Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2016

Formula One: Nico Rosberg leading championship race after hat-trick of wins

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg celebrating with his team after winning the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. It was the German's third race win in a row.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg celebrating with his team after winning the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. It was the German's third race win in a row.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Rosberg regains lead in the drivers' standings but is not thinking about a 1st world title yet

Within the confines of the 5.065km Marina Bay Street Circuit, the rich and famous, party goers, sports fanatics and curious first-timers gathered, watching the unfolding drama for their own amusement.

It is a modern Ben Hur meets Gladiator and Nico Rosberg arguably landed a crucial blow on the solar plexus of his nemesis and team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

In winning the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix for the first time, it was breaking a hoodoo of sorts for the German in the Mercedes stable.

Rosberg collected yesterday's victory amid a flurry of statistics: It was his 22nd grand prix win in 200 races and he has now won on four of the five street circuits this season (Melbourne, Baku, Sochi and Singapore). Six out of eight previous pole sitters here went on to win the race, of which, Sebastian Vettel (then driving for Red Bull and winning here in 2011, 2012 and 2013) and Hamilton (2014) proceeded to lift the world title that season.

Rosberg must now feel confident of his first drivers' championship as he (on 273 points) leapfrogged Hamilton (265 points) at the summit with six races left.

Yet he said: "Statistics like that are not something that I focus on, it doesn't have any importance to me. Today, I am just happy to win the race, that's what I came here to do. Now I am going to celebrate after this, can't wait to get home and next stop is Malaysia where I will try to (win) because I am feeling good at the moment. I'm on a good roll."

His pole to chequered flag victory here followed wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.

While his latest victory looked easy on the eye, the Mercedes pit was whirring with mathematical activity as engineers calculated just how much longer his fading brakes would last over 61 laps and with a determined Daniel Ricciardo breathing down his carbon fibre buttocks.

Rosberg said: "In the end, I did everything right, nailed all those laps, everything worked out and the management (of the tyres) all the way to the end, the tyres were just right."

Usually chirpy and confident, a glum Hamilton was not in the mood for words even though he rescued third place after his brake failure warning lit up repeatedly.

The Briton still does not view defeat in Singapore as a major disaster in his title defence, saying: "We have a good car, it's just that we didn't have a good weekend.

"We come from 43 points down, so eight points isn't anywhere as steep as that. Nico has been performing fantastically well, he did an amazing job. He's expecting to continue and I have to make sure I do the same."

With the championship lead secured, Rosberg has no intention to let it slip, especially when he feels that his F1 W07 Hybrid steed is starting to flex its muscles.

He intoned: "It really shows that not only do we have the best car but also, we have a competent group of engineers to extract the potential from the best car.

"Every weekend they have to change the car, adapting to new circuits and understanding them.

"Last year we were nowhere here, we got destroyed by Red Bull and Ferrari. We understood what we did wrong, came back this year and beat them on their strongest track so that's really awesome to see that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2016, with the headline 'Back to the front on hat-trick of wins'. Print Edition | Subscribe