Lewis Hamilton increases stranglehold on F1 title with Singapore win

Lewis Hamilton has taken another major step towards winning his fifth world championship after a commanding victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Briton will head into the final six rounds of the season 40 points clear of Sebastian Vettel after a Ferrari strategy blunder cost their driver second place.

Vettel passed Max Verstappen on the opening lap here at the Marina Bay Circuit, but then lost out to the Red Bull driver after a questionably early pit stop.

Hamilton crossed the line 8.9 seconds clear of Verstappen with Vettel a further 31 seconds back.

Hamilton started the night race from pole position after he executed a brilliant lap in qualifying, and the world champion made no mistakes en route to a regulation win.

On the short dash to the left-handed opening bend, Hamilton retained his lead with a peerless start.

Behind him, Vettel, who was involved in a three-way start-line collision in Singapore last season, drew alongside Verstappen, only for the Red Bull driver to hold position.

As the front-runners navigated their way through the opening corners, there was drama further down the order as Esteban Ocon crashed into the wall at the third turn after colliding with his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez.

Ocon's car was written off, and the Frenchamn appeared to point the finger at his team-mate for leaving him little room. For his part, Perez merely held the racing line, and following an investigation, the stewards tellingly took no action against him.

Back at the front, and Vettel was taking his second bite at Verstappen. This time he expertly made the move stick. In a flurry of sparks, the German drew alongside the Red Bull through the high-speed turn six before taking the position at the ensuing corner. He did so in the nick of time, with the safety car deployed to deal with Ocon's stricken Force India.

They were back racing again on lap five with Hamilton holding off Vettel and Verstappen.

Vettel was then the first of the leaders to pit as he stopped for fresh tyres on lap 14. He emerged, however, behind the Force India of Perez, and was losing crucial time.

Hamilton made his one and only stop on the next lap, and rejoined the track comfortably ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Vettel finally passed Perez on lap 17, but had fallen further behind Hamilton and Verstappen, too, who had yet to stop. When the Dutchman did come in on lap 18, he had pulled out enough of a gap to leap-frog Vettel for second. It was a costly, and surely, unnecessary error from Vettel's Ferrari team.

Hamilton led comfortably at the front with his only drama on lap 34 as he was held up by backmarkers. Verstappen closed in on the back of Hamilton's Mercedes, but the Brit did not panic and made his way past Sergey Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean before holding off Verstappen, too.

"These guys are crazy," Hamilton said. Grosjean was later handed a five-second timed penalty for ignoring blue flags.

In a race of little drama, Perez was given a drive-through penalty after he needlessly banged wheels with Sirotkin's Williams as they squabbled for the minor places.

Valtteri Bottas finished fourth for Mercedes ahead of his Finnish countryman Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull with Fernando Alonso seventh.

- PA

 

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