Nico Rosberg has held off a charging Daniel Ricciardo to win the Singapore Grand Prix and take an eight-point lead in the championship. Lewis Hamilton fought off Kimi Raikkonen throughout the race to come home in third position.
The race heated up with 15 laps left as Mercedes pitted Hamilton to dispose of the soft rubber and bolt on a set of the quicker super softs to last him until the end of the race.
Ferrari responded to Mercedes’ strategy and called Raikkonen into the pits a lap later, although the Scuderia fitted the ultra-soft tyre to Raikkonen’s car.
This left Ricciardo with a free pit stop to put on a set of fresh rubber, so the Australian pitted on lap 48 to get rid of his softs for the super softs, and quickly set about catching Rosberg who was 23 seconds down the road.
Ricciardo gained three seconds a lap on the Mercedes as Rosberg’s soft compound tyres started to fade as the German had pitted 14 laps previous to Ricciardo.
The Red Bull was consistently taking chunks of time out of Rosberg and got within DRS range on the final lap, but unfortunately ran out of laps and finished the race just 0.488 seconds behind the Mercedes, as Rosberg narrowly held onto the lead as he made his way through the backmarkers to take the chequered flag.
Raikkonen was unable to take advantage on the faster compound and failed to re-pass Hamilton for third, falling to over two seconds behind the Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel started on the soft compound tyre to run a longer first stint before switching to the ultra-soft as he made his way through the field from the back of the grid. The German made another switch to use the ultra-soft tyre for the last 19 laps which saw him finish ahead of Max Verstappen in fifth position.
Verstappen started poorly from fourth position as he bogged down on the grid causing Carlos Sainz to take avoiding action, Nico Hulkenberg was already streaming down the middle of the pack as Sainz avoided crashing into Verstappen when the pair collided, which sent Hulkenberg into the wall.
While Hulkenberg’s Force India was left sitting on the circuit destroyed, Sainz luckily got away with minor damages to his sidepod, which he was later black and yellow flagged and forced to pit for repairs.
This brought out the safety car for two laps and the field was taken through the pit lane so that the debris could be cleared from the main straight. Williams took the opportunity to pit Valtteri Bottas as the Finn had suffered a puncture from the incident at the start, and was released into the path of Vettel’s Ferrari, although there was no penalty handed to Williams.
Rosberg was able to pull a quick lead over Ricciardo once the race restarted after two laps behind the safety car, as the Australian was left to fend off a pressing Hamilton for the first two laps.
The call came to Rosberg a few laps later that his brakes were becoming critical and that he had to manage the issue throughout the race, the same message was delivered to Hamilton which affected both drivers’ race.
Sergio Perez had started the race in 17th position after he received penalties for yellow flag infringements in qualifying, and had made his way up to fifth position after the first round of pit stops. The Mexican started on the ultra-soft tyre then quickly changed to the soft for a long second stint when the safety car was called out, then ran another set of softs for 36 laps until the end of the race.
While Sainz struggled to make up lost ground after making an unscheduled pit stop, Daniil Kvyat was making the most of the high-downforce circuit and challenging Verstappen for position inside the top 10.
The Russian had definitely found his mojo again as he strongly defended the teenager’s attacks before Verstappen pitted a few laps later. Kvyat stayed out on a different strategy and finished the race in ninth place behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Perez’s Force India.
The battle for third continued back at the front between Hamilton and Raikkonen, with Hamilton still having to nurse his brakes leaving him off the pace. Raikkonen took advantage and dived on the inside of the Briton on lap 33 and moved himself into second position after Ricciardo had pitted.
The Finn was then quick to pit to dispose of his used super softs and take the more durable soft tyre, while Hamilton pitted a lap later to take another set of softs.
Hamilton’s stint only lasted 11 laps until he pitted again on lap 46 for super softs, leaving the call to Ferrari whether to respond to Mercedes’ strategy or not. The Scuderia seemed to be indecisive and left Raikkonen out on track a lap too long, because when the Finn pitted and rejoined the race he came out behind Hamilton, and was unable to get his position back despite being on the quicker tyre.
Kevin Magnussen came home in 10th position and scored Renault’s first points since the Russian Grand Prix while Esteban Gutierrez again had to settle for 11th position in the Haas.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas