Merc’s gremlins jump on Nico Rosberg this time and Lewis Hamilton makes it count.
The Singapore fireworks were for Hamilton as he took the chequered flag, the win and the title lead for the first time since May.
Rosberg was wheeled of the grid on the parade lap and started from the pit lane after a broken wiring loom hobbled his clutch, gear selection and left him in the wrong engine mode. The German then found himself stuck behind Max Chilton at the back of the pack, unbelievably. If there was ever a marker of a doomed evening it’s fair to say that’s probably it. Nico’s pointless race ended at the first round of stops with button bashing on a third steering wheel of the day failing to give him first gear.
Singapore’s customary safety car emerged half way through to shake things up and make Mercedes think. Sutil squeezed Perez and dislodged Checo’s front wing leaving carbon fibre everywhere. Hamilton had it easy up to then – able to keep a quarter of a second in his pocket and save the car, fuel and tyres. Vettel, behind, ragged the Red Bull just to keep in touch – eventually losing second to Alonso, undercutting the German at the second round of stops.
On lap 37 the safety car came in. Teams made use of the spell with several, including Red Bull, aiming stretch their stint to the end after six laps off the race pace. Hamilton and Mercedes didn’t and had one more to come. If he pulled out 27 seconds, according to Merc, he’d come out in first. The Brit gained 3.2s on the first hot lap and pulled out 26 before stopping on lap 52. Sure enough, Vettel briefly nicked the lead leaving Hamilton a man to pass to take the top step. The Red Bull was on thin rubber though and was easy pickings for Lewis with new boots, who duly powered past the Champ on his out-lap.
Ricciardo and Alonso in third and fourth couldn’t find a way past the German even with his chewed Pirellis. Eventually, each of them succumbed to wrestling with well-worn tyres rather than each other.
Jean-Eric Vergne showed how it was done on duff rubber with just a couple of laps until the two-hour race end, skating around Hulkenberg, Raikkonen then Bottas inside 15 seconds. JEV tore away from the teetering trio to take sixth even with a five second time penalty for exceeding track limits earlier on. Massa was all alone 15 seconds up the road to take a quiet fifth. Bottas eventually ate all the rubber up on his Pirellis with both Williams’ trying to go to the end and missed out on the points entirely.
Rosberg got an apology from Toto and lamented Mercedes’ reliability after a taste of Hamilton’s luck in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary and Belgium. The pressure is now on the German, three points behind his team-mate with five rounds to race – including what could be an excruciating double-pointer in Abu-Dhabi for one of the pair. I’m not going to say “Singapore swing!” because it’s incredibly naff, but what a shakeup!