SINGAPORE – Lewis Hamilton took another step closer towards winning his fourth Formula One world title when he took advantage of a dramatic crash at the start of the race that took out closest rival Sebastian Vettel to win the Singapore Grand Prix for the third time in his career.
Hamilton looked as though he needed a miracle to win in the Republic after he qualified for the race in fifth spot on Saturday night and Vettel, a four-time winner in Singapore, took pole.
Vettel’s hopes of vaulting back into the overall Formula One world championship lead were wrecked by a first corner collision on the opening lap of the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday (Sept 17).
The German had started on pole position on a wet track but retired with a badly damaged car in an incident that also claimed Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
Raikkonen ploughed into Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the first corner, taking both cars out of the race and also dealing a heavy hit to Fernando Alonso's McLaren.
Vettel, who had been looking to reclaim the world championship lead from Hamilton, spun further ahead and lost his front wing, a crash that also ended his race.
"I think there was damage on the car already and then it didn't matter, to be honest," the German told Britain's Channel 4 television. "The cooler was damaged, massively bent, so we lost water pressure and had to stop anyway.
"Nothing we can do now. For sure, it's bitter but it's done," added the four times Singapore GP winner whose retirement ended a run of 18 successive points finishes.
Hamilton avoided the trouble and progressed from fifth on the grid to first, ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, as the cars race finally restarted after a safety car.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso later had to retire as a result of that crash. Others drivers who had to retire from the race were Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner defended Verstappen, who had started on the front row with Raikkonen behind in fourth place. "He unfortunately ended up retiring as the result of somebody else's accident," he said.
"You saw Sebastian pull sharp left on him, he probably didn't know Kimi was to the left of him and he had absolutely nowhere to go and then got hit again unfortunately."
Hamilton had been braced for Vettel to take back the championship lead but could now come away with a 28-point cushion instead.
"This race is all about getting the car home in one piece," Hamilton's race engineer told him over the team radio. "I realise that," responded the driver.
The floodlit race has never been held in the wet, and Haas driver Romain Grosjean earlier expressed concerns about visibility through spray on the narrow street track.
"I've got no idea -– and that is the concern I've always had with this race," Romain Grosjean told Autosport.com earlier, when asked if it would be safe to race in the rain.