Lewis Hamilton has re-taken the lead of the 2014 Formula 1 drivers’ championship after claiming a sensational victory under the lights in Singapore today.
The British driver made the most of Nico Rosberg’s retirement to win the race ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, but his hopes were very nearly dashed when a lengthy safety car period brought his rivals back into contention for the win at Marina Bay.
However, after laying down a remarkable pace during his penultimate stint, Hamilton managed to come back out in second place after making his final stop. He then went on to pass Vettel with ease to clinch his second victory in Singapore – and one that could be crucial come the end of the season in the championship race.
Ahead of the start in Singapore, Rosberg’s race was nearly over before it had even begun when an electrical problem reared its head en route to the grid. The team brought him back to the pits for a change of steering wheel, only for more issues to come about before the formation lap.
As the field pulled away for its parade lap, Rosberg was left stranded in his grid slot, forcing the team to wheel him back into the pit lane to start the race.
Without a challenger on the front row, Hamilton managed to pull into the lead with relative ease through the first complex of corners. Fernando Alonso overcooked his start to run wide at turn one, moving him up into second place before he gave the position back to Sebastian Vettel to avoid the wrath of the stewards. Kimi Raikkonen also made a good start to jump up to fifth behind Daniel Ricciardo as Felipe Massa and Jenson Button diced for sixth place.
Rosberg’s fightback was hindered by his ailing car, leaving him over one minute behind Hamilton after just ten laps as he struggled to pass the backmarkers. Due to the electrical issue, he was shifting two gears at a time, meaning that he could not overtake the likes of Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson and was hemorrhaging time to the race leaders.
Come the first round of pit stops, Rosberg was told to bring his car in and stall it to allow the team to try and reset the settings. However, when he did so, the W05 Hybrid would not restart, forcing the German driver to throw in the towel and retire from a grand prix for just the second time this season.
Out in front, Lewis Hamilton was in his element, moving into a steady lead over Sebastian Vettel after the first round of pit stops with Fernando Alonso sitting in the third and final podium position. Vettel was told to “stand down” and focus on maintaining second place as Hamilton was simply too quick out in front, but with Alonso charging and posting some very quick lap times, the German driver was soon given the hurry up once again by his team.
In a bid to pass fifth-placed Raikkonen, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas made two early pit stops to get the undercut. Massa managed to pass the Finn, and with the prime tire on, the Brazilian knew that he would be in a position to push at the end on the super-soft tire.
Also fitting the prime tire was Sebastian Vettel, who lost second place to Fernando Alonso through the second round of pit stops. However, he too knew that he would be in a better position to push at the end of the race on the super-soft compound tire, leaving Alonso with the challenge of creating a big enough gap during his penultimate stint.
A slow second stop for Hamilton allowed Alonso to get within sight of the Mercedes driver after posting some very quick lap times, but the race leader soon stabilized the gap with some fastest laps of his own.
However, the Briton’s charge was halted when the safety car was deployed to allow Sergio Perez’s front wing to be recovered. The Force India driver was left no room by Adrian Sutil in the Sauber, leaving debris across the circuit.
This sparked a flurry of activity in the pit lane, with Alonso switching to the prime tire to open up the possibility of being able to go to the end of the race without stopping. This did allow both Vettel and Ricciardo to move up into the podium positions, with Alonso slotting into fourth ahead of Massa and Bottas.
After a long safety car period, the race restarted with just 40 minutes left on the clock, and with his rivals for the win able to go without stopping, Hamilton was forced to put his foot down. The Briton immediately began to lap at over two seconds per lap quicker than the rest of the field, but needed to find more time if he was going to be able to come back out in the lead of the race upon making his final stop.
Despite constant questioning over the radio, Hamilton was kept out for a very long second stint as Mercedes tried to create a big enough gap so he could come back out in the lead of the race. However, by the time his tires had dropped off the pace, he could only split the Red Bull drivers, handing the lead of the race to Sebastian Vettel who was chasing his fourth straight win.
His hopes were quickly dashed, though, as Hamilton swept past heading into turn six to re-take the lead of the race on his fresher set of tires. He soon put his foot down to gap the rest of the field, and eventually crossed the line to claim his second straight victory and re-take the lead of the drivers’ championship.
In the battle for second, third and fourth, the Red Bull duo managed to hold their own to stay ahead of Fernando Alonso and give the team a big points boost. Sebastian Vettel finished second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in third place.
Felipe Massa came home in fifth place for Williams, but teammate Valtteri Bottas saw his tires fade at the end, leaving him outside of the points after he lost five positions in the final three laps of the race. Instead, it was Jean-Eric Vergne who rallied to finish sixth despite a five-second time penalty ahead of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the points.
Under the lights in Singapore, it was Lewis Hamilton who ruled. Despite the safety car working against him, the Briton rallied to win the race and, with Rosberg retiring, take the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.