Hamilton wins, Vettel out after start drama

Hamilton wins, Vettel out after start drama

17 September 2017 – Lewis Hamilton delivered a huge blow to Sebastian Vettel's title ambitions as he opened a 28-point advantage in the championship with victory in Singapore, after his rival retired on a dramatic opening lap.

Hamilton started from fifth place on the grid, amid Mercedes' weekend-long struggles, but captured the lead on a frantic first lap, which led to the exit of both Ferrari drivers and Max Verstappen.

Vettel, Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen came together on the approach to Turn 1, leaving Hamilton clear to romp to victory, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas.

Intermittent showers in the build-up to the race left the circuit drenched at the start, with drivers splitting strategies between taking on Intermediates or Wets.

When the lights went out, Vettel bogged down slightly, with Verstappen also making a so-so getaway, as Räikkönen jumped forward from fourth place.

Vettel moved over on Verstappen as Räikkönen dived up the inside, and the trio bunched together, with Verstappen and Räikkönen colliding.

Räikkönen was pitched into Vettel, and continued out-of-control towards Turn 1, where he collected Verstappen once more, who in turn hit Fernando Alonso.

Alonso had surged through from eighth and adopted the outside line in a bid to gain places, but was tipped into the air by the helpless Verstappen, and retired nine laps later.

Vettel, meanwhile, kept the lead, but his car had sustained terminal damage, with a substantial hole in the left-hand-side of his SF70-H.

Vettel lost control on the small kink between Turns 3 and 4, tagging the wall and causing further damage to the front-end, relinquishing the lead to Hamilton in the process.

The spin, however, proved notional to Vettel's situation, with the erstwhile pole-sitter having been preparing to park his car due to the damage he picked up on the run to Turn 1.

The incident is currently being investigated by the stewards.

Hamilton, meanwhile, had jumped Ricciardo off the line from fifth and avoided the drama which unfolded to his left, before taking the lead when Vettel looped his car.

From there, Hamilton comfortably remained at the head of the pack, keeping Ricciardo at bay following two further Safety Car periods.

The first of those was caused when Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat ran straight on into the Turn 7 barriers, during which phase Ricciardo pitted for fresh Intermediates, causing Hamilton to query Mercedes' strategy.

Hamilton quickly pulled clear, and rebuilt a comfortable lead, before the circuit dried sufficiently for slicks, with the lead duo switching to Ultra Softs mid-distance.

However, Hamilton's near 10-second lead was wiped out when Sauber's Marcus Ericsson spun through Turn 12 and came to a halt facing backwards on the Anderson Bridge.

Hamilton, who then questioned Race Control's decision to deploy the Safety Car, rather than implement the Virtual Safety Car, rapidly pulled clear, before Ricciardo reeled him back in.

Mercedes explained to Hamilton that it wanted him to keep a stable gap back to Ricciardo, in the event of a further Safety Car phase, but Hamilton rejected the tactic.

Mercedes gave the leader permission to dictate the pace and he ultimately edged away, crossing the line with a 4.5-second gap back to Ricciardo after 58 laps of action, as the two-hour time limit was reached.

Bottas, meanwhile, struggled during the early stages, holding a low-key sixth place despite the drama unfolding ahead, but Mercedes' strategy aided his progress, and he finished on the podium.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr. took a career-best fourth place, having put up a stern defence against Force India's Sergio Pérez, who continued his run of scoring points in Singapore with fifth.

Renault's Jolyon Palmer made substantial gains at the start and picked off Bottas at the restart to run fifth, before ultimately coming home in sixth place, finally taking his first 2017 points, and best F1 result.

Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a slow pit-stop and lost time, while an aggressive attempt at passing Palmer into Turn 13 proved fruitless, but he nonetheless took seventh – like Palmer, his best result in the sport.

Lance Stroll was eighth for Williams as he rescued points from a difficult weekend, while Haas' Romain Grosjean and Force India's Esteban Ocon completed the top 10.

Felipe Massa and a twice-lapped Pascal Wehrlein were the only other drivers to be classified.

Renault's Nico Hülkenberg ran strongly early on, moving into third place amid the melee, and still held fourth as conditions improved.

However, he returned to the pit lane during the third Safety Car period amid a suspected loss of hydraulic air, and retired a few laps later.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen put in a feisty performance and challenged for points, the highlight a frantic three-way fight between himself, Massa and Ocon, in which the trio made minor contact.

Magnussen was the first to gamble on slicks, which proved to be the correct call as his rivals followed, but retired when he lost MGU-K, to the displeasure of the Dane.

Hülkenberg and Magnussen were the only drivers to suffer mechanical failures, with the other six – Kvyat, Ericsson, Vettel, Verstappen, Alonso and Räikkönen – exiting due to aforementioned collisions.

F1's Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton

Drivers' Championship:

1. Lewis Hamilton - 263 points
2. Sebastian Vettel - 235 points
3. Valtteri Bottas - 212 points

Constructors' Championship:

1. Mercedes - 475 points
2. Ferrari - 373 points
3. Red Bull - 230 points

The next round of the season will take place in Malaysia from September 29 to October 1

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