SINGAPORE: Britain’s Lewis Hamilton eased to victory from pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday as the Mercedes driver extended his championship lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to 40 points with six rounds remaining.
Hamilton held off a mid-race challenge from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to register a record-equalling fourth triumph at the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit track, while Vettel finished third to slip further behind in the title race.
“Great job everyone, what a weekend… keep pushing, keep pushing, we’ve got this,” Hamilton told his team over the radio soon after crossing the line.
Hamilton’s 69th overall victory was his seventh of the season and it was built on the foundations of a stunning qualifying lap on Saturday, when he stormed to pole in a car deemed inferior to the Ferraris and Red Bulls on this circuit.
For Vettel and Ferrari, it was another disappointing weekend after the car showed plenty of pace through all three practice sessions, the German’s cause not helped by a questionable strategy and a poor pit stop.
Hamilton won this race from the third row a year ago when Vettel, Verstappen, and Kimi Räikkönen collided on the opening lap, but there was no repeat of such drama this time after the drivers got off to a clean start at the head of the field.
There has, however, been a safety car period in all 10 races in Singapore since it joined Formula One in 2008 and it was deployed on the opening lap after Sergio Pérez pushed his Force India team mate Esteban Ocon into a wall after Turn 3.
“Sorry guys, there was no room,” Pérez told his team over the radio.
Vettel got past Verstappen before the safety car emerged and slotted in behind Hamilton, but his race unravelled when the German pitted first on the 14th lap but got stuck in traffic and overtaken by the Dutchman when he made his stop for fresh tyres.
Hamilton was cruising up front but suffered a mini-crisis on the 38th lap when he got stuck in a queue of tail-enders, which allowed Verstappen to get right up behind him.
The Dutchman had a look up the inside as Hamilton struggled to pass the back markers but the Briton just stayed ahead and was able to pull clear all the way to the chequered flag once he had a clear track ahead of him.
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas held off a prolonged late challenge from Räikkönen in the other Ferrari to claim fourth place, the pair finishing just ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was closing in on them in the final laps.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso came home in seventh, with Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Nico Hülkenberg claiming eighth and 10th respectively, either side of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.