MARINA BAY, Singapore — official release — Lars Baron/Getty Images AsiaPac photo — Lewis Hamilton took the Formula One World Championship points lead on Sunday after a humid evening in Singapore where everything went wrong for his teammate Nico Rosberg before the race even started.
The German’s Mercedes developed problems with its gearshift electronics which left him stranded at the start of the formation lap, and forced him to start from the pit lane. Hamilton duly capitalized, immediately pulling away from the chasing pack to seemingly take control of proceedings.
The curse of Singapore threw the race wide open however — the safety car came out on lap 31 after the front wing on Sergio Perez’s Force India exploded into fragments following a collision with Adrian Sutil’s Sauber.
At that point Fernando Alonso had worked Ferrari into second – he jumped Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo at the start, surrendered a place to Vettel having run wide and across the run-off at Turn 1, and then used the undercut to get ahead once more.
Alonso lost out at the safety car, however: the Red Bull pair had just stopped to switch onto Pirelli’s soft rubber, but the Ferrari man stopped again when the safety car was deployed and duly dropped behind them once more. Hamilton, meanwhile, had just pitted for another set of supersofts on the 26th lap. When the race went live again on the 38th lap, after a lengthy delay, he was faced with the need to get his head down and open a gap of 27 seconds over his pursuers in order to be sure of retaining the lead when he finally stopped for his mandatory set of softs.
As the Red Bull drivers battled with Alonso – all three trying to keep their tires alive – Hamilton sprinted away, but was growing increasingly worried about the state of his own tires and the possibility of a failure.
He was 25.2s ahead of Vettel when he finally pitted on the 52nd lap – and it wasn’t quite enough. The four-time world champion went into the lead as Hamilton rejoined just ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso. But by then Vettel’s tyres were well past their best, and in a totally committed move Hamilton sliced by Vettel on lap 54 before streaking away to a 13.5s victory. It was his seventh of the season, his second in Singapore, and enough to put him three points ahead of Rosberg, who retired on the lap 13 when mechanics could not resolve his gearshift problems following his first pit stop.
In the closing laps Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso were all over each other, but none of them had the firepower to make a move. They finished just 1.8s apart as the race was ended a lap earlier than the scheduled 61 laps when the two-hour time limit ran out.
Felipe Massa had a relatively uneventful race for Williams to take a lonely fifth, despite having to make a set of softs last from the 22nd lap to the end, while Jean-Eric Vergne was Toro Rosso’s star as he took sixth.
Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten.