Wet and wild on Marina Bay as top F1 drivers crash out
Pole-sitter Vettel and two others crash out in opening lap as Hamilton takes advantage to win Singapore GP
It took a mere five seconds from the flag-off for drama to unfold in the 2017 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix last night.
Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel saw his chance of winning his fifth Singapore GP go up in smoke after his Ferrari collided with teammate Kimi Raikkonen's and Max Verstappen's Red Bull at Turn 1.
Raikkonen and Verstappen were immediately out, but Vettel continued before he was forced to retire after spinning into the wall at Turn 3.
The race, in its 10th edition, was eventually won by Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton, who had earlier said it would take a miracle for him to win.
None of the teams had practised starts in wet conditions, but even as rain poured down on the Marina Bay Street Circuit to make it a first wet night race, nobody would have predicted the spectacular start.
Replays showed the 30-year-old Vettel shunting Verstappen (second on grid) into Raikkonen (fourth) before both Ferraris collided. It appeared as if Vettel had not seen or anticipated Raikkonen's blistering start as he attempted to cover Verstappen.
It was only the fourth time in F1 history - after Belgium 1977, Japan 1990 and Spain 2016 - that the front row was wiped out.
Hamilton survived the chaotic start to vault into the lead from fifth place on the grid.
The 32-year-old Briton never relinquished his position and won the race - which was cut short to 58 of the scheduled 61 laps because of the two-hour time limit - 4.5 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton's Finnish teammate, Valtteri Bottas, completed the podium.
The overall attendance at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix, which was higher than the average overall attendance in its 10-year history. The figure is also 19 per cent above last year’s total attendance of 218,824.
"The cooler was damaged, massively bent, so we lost water pressure and had to stop," said Vettel, one of the eight drivers who failed to finish the race.
When asked after the incident if the race should have been started under the safety car, Vettel said: "I don't know. I didn't see that much. I saw Max and then the next thing I see is Kimi hitting the side of me and Max somewhere there. It is what it is and we move on."
Verstappen, 19, blamed Vettel for the incident.
"I think mainly Sebastian started squeezing me. Maybe he didn't see Kimi on the left, but that's not an excuse," Verstappen told Sky F1.
"If you are fighting for the world championship, you shouldn't take those risks squeezing someone that much."
Raikkonen described the incident as "ridiculous", as his out-of-control car also sent McLaren's Fernando Alonso momentarily airborne, although the Spaniard, who won here in 2008 and 2010, drove on for nine laps before retiring after reporting "no power".
After examining video evidence, the FIA stewards ruled that none of the three drivers involved in the crash "was found to have been wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident", and therefore no further action was taken.
With six races to go, Hamilton is in the driver's seat to win his fourth world title after he extended his lead over Vettel to 28 points with last night's win.
"God blessed me today, for sure," said Hamilton.
"I capitalised on the incident - who would have known that would happen?
"It was really unfortunate for the Ferraris, but a great result for the (Mercedes) team."