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Hamilton avoids chaos, wins race in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton didn't have a particularly good qualifying effort prior to the Singapore Grand Prix, at least it looked that way as the lights went out to start the race. On a wet circuit, running on wet or intermediate tires the field peeled away from their starting positions. From his fifth starting spot on grid Hamilton and his Mercedes had a front row seat to one of the most chaotic beginnings to a race in Grand Prix history as the top three qualifiers managed to take themselves out in the first quarter mile of the event.

The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel started from the pole position with Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen filling out the front row. Behind Verstappen was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. When the lights went out to start the race Vettel pulled out slightly in front of Verstappen. Behind them Raikkonen got off to a great start going around Verstappen's left and running side by side with the Red Bull Racing machine as the trio, three abreast race toward the the first, left hand turn.

Verstappen found himself the meat in a Ferrari sandwich as Vettel moved closer to him Verstappen also moved to the left and into Raikkonen. The two cars made contact spinning and damaging both. As Verstappen and Raikkonen slide across the track entering the first turn they also collected the McLaren Honda of Fernando Alonso. Verstappen and Raikkonen were done for the day, Alonso continued for several laps before retiring.

“My start was a little bit better than Seb and I think he saw that so he tried to move to the left to squeeze me out of the line a bit but he did not know Kimi was on my other side." said Verstappen "I think it wasn’t the smartest move and you can’t make excuses for it when you are fighting for a world championship. Kimi had a great start and was alongside me very quickly, I didn’t try and defend that as I knew it would be a long race, he then started to squeeze me also, at which point there wasn’t a lot I could do. The rear wheels are wider than the front so I was locked in the sandwich with no way out, even when I braked. If I made a mistake myself I would be upset or angry but there was nothing I could do today. We all lost out in the end so we all experienced some pain rather than someone making a mistake and then being able to carry on. We have to take the positives from the weekend, we were quick in qualifying and the practice sessions with good potential going into the race, we can hold onto this and move on to the next race.”

Raikkonen's view, “At the start I had a very good jump, then I got hit; that was the end of our race. I don’t think I could have really done anything differently to avoid it, apart from doing a bad start and not being there. It’s a pity, one of those things you pay a big price for. Whatever the cause or the issue, it doesn’t change the end result unfortunately. We go to the next races ready to fight and do our best.”

Meanwhile, Vettel roared into the lead until he suddenly lost control and slid into the wall, the victim of a damaged side pod spewing fluid on the rear tires.

“I had an average start and then I moved slightly to the left trying to defend my position from Max." Vettel said "Then I got bumped on one side as Kimi’s car hit me. I’m not sure what happened. I span at turn 3, but that’s because the car was damaged already. Today we were on the wrong side of the track, which doesn’t help. But there is nothing we can do now and for sure it is bitter, and it’s a pity we couldn’t show our pace today; but we have other races ahead of us and I am sure there will be more opportunities for us.”

With the top three cars sidelined the safety car was deployed and behind it Hamilton now led ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and the Force India of Sergio Perez.

When racing resumed Hamilton remained in control as Ricciardo could do little to close the gab the at one period grew to nearly seven seconds at one point in the race. With all the carnage the race was now running on the two hour limit rather than lap count as Hamilton stabilized his lead at just under three seconds. As the two-hour mark arrived, at the end of lap 57, Hamilton swept past the checkered flag to claim his 60th career win and his third in Singapore.

"What a day – I can’t believe it, I’m so happy!" said Hamilton "I came in today and I saw that I was raining and I knew that this balances everything out. I love racing in the rain, then everything unfolded in the beginning. Starting on the Intermediates I thought it was going to be much closer pace-wise. These conditions give you the opportunity to really make a difference with your driving. It was the first time for all of us driving here in the rain, so it was a massive challenge. But I love that when you have to rise to the toughest of challenges, that’s the most exciting part for me. Then it was all about staying focused and not making any mistakes. We came to a track that was potentially our weakest circuit and we leave with a win like this and so many points – that’s a very fortunate scenario for us. Valtteri also did a great job, so to have all these constructors’ points is awesome."

Ricciardo finished second ahead of the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas while Carlos Sainz took a career-best fourth place on the weekend it was announced that in 2018 he will drive for Renault. Sergio Pérez was fifth for Force India, while Jolyon Palmer took his first points of the season with sixth place on the weekend it was announced that he would lose his Renault seat to Sainz.

“The rain made it all pretty hectic today." said Ricciardo "Everyone was in the same boat though and we hadn’t driven in the wet here before so it’s all about switching on early, being aware of the situation and trying to adapt as quick as you can. My start was quite slow off the line. In hindsight probably a good thing, because it allowed the chaos to unfold in front of me. Then in the first few laps I felt we were okay in the wet but then I felt we were a bit harsh on the tires. Even when we pitted and had fresher tires., we couldn’t really make an impact on Lewis. The team was asking me to manage the gears through the race and after I learned we had a leak and were losing oil pressure in the gearbox from early on. Of course I came here to win and really wanted it, but second place is great and I’m not going to complain about it.”

Stoffel Vandoorne was seventh for McLaren, while Lance Stroll took eighth, ten places ahead of his grid slot. Romain Grosjean took two points for Haas and the last point on offer went to Esteban Ocon in the second Force India.


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