Singapore: Lewis Hamilton benefited immensely from a chaotic start to win the rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix, extending his championship lead to 28 points with a hat-trick of victories.
The front row was wiped out at the first corner, taking out polesitter Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen after both contacted with Kimi Raikkonen.
The incident allowed Hamilton, who started fifth, to take the lead and he was able to maintain that till the chequered flag despite constant pressure from Daniel Ricciardo, who eventually finished 4.5 seconds behind for his third podium in a row in Singapore.
Valtteri Bottas completed a smooth drive to take the last podium spot after starting fourth.
Hamilton, who came here with a three-point advantage, has built a 28-point cushion — courtesy a no show from main championship rival Vettel, who remains on 235 points to Hamilton’s 263.
Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez were the other big gainers in the Toro Rosso and Force India respectively. Sainz recorded a career-best fourth place finish after starting 10th while Perez came home fifth from 12th on the grid, maintaining his 100 points scoring streak here.
Jolyon Palmer of Renault too came up with a spirited drive to finish sixth, his best ever, from 11th on the grid.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that Sainz would replace Palmer at Renault for the next season. Stofel Vandoorne, Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon completed the top-10.
All nine races here in the past have been action-packed with the intervention of safety car and it was no different this time.
The last of the safety car period came on lap 37 when Marcus Ericsson hit the wall, negating Hamilton s healthy 9.6 seconds lead over Ricciardo. Despite the constant pressure, Hamilton was able to step up his game and take the Mercedes home.
The rain battered the street circuit in the early part of the race and the first corner chaos brought the safety car into play on the opening lap itself. The safety car was called a total of three times, closing up the field every time it looked Hamilton was running away with the race.
Heavy rain lashed the city through the day and returned an hour before the start of the race. The downpour continued and officials decided to start the race on time with all on wet tyres barring the top six.
The start was sensational with Raikkonen and Verstappen making contact at the first corner, also taking out Vettel and Fernando Alonso out of the race.
Verstappen and Raikkonen were out instantly while radiator damage on the other Ferrari proved costly for Vettel, who eventually spun to be out of the race. Alonso retired on lap 9 with irreparable damage to his car. It was a disappointing result considering he had started seventh.
The beneficiaries of the first corner chaos were Ricciardo and Hamilton, who took the lead after starting fifth on the grid. Perez jumped to fourth from 12th on the grid.
“I was probably too conservative in the beginning. Made contact and that was it. It was not the spin, it was the radiator damage at the first corner incident that put me out of the race,” said Vettel, who suffered his first DNF in 19 races.
It was not only a disastrous race for Ferrari but also for Verstappen, who retired for the seventh in 14 races this season.
Mercedes were not expected to finish first and third considering Ferrari topped qualifying and Red Bull were dominant in free practice.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.