Faultless Lewis Hamilton hits the front

Lewis Hamilton chalked up win 
No 29 of his Formula 1 career to 
finally regain the lead of this year’s world title fight after Nico Rosberg 
suffered only his second retirement of the season.

Lewis Hamilton sprays champagne on the podium following his win. Picture: Reuters
Lewis Hamilton sprays champagne on the podium following his win. Picture: Reuters

Rosberg’s Mercedes encountered an electronics issue before the start of the Singapore Grand Prix and was ultimately forced out of the race after 14 laps.

Hamilton drove faultlessly from pole position around the Marina Bay Street Circuit to take the chequered flag for the seventh time this campaign and eke out a slender three-point gap lead over Rosberg with five races remaining.

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It is only the second time this season Hamilton has led the way in his one-on-one feud with Rosberg, the other occasion after a win in Spain going into what proved to be a highly-controversial race in Monaco.

Behind Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel chalked up his best result of a troubled year with second in his Red Bull, followed by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the trio covered by 1.8 seconds at the line.

For Rosberg, this was a taste of the emotions Hamilton experienced in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary and Belgium. Prior to this race Rosberg had just one retirement, at Silverstone when his car suffered a gearbox failure.

On this occasion, Rosberg’s race was virtually over before it had even started due to an electronics issue related to the gearbox. Come the start of the formation lap, as Hamilton set off ahead of him and the rest of the field filed around him, Rosberg was sat on the grid doing all he could to engage the gears. It was to no avail, resulting in his mechanics wheeling him off the grid and into the pit lane where they at least managed to get him going.

With Kamui Kobayashi pulling his Caterham off track on the formation lap due to a technical issue, it left Rosberg 21st and last.

Once in the race Rosberg’s problems were highlighted further as he was told at one stage the only thing working on his dashboard were the gearshift paddles. Rosberg was also without fourth gear, all of which resulted in him failing to close the gap on Marussia’s Max Chilton and then Marcus Ericsson in his Caterham over the opening laps.

At the end of lap 13, and with a 75-second gap to Rosberg, Hamilton pitted from the lead, with the Briton in cruise control. A lap later, and with no read-out on his dash, Rosberg coasted into his grid slot where he had to stall the car in order for his crew to fit new tyres.

Ordinarily, the engine would still be running to keep the revs high to allow a driver to pull away at speed, but with gear issues that was not possible on this occasion. But after the team fired up his car again, Rosberg was unable to find any gear, with retirement following moments later.

After a consoling hug from Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff in the garage, Rosberg said: “Sitting on the grid, seeing everybody go by was a horrible feeling. There was no power, no gears, no nothing.”

As for the championship, Rosberg added: “I make the most of it for the future, we try and understand today and then full attack for Suzuka (venue for the Japanese Grand Prix in a fortnight).”

There was more drama to come, however, with Sergio Perez losing his front wing underneath his Force India after colliding with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, bringing out the safety car for the seventh successive race at this venue.

After six laps to clear the debris, Hamilton was left running on the supersoft tyre – but needing to make a final stop – whilst those behind were running to the end on soft rubber.

Hamilton then wrung the life out of his car in a bid to clear as many cars as possible through to the end of lap 52, with nine remaining.

It was a breathtaking drive from Hamilton as he came out in between Vettel and Ricciardo, with Alonso on the heels of the Australian.

On fresh tyres it took Hamilton only one and a half laps to clear Vettel, from which point he stormed on to victory, with the race reaching its two-hour limit after 60 of the planned 61 laps.

Behind the leading quartet were Williams’ Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso, followed by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg for Force India and McLaren’s Kevin 
Magnussen. Jenson Button retired in his McLaren, whilst Chilton was 17th and last for Marussia.

Following his second win under the lights at Singapore, Hamilton said: “I was dreaming about this last night, but you never think it’s going to happen. But thanks to my team, knowing we have a car we can fight with and the way it felt on track, it’s incredible. I was looking for that clean weekend, and this has been it, but it has not been perfect as Nico didn’t finish, so there are things we can still work on.”