If one were to understand the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix in a single sentence, then probably sifting past the gap with which Hamilton won, in the end, might suffice.
In winning his 69th Grand Prix, his fourth in five races and his seventh overall this year, Lewis Hamilton crossed the checkered flag nearly 39 seconds ahead of his arch-rival, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis gives the lion-city its time’ worth
There are wins. There are comprehensive wins. And, then there are utterly-dominating wins of the kinds that Hamilton unfurled at the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.
In staying put in his track position from where he dominated the proceedings, he proved no match for second-placed Verstappen and, the third-spot holder Sebastian Vettel.
But the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix wasn’t devoid of drama.
Inside the opening lap, within seconds of the start, Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon dived on the outside of Perez, in the run-up to Turn 1. As the two came together, Ocon had to bear the wrath of his teammate not leaving his any room on the stiff left-hander. As a result, the 2018 Singapore got its first casualty, in the form of the Frenchman.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t that Vettel was all dull throughout. He was massively quick and made the move that should’ve eventually earned him a fighting second, which ultimately wasn’t to be.
Inside the opening lap, as the trio at the front approached Turn 2, Vettel dived on the outside of Max’ Red Bull and finally passed him. In fact, Vettel was so daring that he nearly had his bait moments before the grid’s run onto the first turn where under-braking, the German had to relent.
From thereon, it was a strategic gamble on the part of Ferrari that hampered Vettel’s race, it could be said. At a track hot and humid as Singapore, it’s imperative and unquestionably vital on the part of the drivers and their teams to extract the maximum from the tyres.
And in that rests the trick to ace the 61-lap contest. While strangely, Raikkonen, who got on with the softer compound in his stop, that wouldn’t be the case for Vettel and it remains to be seen what Ferrari boil down their frontrunner’s third-spot finish on.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was so quick holding the track position that he’d open a wonderful gap for those vying for the front-end of the grid, his gap to Kimi, on fifth, being over 9 seconds.
Hamilton stays strong, Vettel not so much later on
Until the first 14 laps, the grid continued without a change as the Mercedes driver led from Vettel, with Verstappen constantly attacking Sebastian, though to no avail.
The first to pit was second-placed Vettel, who boxed on lap 14 for the ultrasoft in a bid to make the undercut work. As a result of this strategic gamble, where it would’ve made a lot of sense to put Vettel on the softer tyre, not the softest, his battle at the front seemingly lacked the teeth for mustering a solid fight to Hamilton.
Emerging seven seconds behind Racing Point Force India’s Perez, already under fire for causing the poor opening lap fiasco, which would later earn him a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile, the order of the grid changed as Hamilton, in control, led from Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo, the Australian looking sluggish from the very start.
Four laps later, an interesting moment of the race arrived.
As Verstappen pitted on Lap 18, he would emerge only fractionally ahead of Vettel, who did as good as pass him but only just, perhaps losing the fighting position going fractionally wide. Verstappen’s brilliant defending from a driver several years experienced than him was the highlight of his performance that would yield an emphatic second.
Then, on Lap 19, Vettel had a message for his team
Complaining that his tyres won’t last longer- hence, indicating the gamble was but a fiasco- the German had to contend with waning tyres and that eventually made him only do as much as hold on to third.
Meanwhile, there were several scraps further down the grid.
First, Williams’ Sirotkin and Racing Point Force India’s Perez were involved in a tussle, a few laps post the mid-way stage. Perez, who didn’t have a great day out at Singapore would cause another collision in the tight right-hander at the middle sector and would suffer from a penalty.
Meanwhile, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg were fighting hard for eleventh. At the same time, one of the quicker guys in the middle of the grid, Carlos Sainz Jr. was giving Ericsson a tough time.
No dearth of action behind
Eventually, as Leclerc passed Nico, under heavy-breaking at the chicane, there was roaring applause for the move which would shift its siding for the German, who eventually bettered the Frenchman and grabbed his position back.
Alonso, who had moved up into seventh produced a belter of a lap in the closing stages but would remain over 45 seconds adrift of the race leader.
Verstappen was unable to get even close to Hamilton who controlled things brilliantly while Vettel stayed far behind in third.
From the onset of Lap 45, it seemed Sebastian’s attempts at clawing back into second were over as the focus shifted to a fierce battle between Bottas and Raikkonen, the duel won by the Mercedes driver.
No Red Letter day for Ferrari
The two Finns fought steadily for fourth, Raikkonen chasing his compatriot feistily but eventually to no avail. In the battle, Bottas served a controlled lesson in defensive driving, proving hard for the 39-year-old Finnish driver to catch him and would cross the checkered flag ahead of Raikkonen, who had toiled hard.
Finally, as the top three continued in their respective places, the grid unchanged thanks to Hamilton being in total control at the front, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen came out of nowhere and delivered the fastest lap of the grid, after bagging a set of new swanky tyres.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg made up a nice recovery and followed Charles Leclerc closely in his Renault. He would complete the tenth position on the grid as even before the final five laps began, it seemed that Hamilton had the race clearly in his bag.