In sweltering temperatures at the Singapore Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton turned up the heat on Sebastian Vettel a notch further.
Hamilton won comfortably from pole position yesterday, extending his Formula 1 championship lead over Vettel to 40 points.
Winning from pole on one of the hardest tracks for overtaking in F1 was nothing special in itself. But Hamilton’s masterclass in qualifying was exceptional as he recorded one of the best pole positions of his career – described as epic within his Mercedes team.
It afforded him a more relaxing race than expected – heat aside – given Ferrari’s advantage during practice this weekend.
Considering Vettel makes more mistakes than Hamilton, a 40-point gap looks a huge advantage with only six races left. Especially as Hamilton has no intention of easing up.
The British driver is on a major roll after winning four of the past five races, pinning Vettel firmly on the ropes in their bid for a fifth F1 title. “I think the approach I have is working really well, so I don’t see the point in changing,” Hamilton said after his seventh win of the season and 69th in F1.
“I’ve been [around] a long, long time and I know I can’t get ahead of myself, we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Hamilton added. “I truly think we can deliver like this for the rest of the season and that is the goal.”
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was nine seconds back in second place, with Vettel way back in third.
“We didn’t come here expecting to lose ten points,” said a dejected Vettel, who trailed by 30 heading into Singapore. Vettel’s championship bid crumbled when he crashed from pole here last year and went on to lose the title by 46 points to Hamilton.
It is looking increasingly like a repeat scenario for the Ferrari driver, who is disappearing into Hamilton’s slipstream.
Vettel was unhappy with his team after qualifying in third place behind Verstappen and the German driver sounded irritated during the race after a team strategy to send him into the pits for a tyre change before Hamilton failed to work.
Instead he lost position and crucial points, dropping back behind Verstappen having earlier overtaken him.
“We tried to be aggressive in the beginning and obviously it didn’t work out,” Vettel said. “I think today, with the way we raced, we didn’t have a chance. I said before the weekend we can only beat ourselves and today we didn’t get everything out of the package.”
The only thing bothering Hamilton seemed to be the conditions. Despite the night-time start, the temperature was around 30C and the humidity intense.
“I’m spent,” Hamilton said moments after victory, crouching down by his car.
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who won the inaugural race here ten years ago, was seventh for McLaren.