Lewis Hamilton took a huge stride towards a fourth Formula 1 world championship title with victory in an incident-packed Singapore Grand Prix after Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out at the start.
The Mercedes driver now has a 28-point cushion over Vettel with six of the 20 races remaining. Ahead of the race at Marina Bay Circuit Hamilton had a mere three points cushion over the Ferrari driver.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also emerged from the opening lap carnage unscathed, was second for the third year in a row with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas completing the podium for Mercedes.
“God blessed me today for sure,” said Hamilton, who set a lap record on his way to a third win in a row, in podium interviews. “I capitalised on the incident. Who would’ve known that would happen? It’s really unfortunate for Ferrari but great for the team [Mercedes].”
Hamilton cashed in after Vettel, Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s front row contender Max Verstappen smashed into each other as they raced off the wet starting grid and into the first corner.
Ferrari blamed Verstappen, while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the 19-year-old was a victim “of somebody else’s accident”.
The race, the first to be hit by rain in the decade that Singapore has hosted Formula One, had started in treacherous conditions after a formation lap behind the safety car.
Vettel was on pole position, with Hamilton fifth, and everything looked set for the German to retake the overall lead he had surrendered only two weeks earlier at Monza in Italy.
And then it all went wrong. The collision left Vettel’s car with a hole punched in the side and he spun into the wall at turn three.
“For sure, it’s bitter but it’s done,” said the four times Singapore Grand Prix winner, whose retirement ended a run of 18 successive points finishes.
The incident brought out the safety car and allowed Hamilton into a lead he would keep through two more safety car periods and a perfectly-timed switch to dry weather tyres.
Australian Ricciardo had been confident of victory, despite missing out on pole on Saturday but could not keep up with the Mercedes driver’s pace on Sunday.
Big Question: Can Lewis be beaten in the title race this year?