Lewis Hamilton has reclaimed the lead of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship standings with victory in tonight’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The Englishman’s run to victory was assisted by a retirement for teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg, and in the end Hamilton dominated proceedings, finishing ahead of the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Perhaps a premonition of things to come, Rosberg was apparently inflicted by a stomach ailment and then suffered the indignity of his vintage Mercedes car breaking down on the drivers’ parade lap. Worse was to follow…
In the half-hour leading up to joining the grid, the German’s electronics were misbehaving on his Mercedes F1W05. With his gearshift all awry, the team tried a change of steering wheel and a complete software reset on the dummy grid, but he couldn’t get going on the parade lap and was pushed into the pit lane for more attention.
Rosberg wasn’t the only parade lap victim, with Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi capping off a tiresome weekend when his green machine ground to a smoky halt after just a few corners.
With Hamilton on the front row all to himself, only a botched start would ensure he wouldn’t have an easy lead into Turn 1. With luck on his side, he eased away while the second-row starting Red Bulls were slow off the line – particularly Daniel Ricciardo, who briefly ran side-by-side with Vettel and then found himself jumped by Fernando Alonso on the short sprint to Turn 1.
Alonso carried far too much speed into the left-hander and sailed across the run-off – overtaking Vettel in the process – but was quick to cede his second place to Vettel to avoid a penalty. He didn’t hand another place to Ricciardo, but the stewards did not take the opportunity to enforce a further positional change.
The opening lap squabbles gave Hamilton a 1.6-second lead by the end of the first tour. Kimi Räikkönen made a good getaway in his Ferrari to move into fifth, hotly pursued by both Williams’ and McLarens.
Rosberg did manage to join the race at the tail of the field, but his gearshifts were decidedly faulty and he retired after 13 laps when he made his first attempt at a pit stop, minus any clutch or speed limiter. His 22-point advantage heading into the race weekend was, at worst, going to become a three-point deficit if his teammate claimed victory. It could be a potentially championship-deciding weekend for either driver.
Hamilton had no such concerns and – aside from his visits to the pits for fresh tyres – led the race throughout. His strategy was compromised by a lengthy mid-race Safety Car, brought about thanks to Sergio Pérez’s damaging his Force India’s front wing on the back of Adrian Sutil’s Sauber and then scattering the shattered nose across the width of the track.
Hamilton held keep track position from the rest of the field, but he was on SuperSoft rubber while his chasing rivals were on the slower Soft compound tyres. He needed at least a 25-second gap in order to make his final pit stop without losing the lead, while the rest of the runners would try and see out the race on their final set of tyres.
It had the potential to be a nail-biter, but Hamilton delivered a masterclass in hot-lap driving to hold a three-second lead by the end of the first post-Safety Car green flag lap and kept building it from there. A second Safety Car could have ruined things, but it didn’t come.
By the time he pitted with 10 laps to go, he emerged just behind Vettel and took all of a lap-and-a-half to blast by the German and his fading tyres. In the end, Hamilton won with a margin of almost fourteen seconds and – despite reclaiming the title lead for the first time since May’s Spanish Grand Prix – kept his post-race celebrations sensibly muted, leaving the huge fireworks display to do the talking.
Vettel led a three-car battle comprising Ricciardo and Alonso across the finish line, denying his Australian teammate a potential three extra points in his slim quest for his own Drivers’ Championship glory. Alonso had threatened mid-race when he jumped Vettel in the second pit stop phase, but the order was readdressed next time around and he finished a frustrated fourth ahead of former teammate Felipe Massa, who had a rather quiet (but solid) run in his Williams.
Sixth place and perhaps the most exciting of all to watch was Jean-Éric Vergne in the Toro Rosso. The Frenchman admitted to botching his qualifying performance and had vowed to make up ground in the race, and he surely delivered with a drive that demonstrated why he deserves a place on next year’s grid. Vergne didn’t however, make his life easy, earning two five-second stop/go penalties for exceeding the track limits in his efforts to overtake his rivals.
After serving the first in his second pit stop, Vergne earned his second with a bold lunge on Pastor Maldonado and used his fresher tyres to pick off a number of cars ahead of him with a succession of bold passing moves. First came Nico Hülkenberg, then Räikkönen’s Ferrari, and finally Valtteri Bottas’ Williams – which had been keeping a train of cars at bay for half the race. It was an entertaining drive to say the least, and he ensured he had at least a five-second margin in hand to not drop a place in the final results.
Pérez also put in a great recovery after his clumsy front-wing contact with Sutil to climb to seventh, and also used his fresher tyres to carve his way ahead of the Bottas-Räikkönen stoush in the final laps to snatch seventh on the final lap.
Despite a gallant effort, Bottas’ well-worn left-rear tyre finally gave out on the last lap, and hopes of some points went along with his flailing rubber as he was overtaken through the final corners by Räikkönen, Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, who rounded out the top ten.
Magnussen’s tenth place marked the sole point for McLaren – Jenson Button retired late in the race when his electrical system shut down – which lost fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship to Force India in the proceedings.
Despite their qualifying woes on Saturday, both of the Lotus runners showed improved pace and managed to briefly threaten the points. Ultimately it wasn’t to be, as they finished twelfth and thirteenth ahead of a dehydrated Daniil Kvyat, who found the humid conditions too much for him in the final laps.
Marcus Ericsson took the sole remaining Caterham to fourteenth position, gallantly holding off Jules Bianchi’s Marussia in the final laps to give the green team some cheer after a tough weekend. Max Chilton was the last of the finishers, a lap down after popping a left-front tyre early in the race.
2014 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (60 laps*):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||60||2:00:04.795|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||60||+ 13.534|
|3.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||60||+ 14.273|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||60||+ 15.389|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||60||+ 42.161|
|6.||Jean-Éric Vergne^||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||60||+ 56.801|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||60||+ 59.038|
|8.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||60||+ 1:00.641|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||60||+ 1:01.661|
|10.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||60||+ 1:02.230|
|11.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||60||+ 1:05.065|
|12.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||60||+ 1:06.915|
|13.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||60||+ 1:08.209|
|14.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||60||+ 1:12.008|
|15.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||60||+ 1:34.188|
|16.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||60||+ 1:34.543|
|17.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||59||1 lap behind|
|DNF.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||52||Electrical|
|DNF.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||40||Water Leak|
|DNF.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||17||Electrical|
|DNF.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||13||Electrical|
|DNS.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||Mechanical|
*Race time-limited to two hours with 60 of its 61 scheduled laps completed.
^ Denotes 5-second stop/go penalty awarded as a post-race time penalty.
Image via Sutton Images and XPB Images