Vettel's pain, Hamilton's gain
Mercedes star capitalises on opening-lap crash to win and extend championship lead to 28 points
He jumped atop his car and broke into a little jig of joy.
Even with his helmet on, it was clear that Lewis Hamilton wore a broad smile as he celebrated with his Mercedes teammates and fans gathered under the podium - and why not?
The 32-year-old Briton had said after qualifying on Saturday that he needed a "miracle" as he started fifth on the grid behind pole sitter Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix last night.
With overtaking opportunities a premium on the challenging Marina Bay Circuit, Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff looked only for "least points loss" - damage limitation.
But Hamilton turned fifth spot on the grid into top spot on the podium.
In a sensational drive in wet conditions, he capitalised on a spectacular three-car crash at the start involving Ferrari duo Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen to win, and extended his lead over Vettel atop the drivers' standings to a massive 28 points.
"The plan was to minimise the loss (of points to Vettel) somehow and to come out (of the race) in a complete other direction is a shock," said Hamilton.
"To see rain fall just before we got started... You couldn't imagine how happy I was.
"When these conditions happen, its a lottery, there'll be a race. They were fortunate conditions that fell in our direction - it was unfortunate for Ferrari, but I capitalised on the incident.
"There couldn't be a more perfect scenario for us. It was very fortunate (for us) with the Ferraris at the beginning, I couldn't be happier."
Hamilton has now won the last three races on the trot.
There are only six races left, with the tables turned on Vettel, who now faces an uphill battle for the title after holding a 25-point lead over Hamilton after the Monaco GP in May.
"It's not ideal, is it?," said a glum Vettel, speaking to the media long before the race came to a close.
"I don't know (about having a safety car start), I didn't see that much. I saw Max and the next thing I see is Kimi hitting the side of me and Max somewhere.
NO WHITE FLAG YET
"This is how the business is, we move on. It doesn't change much."
"Obviously we were not in the race, we couldn't show the pace that we had. It's disappointing, but I'm sure there'll be other opportunities," added the 30-year-old German, not raising the white flag on the race for the title.
Daniel Ricciardo finished second behind Hamilton, with the Briton's teammate Valtteri Bottas coming in third on a great day for Mercedes.
Bottas will force Vettel to also look over his shoulder.
The Finn is now third on the standings, 23 points behind the German.
"It was a very good day for us, we were looking at damage limitation, but we got lucky," said Bottas.
"Definitely, Seb is now a target for me. There are still plenty of races to come and plenty of opportunities."
While there was much joy for Mercedes, the Red Bull camp was not particularly pleased, with Ricciardo having more reasons to be annoyed.
This is the third year in a row that he has finished as bridesmaid in Singapore, a fact that irked the Australian.
"I can't win the bloody thing - I'm trying!" he said.
"We didn't have Friday's pace (in practice) and I'm obviously a little disappointed to miss out on a win, but I'm grateful to finish on the podium."
The next race will be at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia on Oct 1.
RESULTS (TOP 5)
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): 2:03:23.543
- Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): +00:04.507
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): 00:08.800
- Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso): 00:22.822
- Sergio Perez (Force India): 00:25.359
DRIVERS’ STANDING (TOP5)
- Lewis Hamilton: 263 points
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): 235
- Valtteri Bottas: 212
- Daniel Ricciardo: 162
- Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari): 138
CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS (TOP 5)
- Mercedes: 475 points
- Ferrari: 373
- Red Bull: 230
- Force India: 124
- Williams: 59