Hamilton’s ‘hammer time’ takes title lead with Singapore win

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Lewis Hamilton entered this Singapore Grand Prix weekend on the back of a lead-shaving victory in Monza having reduced teammate Nico Rosberg’s advantage to just 22 points.

It was always going to be important for Lewis to convert his pole position in Singapore to victory and reduce Rosberg’s lead further but what he most likely hadn’t planned on was a DNF from Nico—that misfortune, coupled with some superb driving during the race, has handed the world championship lead to Hamilton.

The Singapore Grand Prix has had a Safety Car period ever since it came back on the calendar in 2007 and this year was no change. It was this Safety Car period that added some drama as Lewis still had one stop to make in order to comply with tire regulations and it was up to Hamilton to make the strategy work regardless of the hand he was dealt in the timing of the Safety Car period. He did make it work and won the race with time to spare.

For Rosberg, the race was over before it started. Having steering wheel issues just prior to the start meant he was no able to make the formation lap and started from pit lane. During the first 14 laps of the race, Nico’s car was up-shifting two gears at a time.

On lap 14 Rosberg pitted and even though the team changed the steering wheel, the car would not select a gear to continue the race. It was game over and Nico joined Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez and Kamui Kobayashi as non-finishers in Singapore.

Red Bull felt they had a shot at a win or at worst a podium finish and while Lewis held them at bay, the duo were able to hold off the charging Ferrari of Fernando Alonso to secure second and third. The reversal of fortune for Sebastian Vettel was responsible for a smile on the German’s face that we haven’t seen in 2014. Having been bested by his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, for most of the year, it was a performance Vettel is most likely pleased with.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso secured fourth place while Williams corrected their Friday practice pace to deliver a car capable of claiming fifth in the hands of veteran Felipe Massa.

The feel-good story of Singapore could be the performance of Scuderia Toro Rosso who enjoyed a sixth-place finish in the hands of a driver who has already been given notice of his sacking for 2015. Jean-Eric Vergne was driving a career-best race and even suffered two 5-second stop/go penalties but still managed to take advantage of fresh tires to claw back up to 6th.

Win

Win

It has to be a win for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and while I am sure he’d say he isn’t too jazzed about getting the championship lead via a mechanical DNF by his teammate, he’s had enough of those himself this year and most likely feels that this is racing and those things happen. He’s two race wins away from tying Nigel Mansell in the history books and the momentum will surely give the British driver serious motivation for the balance of the year. It also must be said that Lewis did exactly what he needed to do from a strategy standpoint and drove a terrific and measured race.

Red Bull has to be in the win column with an inspired performance from both drivers and in particular Sebasitan Vettel who needed to remind the world, and perhaps himself, that he is a champion and can beat his teammate when his car works the way he wants it to. Vetetl had a great start and was setting fast laps early on and seemed seriously inspired this weekend. It was also a very impressive stacked pit stop on lap 13 too as both drivers were serviced and sent on their way.

Force India got both cars home in the top ten and have 5th place in the Constructor’s Championship over McLaren. It’s also a win for Sergio Perez who seems to have the measure of his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, of late.

While not a points position, Lotus secured 12th and 13th and given the recent struggle—not too mention Romain Grosjean’s tirade over his Renault engine on Saturday—it’s kind of a win.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen was being slow-roasted in his car and was treated for burns after the race. Even his water bottle was so hot that it was undrinkable! Holding his arms out of the car trying to get relief, the rookie managed a single point for the team in what team boss Eric Boullier called an “impressively plucky drive”.

Fail

Fail

Mercedes and Nico Rosberg suffered a wiring loom issue that cost Nico his championship lead by erasing 22 points from his lead sheet and also, most likely, costing the team constructor’s points as well—not that they need them for anything at this point.

McLaren had a fail while Jenson Button was making a race of it. His DNF was caused when his car just shut off while going over the bridge ending his race. He had saved his tires for a 5-lap battle with Williams F1’s Valtteri Bottas.

Sauber had a dual DNF and the frustration was so tangible that driver Esteban Gutierrez had a full-on temper melt down in the garage after exiting his stricken car. Kicking trollies, throwing driver paraphernalia was just some of the fireworks in the Sauber garage. In fairness, I think I’d kick something too at this point…it couldn’t hurt efforts.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who had a miserable race. He was begging the team to pull him in for new tires on lap 45 and said he was dying in the cockpit for a lack of water. That’s a bad weekend by anyone’s measure.

WTH

I am not quite sure of the reasons, as I write this, as to why it took seven laps to clear debris for a front wing that fell off nor am I privy to why the marshals in that corner had no brooms in which to sweep the debris from the track. The 7-lap Safety Car period had a major impact on several drivers’ races and for a moment, I thought it may have caught Lewis Hamilton out as well but he reversed that misfortune through chirpy driving.

Just what was up with Kevin Magnussen’s car? Being slow-roasted in a car isn’t part of his job description and McLaren need to look at their reliability while they’re designing ways to use the 2015 Honda power unit.

While Lewis drove a great race, his choice in passing zones in Singapore were a bit unorthodox. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel wasn’t quite sure what he was doing passing at the quick turn 6 kink at the beginning of the DRS zone. Vettel said apparently Hamilton couldn’t wait to get back in the lead and he had to back off or they would have collided. Even Lewis said it was tight and that he now thinks another location would have been better but praised Sebstian for being very fair about it.

Back in 2008, Felipe Massa dragged half of his refueling rig down pitlane and it seems that Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado seemed to try to one-up the Brazilian by leaving his pit stop with a wheel gun still secured on his front-left wheel. Thankfully it came off his wheel and no one was injured but oddly there was no unsafe release penalty that I know of. Usually the FIA take wheel securing very strictly and while the wheel seemed to be secured on the hub, the process was not complete but maybe that isn’t penalty-worthy. Not that I’m advocating more penalties in F1 mind you.

NBC Sports…enough said.

Race Results:

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes2h00m04.795s
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull/Renault13.534s
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault14.273s
4Fernando AlonsoFerrari15.389s
5Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes42.161s
6Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso/Renault56.801s
7Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes59.038s
8Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m00.641s
9Nico HulkenbergForce India/Mercedes1m01.661s
10Kevin MagnussenMcLaren/Mercedes1m02.230s
11Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes1m05.065s
12Pastor MaldonadoLotus/Renault1m06.915s
13Romain GrosjeanLotus/Renault1m08.029s
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Renault1m12.008s
15Marcus EricssonCaterham/Renault1m34.188s
16Jules BianchiMarussia/Ferrari1m34.543s
17Max ChiltonMarussia/Ferrari1 Lap
Jenson ButtonMcLaren/MercedesElectrical
Adrian SutilSauber/FerrariWater leak
Esteban GutierrezSauber/FerrariElectrical
Nico RosbergMercedesSteering wheel
Kamui KobayashiCaterham/RenaultNot started
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