely a straightforward one.

You can watch the Singapore Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Singapore Grand Prix – What to watch for

Vettel ready to extend excellent Singapore record

Sebastian Vettel has always been a force around the streets of Singapore, but could make it his most successful track in F1 with a fifth win on Sunday from pole position.

Vettel didn’t get in a good groove until the very end of qualifying, having trailed the Red Bull drivers in every single session up to Q3, but was able to deliver a knock-out blow when it mattered.

Vettel’s big challenge now will be to keep the charging Red Bulls at bay. Questions may still linger about Ferrari’s race pace, but with overtaking being so difficult in Singapore, with a good start, victory could be his for the taking.

Red Bull ready to win on merit?

Daniel Ricciardo has been in a defiant mood in Singapore. After topping both FP1 and FP2 on Friday, he boldly set his sights on a “dominant” weekend, and then despite falling short in qualifying, ending up P3, the Australian said: “I’m still confident we will get victory.”

Red Bull started the year well off the pace compared to Ferrari and Mercedes, and while the nature of the Singapore circuit may play to the strengths of the RB13 car, to even be within a shout of winning a race on merit – Baku was largely down to good fortune – is an impressive feat.

With both Ricciardo and Max Verstappen at the sharp end of the field, Red Bull could play it smart and split its strategies to try and force Ferrari and Vettel into a mistake.

Mercedes facing race of damage limitation

Not since the Singapore Grand Prix two years ago has Mercedes looked as weak as it does this weekend, with its struggles to dial in its W08 cars to the street course putting it on course for a race of damage limitation.

Lewis Hamilton will start down in fifth today, meaning his three-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship is in serious doubt, particularly with Vettel on pole.

While incidents could occur and vault Mercedes up the order, as things stand, it’s not looking all that good for the German marque.

Hulkenberg ready to break an unwanted record

The tight fight in F1’s midfield looks set to continue in Singapore, with the form-book being flipped from Monza as Renault and McLaren emerge as the leading teams to be ‘best of the rest’ behind the big three.

For Nico Hulkenberg, today’s race may see him become an F1 record holder – but not for good reasons. On his 129th start, he is poised to become the driver with the most race starts in F1 history not to score a podium, breaking Adrian Sutil’s record.

Renault does look in good shape this weekend, so could benefit should a crazy race ensue, but McLaren is also flexing its muscle at a track where its Honda engine woes are not so damning.

Strategy hard to play, but could rain come into force?

The Singapore Grand Prix is one of the most unpredictable on the calendar when it comes to incidents and safety cars, making any kind of firm strategy hard to define pre-race.

Many of the backmarkers may opt to come in at the end of the first lap in anticipation of an early safety car, while the front-runners will know that bridging the gap between one and two stops is a risky thing to do.

Keep an eye on how Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes play things at the front, and what the midfielders will do to try and capitalize on any craziness – including rain, which is hammering down at the time of writing in Singapore.

2017 Singapore Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
6. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
7. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
8. Fernando Alonso McLaren
9. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
10. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
11. Jolyon Palmer Renault
12. Sergio Perez Force India
13. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
14. Esteban Ocon Force India
15. Romain Grosjean Haas
16. Kevin Magnussen Haas
17. Felipe Massa Williams
18. Lance Stroll Williams
19. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
20. Marcus Ericsson Sauber*

* Five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

WATCH LIVE: Singapore GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET

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Formula 1’s first of seven flyaway races to end the season, the Singapore Grand Prix, takes place today starting on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7 a.m. ET.

F1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

Pre-race coverage runs for an hour from 7 a.m. ET through to 8 a.m. ET, with lights out at that point.

The stage is set for what should be a duel between the Ferrari and Red Bull teams on Sunday, as these two squads locked out the front two rows.

Sebastian Vettel has the pole ahead of Max Verstappen, with Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen on row two. The Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have to make hay from row three, with Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), McLaren Honda teammates Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) completing the top-10.

Vettel is poised to recapture the points lead with the tight and twisting Singapore circuit playing to the Ferrari’s benefits.

Safety cars are also usually a staple of the race and could throw a surprise into the mix.

Hamilton won his second straight race of the year in Monza, and he’s now moved into the championship lead with a three-point lead over Vettel, 238 to 235. But with Vettel and Ferrari poised to succeed from the front in Singapore, the pendulum could swing back their way tonight.

You can watch the Singapore Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.

You can also try out a new ‘Mosaic View’ for the race that includes the race simulcast, in-car cameras, driver tracker and pit lane cam. CLICK HERE to watch the Mosaic View live stream.

Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call, with pit reporter Will Buxton providing updates and interviews throughout the race from Singapore.

Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.