Hamilton reigns supreme at Marina Bay
Mercedes ace wins his fourth Singapore Grand Prix to stretch championship lead over Ferrari's Vettel
1:36.015. That's the jaw-dropping record lap time Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton posted on Saturday to claim pole in his attempt to win the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
Even after he eventually took the chequered flag at the Marina Bay street circuit last night, the feat he pulled off the previous evening had still to sink in.
Emotionally flushed with emotion, Hamilton said he had to battle hard to win his fourth night race here, after victories with McLaren in 2009 and Mercedes in 2014 and last year.
The German team arrived in Singapore as the underdogs.
With Ferrari eating away at their dominance this season, they did not expect anything special on a track that favours the Italian team and Red Bull.
Mercedes' fears were confirmed after the two outfits topped the time sheets in the three practice sessions before qualifying.
I’m spent. It felt like the longest race of my life, so I’m glad it’s over.Lewis Hamilton, after winning his fourth Singapore GP last night, matching Sebastian Vettel’s record
"As you can see, it was hard to overtake here, and the Ferraris and Red Bulls have usually taken the front row," said Hamilton.
"Position is everything here and even (Mercedes team principal) Toto Wolff didn't think it was possible for us to get pole and that we needed something quite special to leap above them."
In qualifying for pole, Hamilton broke the Marina Bay lap record and added that after five years of success with Mercedes, his Saturday performance was one of the best of his career.
"After our successful journey together over the last five years, to see the team express their excitement on Saturday, it was like the first time," he added.
Victory was still not assured because, the Briton had the aggressive Max Verstappen with him on the front row and Vettel right behind. The pair attacked relentlessly on the start, but began to lose pace after the change of tyres.
And the aggression Vettel usually packs during a race was missing last night, failing even to keep second spot he snatched from Verstappen at the start, after the Dutchman took on fresh tyres.
At the end, we knew second was going to be the result, so bring it home.Red Bull’s Max Verstappen
"We didn't expect to lose 10 points in Singapore," said the German. "Obviously, there is still a lot to learn about the car and there are still points to score. We didn't have the fastest car by a big margin tonight as people said. Today we were slower and we need to look and understand what is wrong."
Hamilton said that while Verstappen bit at his heels, he was relieved when he crossed the finish first.
"It was a hard race," said Hamilton, letting out a big sigh of relief.
"This is a special moment for me and the team. It was just great team work, and everyone worked diligently to refine the car for the race."
There are six races left in the calendar and the battle resumes in two weeks at the Russian Grand Prix.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr 51min 11.611sec
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +8.961 sec
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +39.945
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) + 51.930
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) + 53.001
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) + 53.982
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) + 1min 43.011sec
8. Carlos Sainz Jr (Renault) + 1 lap
9. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1 lap
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 lap
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 281 pts
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 241 pts
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 174 pts
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 171 pts
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 148 pts
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 126 pts
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) 53 pts
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 50 pts
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 49 pts
10. Sergio Perez (Force India) 46 pts
1. Mercedes 452 pts
2. Ferrari 415pts
3. Red Bull 274pts
4. Renault 91pts
5. Haas 76pts
6. McLaren-Renault 58pts
7. Force India 32pts
8. Toro Rosso-Honda 30pts
9. Sauber 21pts
10. Williams 7pts