2014 SINGAPORE GP: LEWIS HAMILTON 25 + NICO ROSBERG 0 = NEW TITLE LEADER

Lewis Hamilton seized control of the Formula One Drivers’ World Championship with an emphatic victory at the Singapore as team-mate Nico Rosberg’s race was wrecked by a technical issue before the start. Hamilton’s seventh win of the season sees him move three points clear of the unfortunate Rosberg at the top of the title standings. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, scored his best result of the season with second place ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull Racing made a brave two-stop strategy work.

Rosberg’s race began to unravel before the start. On his lap to the grid before the formation lap, the team detected a problem. He formed up on the grid but his engineers could not rectify the electrical issue before the formation lap and he was told to try a manual getaway. That didn’t work and as the rest of the field pulled away from the grid he had to be rolled off track for a start from the pit lane.

At the race start Hamilton held his lead ahead of the fast-starting Fernando Alonso, who took second, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo who made a less than perfect getaway. At the back, Rosberg was struggling. He passed Marussia’s Max Chilton, but his lap times were painfully slow. It soon became apparent that the only item working on his steering wheel were the gearshifters and even those were giving problems, jumping two gears with each upshift. As the first round of pit stop began to unfold, Rosberg was told that he would have to stall his car in the pit box, be restarted and hope to find a gear. On lap 14 he did his part but his W05 Hybrid’s gearbox failed to match the effort and steadfastly refused to engage gear. The German waved his arms in surrender and called a halt to his race.

"It was a horrible feeling. The whole steering wheel wasn’t working. I had no hybrid power, it was shifting two gears at a time, and there was no point to continue. A tough day really. I’m disappointed with today race, it’s reliability again and it’s a weakness for the team. We must get to the bottom of that and move on. Full attack for Suzuka."

It was another 17 laps before the next result-affecting incident occurred. Force India’s Sergio Perez tangled with the Sauber of Adrian Sutil and on lap 31 the Mexican’s front wing collapsed and went under his car. With debris sprayed across the track, the safety car was deployed. At this point Hamilton, in the lead, was on option supersoft tyres but needed to pit for a final set of prime soft. Behind him, second placed Vettel was on primes and was set for a late-race blast on supersofts, in which his team hoped he would be able to use their performance advantage to pressure the Mercedes man. Ricciardo in P3 had the same plan in mind, while in fourth place, Alonso, who had pitted in the safety car period, was on soft tyres and hoping to run to the end. With gaps to his rivals erased Hamilton was told to make some ground, an astonishing 27s worth, a full pit stop, when the safety car left the track.

On lap 37, when the action resumed, Hamilton obliged. Within a lap he was over three seconds clear of Vettel and by lap 40 he had carved out a 7.6s advantage on his quicker supersoft tyres. Behind him the plans were changing. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, at that point fifth and sixth respectively, were told to nurse their tyres to the end. Vettel was told that with those and other planning to run to the end, pitting for supersofts would drop him too far down the order and leave him too many cars to overtake in the final stint. He and Ricciardo were told to preserve their tyres and defend against Alonso.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was setting a blistering pace but it was beginning to tail off. By lap 51 he had a 24s advantage over Vettel but was on the radio telling the team that his tyres were going off rapidly. He was advised that the gap was still growing and was told to hold station. Hamilton finally pitted on lap 52, taking of soft tyres in a 2.9s stop. As he reached the pit exit, Vettel streaked past to take the lead. Hamilton managed to slot into second, keeping Ricciardo at bay. Now it was a matter of whether Vettel could defend his lead on his fading tyres and the emphatic answer was no. Hamilton, under DRS, blasted past Vettel on the run to turn seven to retake the lead. With Hamilton now secure in the lead, the battle became the one for second place.

On lap 56 Alonso, in fourth, crept into DRS range of Ricciardo. The Spaniard pushed hard but could find now way past and the podium order remained unchanged with Hamilton taking the flag on lap 60 as the clock ran out on the race. Behind the top four positions were changing rapidly. Bottas was struggling on his final set of tyres and a train formed behind him. At the back of that queue was Jean-Eric Vergne who had made a stop for new rubber during the safety car period. He hustled to get past but incurred a second five-second stop-go penalty for exceeding he track limits as he desperately tried to get past those ahead. Now it was crucial for him to make decisive moves and the Frenchman didn’t disappoint, passing Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Bottas in the space of three laps to claim sixth. The Toro Rosso driver also enough time on track to wipe out the impact of a five-second time penalty he had been handed for exceeding the track limits. He held sixth for his best result since Canada 2013.

It was a cameo however to the big story of the change of championship lead and afterwards Hamilton admitted that while he had come to the race hoping to cut his deficit to Rosberg by seven points by leading home a 1-2 finish, the result was a major boost to his title changes.

"I came here hoping to really gain those seven points and anything more than that was just a bonus, so today, of course, those extra points are a huge help. That’s several DNFs we’ve had now on either car and we want to continue getting those one-twos still. I know that the team will not be 100 percent happy today because we want to win collectively, we want to get those one-twos, we want to be the dominant team all together, so by not getting that result, they’ll be going back to the drawing board trying to figure out what happened."
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, MARINA BAY
61 laps, 308.965km., Weather: Night.
CLASSIFIED:
 P.    DRIVER             TEAM             TIME   
 1. Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes AMG   2h00:04.795
 2. Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull        +   13.534
 3. Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull        +   14.273
 4. Fernando Alonso     Ferrari         +   15.389
 5. Felipe Massa        Williams        +   42.161
 6. Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso      +   56.801
 7. Sergio Perez        Force India     +   59.038
 8. Kimi Räikkönen      Ferrari         + 1:00.641
 9. Nico Hulkenberg     Force India     + 1:01.661
10. Kevin Magnussen     McLaren         + 1:02.230
11. Valtteri Bottas     Williams        + 1:05.065
12. Pastor Maldonado    Lotus           + 1:06.915
13. Romain Grosjean     Lotus           + 1:08.029
14. Daniil Kvyat        Toro Rosso      + 1:12.008
15. Marcus Ericsson     Caterham        + 1:34.188
16. Jules Bianchi       Marussia        + 1:34.543
17. Max Chilton         Marussia        +    1 lap

FASTEST LAP: Lewis Hamilton - 1:50.417            

NOT CLASSIFIED:
Fernando Alonso      Ferrari           29
Jenson Button        McLaren           52
Adrian Sutil         Sauber            40
Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber            17
Nico Rosberg         Mercedes          14
Kamui Kobayashi      Caterham       not started


After 14 races:
Drivers:                    Constructors:         
 1. Lewis Hamilton    241   1. Mercedes AMG  479
 2. Nico Rosberg      238   2. Red Bull      305
 3. Daniel Ricciardo  181   3. Williams      187
 4. Fernando Alonso   133   4. Ferrari       178
 5. Sebastian Vettel  124   5. Force India   117
 6. Valtteri Bottas   122   6. McLaren       111
 7. Jenson Button      72   7. Toro Rosso     27
 8. Nico Hulkenberg    72   8. Lotus           8
 9. Felipe Massa       65   9. Marussia        2
10. Kimi Räikkönen     45
11. Sergio Perez       45
12. Kevin Magnussen    39
13. Jean-Eric Vergne   19
14. Romain Grosjean     8
15. Daniil Kvyat        8
16. Jules Bianchi       2