Rosberg Surrenders Championship Lead To Hamilton
Singapore. Traditionally a hot and humid circuit, surrounded by darkness and in the glare of spotlights amid the roar of the trackside crowd – the perfect place for the blazing rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg to reach its fiery zenith.
The Mercedes cars took their customary places on the grid at 1 and 2 – Hamilton squeezing Rosberg out of pole by only seven-thousandths of a second in Q3 – and the Red Bulls were revving up over their shoulders on the second row. Alonso, too, looked ready for a big finish this week, eager to challenge the front runners for their podium spots.
Aerial view of the starting grid at Singapore © Red Bull Content Pool
The formation lap, though, is where it all started to go wrong. Rosberg had had some electrical difficulties following qualifying, and had approached the grid with trepidation. His fears were justified as he was unable to start his car for the formation lap and had to be towed back into the pit lane.
He eventually started the race, but had no readouts on his dashboard, a faulty steering wheel, problems with his gear shifts and loss of power from the engine, so he struggled to even get past the Caterhams from a pit lane start.
When his clutch failed, he pitted again early, and Mercedes tried valiantly to change the steering wheel, restart the car and send him back out, but Rosberg was unable to change gear to get out of the box. He was forced to admit defeat and retire early on in the race, a huge blow for the German because it meant he would not get any points from this race, which offered Hamilton an opportunity to overtake him in the driver’s championship.
Early action in the Singapore Grand Prix © Red Bull Content Pool
And Hamilton did not waste that opportunity. Despite some adverse conditions to his fantastic start, including a safety car halfway through, he managed to keep ahead of the pack, only falling to second place right at the end when he pitted for fresh tyres.
Sebastian Vettel tried, to his credit, to hold the Mercedes back in the dying minutes of the race, but with waning tyres and inferior straight-line speed he couldn’t hold back the juggernaut and Hamilton raced past him to finish first.
Vettel, though, for the first time this season took second place ahead of his teammate Ricciardo who came in third, and Red Bull will have considered Singapore a fantastic result.
Sebastian Vettel congratulates Lewis Hamilton © Red Bull Content Pool
To have two drivers on the podium, and Ricciardo now only 57 points behind Nico Rosberg, who has dropped to second in the championship, will be a huge boost for the team and particularly for Vettel who has not had a great season so far.
Alonso had a very good race, beating out his old teammate Massa to fourth place, but was, in the end unable to take on the powerhouse Red Bulls in the closing laps. For Ferrari, though, this will be considered a good race as Alonso managed to hold off the Williams to secure 12 points.
Perhaps the other teams are finally finding ways to stem the tide of power flowing from the Mercedes engines, and the resulting podium places that follow.
The race weekend also saw a milestone in Ferrari’s history as the team chief of 23 years, Luca di Montezomolo stepped down and Sergio Marchionne took over the reins. It will be interesting to see the coming changes at the team to reflect the new leadership going into next season.
Singapore Grand Prix – night racing at its best
Mercedes, though, despite Hamilton’s fantastic race, will be concerned about their reliability issues. Although their car is by far superior to the rest, they have been plagued with electronic and power problems throughout the season, with five retirements between their two drivers so far.
Hamilton was concerned about his car the whole race, as well, with several comments over team radio about his tyres, and extra time spent in the box to ensure everything was OK.
On a side note, the McLaren of Jensen Button, which uses a Mercedes power unit, also experienced total electrical failure in the closing stages of the race and he was forced to retire as well.
Mercedes will be forced to look closely at the flaws in their systems towards the end of the season to try and reduce the frequency of these issues.
For Red Bull, though, a very successful race weekend, and now the Driver’s Championship is closer than ever, with Hamilton just three points ahead of Rosberg and Ricciardo closing in behind. To be sure, the real racing in this Formula One season is only just beginning.