Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Formula 1: Hamilton as right as rain

F1 leader, thankful for 'miracle', knew he would deliver in the wet; widens gap to 28 pts

An ecstatic Lewis Hamilton jumping off his Mercedes after winning a third Singapore Grand Prix last night, to take a commanding lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
An ecstatic Lewis Hamilton jumping off his Mercedes after winning a third Singapore Grand Prix last night, to take a commanding lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

For all the technological witchcraft, the monocoque chassis, the average 200 terabytes of data collected at each race, rain is the great leveller in Formula One. It is the act of nature that levels the playing field and last night turned those with losing causes into Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix winners.

Although it had rained on race days in previous editions here, it had never poured during the night race itself. And when it did yesterday, the downpour washed away all the significance of history that underpins this race, sending favourite Sebastian Vettel crashing out at the start and catapulting Lewis Hamilton to the top of the podium for his third win at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was second and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas finished third.

Seven of nine previous pole-sitters had gone on to win in Singapore. The starting grid of the last two editions here had finished in exactly the same order. That, coupled with Vettel's record of four wins in Singapore, meant Hamilton, who qualified in fifth, was in need of a miracle. He got it.

Having seized pole position on Saturday, the German was confident in his Ferrari but barely seconds after the rain-soaked start, his dreams of victory ended in carbon-fibre confetti after an accident took him, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen (fourth on the grid) and second-fastest qualifier Max Verstappen of Red Bull out of the race.

When Hamilton emerged from that melee, he snatched the lead and never relinquished it for the truncated 58 laps. Pre-race, he had quipped that rain was welcome, given his expertise on wet tracks. He did not get thundery showers for the entire two-hour race, but a 30-minute deluge was enough.

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    Grand Prix victories by Lewis Hamilton, including three in a row - Belgium, Italy and Singapore - to make it seven this season.

He said: "These are conditions that I really love, there are opportunities to really make a difference with your driving. Today I was really able to. Today was the first time all of us are driving in the rain (in Singapore); it was a massive, massive challenge which I love.

"When you have to rise to the toughest of challenges, that's the most exciting part for me. It's about staying focused and not making mistakes."

Last night's win was his 60th in an F1 career that has brought three world titles. The result also put a massive dent in Vettel's pursuit of the Briton in the drivers' championship. Having started the day with a three-point lead, Hamilton had now surged ahead on 263 points, 28 points more than the four-time world champion.

Another beneficiary of the pile-up was Bottas, who is now on 212 points and also bearing down on Vettel's total. The Finn said: "There's still plenty of races to come, plenty of opportunities. Sebastian is the next target."

A stewards' inquiry later cleared Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen but it was clear who was the happiest in the Silver Arrows' garage.

Hamilton said: "God blessed me today for sure. I capitalised on that incident. Who would have known that would happen? It's really unfortunate for Ferrari but a great result for the (Mercedes) team."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline Formula 1: Hamilton as right as rain. Subscribe