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GP Week : Issue 210
That Lewis Hamilton would carve a huge chunk out of Nico Rosberg’s championship lead became a virtual reality before the singapore Grand Prix had even started. A few laps later and it was carte blanche – Nico was out, with what transpired to be a wiring loom issue in his steering column (even a change of steering wheel didn’t help), and the race, and championship lead, was there for the taking. Lewis didn’t disappoint. He had the pace and, despite losing some of his advantage thanks to a race-altering mid-race Safety Car, swept back past a gripless Sebastian Vettel to take a comfortable win. In fact, Mercedes’ only problem was in keeping the Brit calm as he built up the lead needed to make his late final stop, for fresh (Prime) Supersoft tyres. Lewis was stressing but, in the end, there was little to worry about. With the win comes an unexpected championship lead and so it was a genuinely pleased Lewis who faced the media: “It would have been a hardcore race if Nico was in the race with me as the car was feeling very good and we would have been very strong. But, yeah, later on in the race, I was a bit unaware of what I needed to do. That second-to-last stint, I extended it as long as I could and then they said “we need 27s.” “And that was still six seconds I needed more, and my tyres were dropping off, so I didn’t really understand why. And I was also nervous that, if the Safety Car came out, would that cause me big problems? “So anyway, fortunately we got to where I needed to go and we pitted. I came out, and I saw Sebastian going past but straight away I knew they would be on... they were obviously doing a two-stop, I would have good pace. So, took it easy the first lap. It was actually a bit of a tight gap, maybe I should have overtaken him somewhere else but fortunately Sebastian was very fair and I got by.” It was Vettel who turned out to be best of the rest, albeit with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso queued up behind, all on fading tyres. If anything, it was Alonso who ultimately lost out most thanks to the lap 31 Safety Car (with bits of Sergio Perez’ front wing spread around the place). He’d tried one of his big outside moves at Turn 1, slid wide, and had to hand second back to Vettel, but got back past the Red Bull on the first stop ‘undercut’, only to drop behind both Red Bulls by stopping again at the Safety Car (the RB’s had just switched to Softs and thus didn’t stop again – although the move ultimately decided them on a go-to-the-finish two-stop strategy, which ultimately just worked – when Alonso actually caught them, his tyres were too far gone to pull off a realistic pass). So Vettel got his best result of the season, keeping team-mate Ricciardo at bay as the race wound out. For his part, Ricciardo had been dealing with a range of in-car issues from the start, including a power drop into the first corner at the start: “The start initially wasn’t too bad but just before Turn 1 we had a bit of an issue and I think we lost a bit of power. Whether we could have held on or not ... who knows? “But then, yeah, Fernando went wide and then gave the place back to Seb and the race from there was fairly straightfor ward. Encountered a few other issues and bits and pieces here and there, so we’ll have to look into that. See how much it cost us in the end. “But obviously it was nice to get on the back of Seb and try to put him under a bit of pressure but I think for all of us here it was follow-the-leader a bit and not much else to do.” In terms of the race this was where the action was. Again, Felipe Massa had an almost lonely uneventful race to take a comfortable fifth while, further back, there was an excitement-plus drama going on, eventually headed by Jean-Eric Vergne. His mix, of two five-second ‘off-track’ penalties, plus a late switch to fresh SuperSofts provided late excitement as he carved his way through a pack of people struggling on older rubber, eventually getting to sixth with a couple of laps to go and steaming away to such effect that the second five-second penalty made no difference to his result! The loser in this late-race contest was Valtteri Bottas, who tried and tried to hold on in sixth with shot tyres and a power- steering system problem – just what you need in Singapore. In the end, he slewed wide in a completely gripless slide and a whole train of cars went by. He finished 11th ... In this late-race bunch were Perez (fighting back from his front wing breakage), Kimi Raikkonen (who’d spent the whole race more or less stuck behind one Williams or the other), Nico Hulkenberg, and a drink-bottle-less and dehydrated Kevin Magnussen. Missing from this bunch was Jenson Button who’d driven a smart race and looked headed for seventh before his McLaren simply shut down with seven laps to go. Disaster for Rosberg – the car is stuck in neutral, and backmarker Marcus Ericsson sweeps by, committing Rosberg to a pitlane start. It got worse ... 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> SINGAPORE PARTNERS: