MARINA BAY, Singapore — Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel to 40 points after winning the Singapore Grand Prix for the fourth time in his career.
The Mercedes driver started from pole position and was rarely troubled Sunday, finishing 8.9 seconds ahead of second-place Max Verstappen with Vettel over 30 seconds adrift in third. ESPN rounds up the main talking points from Marina Bay.
Shock: Ferrari squandered another golden opportunity when they opted to make Vettel the first of the frontrunners to pit for fresh rubber on Lap 15. They brought him in from P2 with the intention of undercutting Hamilton for the lead, but instead the German emerged behind Force India’s Sergio Perez and remained stuck behind the Mexican for three laps. The time he lost allowed Red Bull’s Verstappen to pit three laps later and inherit net second place. Given that Vettel’s stop was a speedy 2.5 seconds, you have to wonder why Ferrari thought they could get ahead of Perez.
Shocker: For the first time in quite a while the outcome of a race very nearly came down to drivers ignoring blue flags. Hamilton was enjoying a comfortable four-second advantage over Verstappen, but when he caught traffic on Lap 38 his buffer instantly vanished. Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin may have been battling for position, but the pair failed to leave room for the leading duo, and it almost allowed Verstappen to make a move for the race lead, one that would have been highly controversial. Rightly, the stewards punished both Grosjean and Sirotkin with five-second time penalties.
First lap drama … again: After a 2017 season full of squabbling, contact and pinning the blame on each other, the Force India pairing of Perez and Esteban Ocon appeared to have tidied it all up. That was until Lap 1 in Singapore, when they once again broke every team’s golden rule in Formula One by making contact. Perez ran wide on the exit of Turn 3, touched Ocon and sent him into the Marina Bay barriers and out of the race. It was the beginning of a scrappy evening for the Mexican who later collided with Sirotkin and was subsequently slapped with a drive-through penalty.
Mind games or miscommunication: There was a bizarre moment in the early phase of the grand prix when Ferrari radioed in to Vettel to tell him Hamilton had reported that he was losing grip on his hyper-soft tyres. It would have been a welcome message for the German at that stage of the race but it wasn’t exactly accurate. A lap earlier Hamilton had actually told his Mercedes team, “there’s a lot left in these tyres,” signalling they could run a much longer stint than perhaps initially anticipated. We’re still not sure what happened with that one.
Overtake of the night: There were a few to choose from, but Charles Leclerc’s move on Pierre Gasly was one that caught the eye and gave us a glimpse of what is likely to be in store in the coming years with both drivers heading to top teams in 2019. Leclerc put his Sauber on the gearbox of Gasly’s Toro Rosso as the Frenchman was struggling for grip on his hyper-soft tyres, followed him over the Anderson Bridge before pulling off an excellent criss-cross move around Turn 13 to snatch P9.
Stat of the night: For the first time since June’s French Grand Prix, both Red Bulls managed to take the chequered flag. In fact, the 2018 edition of the Singapore Grand Prix saw the lowest rate of attrition in its 11-year history, with Ocon the only man not to finish the race.
Driver of the night: Hamilton didn’t put a foot wrong from pole position and remained calm when he caught traffic midway through the race, but how could you go past Fernando Alonso, who finished best of the rest in P7? The Spaniard made up four places from 11th on the grid and was the only driver outside Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull not to be lapped.