SINGAPORE, Sept 17, (AP): Lewis Hamilton profited from the chaos to win the Singapore Grand Prix and extend his championship lead on Sunday, while title rival Sebastian Vettel lost huge ground after crashing out on the first lap.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo prevented a Mercedes 1-2 by finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who placed third.
Vettel can have little complaint as he seemed to cause the first-turn mayhem, despite starting from pole position. The crash caused a domino effect, taking out his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Having started from fifth, on one of the toughest tracks in Formula One for overtaking, Hamilton could not believe his luck. The field opened up perfectly for the British driver to seal his third straight win, seventh of the season and 60th overall.
“I capitalized on the incident,” Hamilton said. “Who could have known that would happen?”
He now has a commanding 28-point lead over Vettel with just six races remaining.
For the highly consistent Ricciardo, it was a seventh podium in the past 10 races.
Carlos Sainz Jr. secured a career-best fourth place for Toro Rosso, with Force India’s Sergio Perez in fifth.
Vettel took pole with a super performance in qualifying, but his form didn’t translate to the race.
Following a massive downpour several hours beforehand, more heavy showers soaked the Marina Bay circuit just before the 8:00 pm race.
The treacherous conditions might have made Vettel a bit nervous, even on a track where he holds the record with four wins.
After making a hesitant start, the four-time F1 champion veered hastily left as he tried to counter Verstappen’s strong start. It was a needless move, and squeezed Verstappen and Raikkonen for room, causing them to collide on the inside.
Raikkonen’s wobbling car then tagged Vettel’s before spinning across the track, careering spectacularly into Verstappen and Alonso — who was in the right place at the wrong time after making a superb start.
Hamilton picked his spot, avoiding any danger as he moved into the lead, with Ricciardo jumping up from third on the grid to second.
After a few laps behind the safety car, the race resumed on lap 7 with huge spray flying up from the cars.
Vettel, meanwhile, was back in the garage contemplating the heavily damaged front wing and left of his car.
“Sorry guys. Sorry,” he said, contritely. “Really sorry.”
In comments made to British broadcaster Sky, Vettel tried to explain his side of things.
“I didn’t see that much,” he said. “I saw Max and then next thing I see is Kimi hitting the side of me and Max somewhere there.”
Asked about the damage to his title hopes, he remained measured.
“It’s how this business is,” Vettel said. “I’m sure there will be more opportunities.”
Verstappen, who had started from second, trudged to Red Bull’s garage with his head down, while Raikkonen expressed his frustration.
“Just ridiculous,” the Finnish driver said. Alonso bravely continued but retired on lap 9.
The safety car came out again shortly after, as Daniil Kvyat ploughed his Toro Rosso into the barriers.
By the time the race re-started again on lap 15, Ricciardo had changed tires, but not Hamilton.
He had to decide when to pit with the 5-km (3.1-mile) track drying slowly.
It was an important call, because he needed enough of a margin over Ricciardo in order to come back out ahead of him.
With the track still greasy, Ricciardo pitted again before Hamilton eventually came in for his change on lap 30 of 61.
Mercedes timed it right, and Hamilton’s lead over Ricciardo was still a healthy nine seconds after the change.
The safety car came out for a third time, after Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber ground to a halt on lap 39.
“Why another safety car?” a clearly annoyed Hamilton said.
When the safety car comes out, not only does it cut the leader’s momentum it enables others to bunch up and close the gap. After being 12 seconds behind, Ricciardo was suddenly right behind Hamilton again when the race re-started.
But Hamilton did enough to win by 4.5 seconds.
Nico Hulkenberg retired late on with a mechanical problem. But his Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer finished sixth to score his first points of the season, on the weekend it was announced he will be replaced by Sainz Jr next season.
Singapore Grand Prix Results/Standings
SINGAPORE, Sept 17, (AFP): Results and world championship standings after the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday:
- Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes-AMG) 294 km in 2hr 03min 23.543 (average speed: 143 km/h)
- Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) at 4.507
- Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes-AMG) at 8.800
- Carlos Sainz (ESP/Toro Rosso) at 22.822
- Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) at 25.359
- Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault) at 27.259
- Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren-Honda) at 30.388
- Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) at 41.696
- Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) at 43.282
- Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) at 44.795
- Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) at 46.536
- Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Sauber) at 2 laps
The other competitors were not classified
World championship standings
- Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 263pts, 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 235, 3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 212, 4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 162, 5. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) 138, 6. Max Verstappen (NED) 68, 7. Sergio Perez (MEX) 68, 8. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 56, 9. Carlos Sainz (ESP) 48, 10. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 34, 11. Felipe Massa (BRA) 31, 12. Lance Stroll (CAN) 28, 13. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 26, 14. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 11, 15. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 10, 16. Jolyon Palmer (GBR) 8, 17. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 7, 18. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) 5, 19. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 4
- Mercedes-AMG 475pts, 2. Ferrari 373, 3. Red Bull 230, 4. Force India 124, 5. Williams 59, 6. Toro Rosso 52, 7. Renault 42, 8. Haas 37, 9. McLaren-Honda 17, 10. Sauber 5