Lewis Hamilton opened up a 28-point lead over Sebastian Vettel at the top of the Formula One Drivers’ standings with a measured driver to victory ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas. It was a disastrous evening for Ferrari, however, with Vettel and Räikkönen crashing out of the race moments after a dramatic start in wet conditions.
Rain began to fall across the circuit in the hour before the race and though it stopped as the drivers steered their cars towards the grid, it began again 15 minutes before the formation lap, during which a number of drivers reported that visibility was poor.
A regulations start was undertaken, however, and almost as soon as the lights went out there was an incident. Polesitter Sebastian Vettel and front-row rival Max Verstappen got away gingerly, allowing a fast-starting Kimi Räikkonen to pull alongside from fourth on the grid. Vettel moved across but Verstappen seemed to overcompensate and he collided with Räikkonen.
In a shower of carbon debris both spun off track, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also being collected along the way. Amazingly, the Spaniard was able to continue. His race only last until lap eight, however, when the damage sustained eventually became too debilitating.
Up ahead Vettel was also in trouble. The German spun later in the lap and smashed into the wall, losing the front of his car. He limped onwards but there was too much damage and he too retired from the race.
The safety car was immediately deployed and behind it Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton now led from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and the Force India of Sergio Perez.
Racing resumed at the end of lap four, with Hamilton holding his lead ahead of Ricciardo. The Briton quickly opened up a five-second gap to the Australian.
On lap 11 the safety car was deployed once again, Daniil Kvyat having slid his Toro Rosso into the barriers after locking up.
Ricciardo was one of the first to react, pitting for a new set of intermediate tyres. Hamilton, though, stayed out on track, as a slew of drivers, including the Renault’s of Hulkenberg and team-mate Jolyon Palmer, also headed for the pit lane for new tyres.
Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz opted to follow Hamilton’s lead, however, and they climbed to third and fourth respectively. The order now was, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas, Sainz and Hulkenberg, with Perez sixth ahead of Palmer, Lance Stroll, Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Massa.
The safety car departed at the end of lap 14 and Hamilton once again held his advantage over Ricciardo. Now the track was beginning to dry, though in some sections the surface was still treacherous, as Hulkenberg found out on the next lap as he almost lost control trying to stay ahead of Perez.
Hamilton, though, was prospering on his ageing intermediates. Following the SC’s departure he began posting race fastest laps and by the start of lap 19 he had built a 3.0s gap to Ricciardo.
That gap continued to grow and by lap 26, Hamilton had a comfortable 6.8s seconds in hand over the Red Bull driver. Further back, Massa and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had decided the crossover point to slicks had been made and they both pitted for ultrasoft tyres. On lap 28 Magnussen set the quickest first sector of all and the field began to pit for slicks, with Sainz taking supersoft and Vandoorne and Ocon stopping for ultrasofts.
Ricciardo, too reacted, pitting at the end of lap 28 for ultarsoft tyres in a 2.4s stop. Hamilton waited a lap longer but then he too made his way into pit lane for a set of purple-banded tyres, taking 2.5s to get them onboard.
There followed a spell in which the top three drivers traded fastest laps, though the end result of the tussle was that the gaps remained the same until lap 38 when Marcus Ericcson dumped his Sauber into the wall.
When the green flag was shown again at the start of lap 42, Hamilton once again held his lead from Ricciardo. The Australian though, quickly came under pressure from Bottas who had proifited from the Ericsson incident by seeing his 16s deficit to Ricciardo erased under the SC.
The Red Bull driver was alive to the threat, however, and by the end of the lap he had pulled out a 1.5s gap to the Finn and eventually would stretch that to five seconds.
Ahead, Hamilton was powering towards the flag, and on lap 43 he was a full two seconds quicker than Ricciardo, thus establishing a 4.0s lead within two laps of the SC departing. A mistake soon after saw that advantage halved, but that was as close as Ricciardo got. As the clock counted down, the gap stabilised at just under three seconds and as the two-hour mark arrived, at the end of lap 57, Hamilton swept past the chequered flag to claim his 60th career win and his third in Singapore.
Ricciardo took a solid second ahead of Bottas while Sainz took a career-best fourth place on the weekend it was announced that in 2018 he will drive for Renault. Sergio Pérez was fifth for Force India, while Jolyon Palmer took his first points of the season with sixth place on the weekend it was announced that he would lose his Renault seat to Sainz.
Stoffel Vandoorne was seventh for McLaren, while Lance Stroll delivered an excellent performance to take eighth, ten places ahead of his grid slot. Romain Grosjean took two points for Haas and the last point on offer went to Esteban Ocon in the second Force India.