Lewis Hamilton achieved his 29th career victory in Formula 1 and has now taken the lead of the world championship, as his Mercedes team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg retired with technical issues.
Rosberg led Hamilton by 22 points coming into the Singapore Grand Prix, but now trails his rival by three after a disastrous race.
Having narrowly missed out on pole position to Hamilton by a tiny margin of 0.007 seconds in qualifying, the expectation was for another close contest between the Silver Arrows duo.
But Rosberg’s problems began before the start, when his team discovered a glitch on the W05 and was forced to swap its steering wheel.
Rosberg then had to start the race from the pitlane when he found he could not pull away from the grid for the formation lap.
As the five red lights went out, Hamilton sprinted into the immediate lead chased by the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Into Turn 1, Fernando Alonso outbraked himself and was forced to hand the position back to Vettel. As for Rosberg, his technical troubles continued.
Rosberg made little progress during the first stint, failing even to pass Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham as he battled problems that were affecting his DRS, energy recovery systems and his gearbox.
He eventually retired at on lap 13 during the first pitstop, after yet another steering wheel change. But the car refused to re-engage first gear.
With his main championship rival removed from the race, Hamilton looked set for a comfortable win, but his superiority came under threat when the Safety Car made an appearance following the collapse of the front wing on Sergio Perez’s Force India at half distance.
Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton (yet to run the soft compound Pirelli) under the Safety Car, requiring him to stop again under racing conditions.
So the 2008 world champion began pushing with fastest laps following the race restart, in order to open a big enough gap to the chasing pack to get in and out of the pits with his lead intact.
However, the chasing Red Bulls of Vettel and Ricciardo were attempting to make their first set of soft tyres last to the end of the Singapore Grand Prix, easing the pressure on the leader.
Hamilton stretched out more than 25 seconds over Vettel before making his final pitstop with nine of the scheduled laps to run, but this wasn’t enough to keep him ahead.
Hamilton just fended off Ricciardo into Turn 3 as Vettel claimed the lead, but with fresher set of tyres Hamilton easily retook the position and drove on to win by a comfortable 13.5 seconds margin as the race ran past the two-hour limit with a lap of the scheduled 61 to run.
Having jumped Vettel at the first round of pitstops, Alonso conceded track position to both Red Bulls by pitting under the Safety Car.
The 2005/06 world champion sat behind Ricciardo waiting for his rivals’ tyres to fall apart, but the Red Bulls held on to score their first double podium finish of the season, with Vettel bagging his best result of a difficult year in second position.
Felipe Massa’s Williams re-passed the fast-starting Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen for fifth at the first round of pitstops and raced on to a lonely finish.
While Jean-Eric Vergne (twice penalised five seconds for exceeding track limits) scored a season’s best sixth after gambling on a third pitstop after the Safety Car and using his fresher soft tyres to pass a train of cars in the closing stages with some bold late-braking moves.
Perez recovered from his wing failure following contact with Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, to execute a similar strategy to Vergne and finish seventh as the tyres on the cars around him gave up towards the end.
Raikkonen paid dearly for his earlier loss of track position, and trailed home eighth despite pitting for fresh tyres under the Safety Car.
Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten, as the tyres on Valtteri Bottas’ Williams – which ran as high as sixth at one point – gave up on him. Eventually finished in a pointless P11.
McLaren’s Jenson Button also looked on course to score points, after a fine start and good strategy carried him from P11 on the grid to seventh, but the 2009 world champion’s car broke down seven laps from the finish.
So a fantastic result for Lewis Hamilton. Leading the championship by three points with five races left in a exciting season. It still all to play for Nico Rosberg especially the double points in the season finale, but the winning form is with Hamilton.
Singapore Grand Prix, race result after 60 laps:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 2h00m04.795s
2 Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull Racing 2h00m18.329s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Infiniti Red Bull Racing 2h00m19.068s
4 Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari 2h00m20.184s
5 Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing 2h00m46.956s
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso 2h01m01.596s
7 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India F1 Team 2h01m03.833s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari 2h01m05.436s
9 Nico Hulkenberg Sahara Force India F1 Team 2h01m06.456s
10 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 2h01m07.025s
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams Martini Racing 2h01m09.860s
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus F1 Team 2h01m11.710s
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team 2h01m12.824s
14 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 2h01m16.803s
15 Marcus Ericsson Caterham F1 Team 2h01m38.983s
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia F1 Team 2h01m39.338s
17 Max Chilton Marussia F1 Team –
Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes –
Adrian Sutil Sauber F1 Team –
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber F1 Team –
Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team –
Kamui Kobayashi Caterham F1 Team –
1 Lewis Hamilton 241
2 Nico Rosberg 238
3 Daniel Ricciardo 181
4 Fernando Alonso 133
5 Sebastian Vettel 124
6 Valtteri Bottas 122
7 Jenson Button 72
8 Nico Hulkenberg 72
9 Felipe Massa 65
10 Sergio Perez 45
11 Kimi Raikkonen 45
12 Kevin Magnussen 39
13 Jean-Eric Vergne 19
14 Romain Grosjean 8
15 Daniil Kvyat 8
16 Jules Bianchi 2
17 Adrian Sutil 0
18 Marcus Ericsson 0
19 Pastor Maldonado 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez 0
21 Max Chilton 0
22 Kamui Kobayashi 0
1 Mercedes 479
2 Red Bull/Renault 305
3 Williams/Mercedes 187
4 Ferrari 178
5 Force India/Mercedes 117
6 McLaren/Mercedes 111
7 Toro Rosso/Renault 27
8 Lotus/Renault 8
9 Marussia/Ferrari 2
10 Sauber/Ferrari 0
11 Caterham/Renault 0
Next race: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka. October 4-6.