(BBC) – MERCEDES driver Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix to strengthen his hold on this year’s World Championship.
Hamilton’s controlled drive from a pole position won brilliantly on Saturday, was helped by the latest in a series of questionable strategy calls from Ferrari.
It dropped Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel from second to third behind Max Verstappen, throwing away a position the German had earned by overtaking the Red Bull driver on the first lap.
While Vettel was left to question his team once again this season – and for the second time this weekend after a less-than-perfect qualifying session – Hamilton’s only worrying moment was caused by back markers at about two-thirds distance.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin ignored the closing Hamilton in the heat of their battle for position, and that cost him his five-second advantage over Verstappen.
Hamilton had to fend off an attack from Verstappen into Turn Seven as a result, which he just managed to do, and Grosjean was later given a five-second penalty for his misdemeanour.
Hamilton’s victory, with Vettel third behind Verstappen, extended the Briton’s advantage over the German in the championship to 40 points with six races and a maximum of 150 points remaining.
Hamilton and Mercedes’ main concern in this race was to ensure they retained the lead at the first corner, with a feisty Verstappen with nothing to lose behind them, and then to avoid being passed by Verstappen or Vettel during the pit-stop period.
Vettel’s pass on Verstappen into Turn Seven on the first lap came just before a safety car was called, and after Force India’s Sergio Perez pushed his team-mate Esteban Ocon into the wall on the exit of the first chicane.
The move put Vettel in the position he wanted from which to attack Hamilton after a disappointing qualifying session for Ferrari, but the team blew it.
They brought Vettel in on lap 14 and switched him on to the ultra-soft tyres, hoping to benefit from the rubber’s extra pace on its initial laps.
But Hamilton followed him in next time around, fitting the more durable soft tyre, and rejoined ahead of Vettel, who had soon found himself held up behind Perez when he came out of the pits.
Vettel immediately questioned the decision, saying: “There is no chance. We are again too late. The tyres will not make it to the end.”