Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory at the Singapore Grand Prix as Ferrari’s strategy failed Sebastian Vettel to open up a 40-point gap at the top of the drivers’ standings. Ferrari appeared to mishear a radio transmission from Hamilton, which may have influenced an early pitstop, which cost Vettel track position.
Vettel was seemingly upset with his team’s efforts which had left him six tenths off a stunning Hamilton lap he said was “not unbeatable”.
The German got off to a good start on Sunday, passing Max Verstappen for second place before a safety car was called when Esteban Ocon was driven into the wall by team-mate Sergio Perez on what could be his final race for Force India.
Vettel is told Hamilton says there is not a lot left on his tyres. "I don't believe him, I don't believe him" Vettel replies. "Me too" says the engineer – except Hamilton said the exact opposite of that!! #F1 #SingaporeGP
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) September 16, 2018
However, Vettel’s good work was undone when brought into the pits on lap 14 for ultrasoft tyres which would struggle to make it to the end of the race.
He lost crucial time behind Perez and Red Bull managed to pit and send Verstappen out ahead of Vettel – the Dutchman and Hamilton having pitted for soft tyres which could run to the end of the race.
Needing to get 28 seconds ahead of his rivals for another stop, Vettel could not even muster an attempt to get beyond them and settled for a podium finish in a race he likely needed to win.
Save for Verstappen almost running into the rear of Hamilton’s Mercedes when they were held up under blue flags by a quarrel between Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin, the reigning champion was rarely challenged and his seventh win of 2018 will surely now put a fifth world title to the forefront of his thoughts.
The top six finished in the order they started with action coming further down the field – particularly involving Sirotkin.
Having collided with Ocon on lap one, Perez grew frustrated behind the tough-defending Sirotkin and bizarrely speared into the Williams after passing him.
Perez took a drive-through penalty, but Sirotkin was not done yet, driving Brendon Hartley off the road to earn a penalty of his own and possibly a growing reputation for tough on-track tactics.
Free tyre choice from 11th on the grid helped Fernando Alonso take a simple seventh-place finish, with Carlos Sainz tucking in behind his fellow Spaniard to take eighth from 12th off the line with a similar strategy and Charles Leclerc and Nico Hulkenberg taking the remaining points-paying places.
Ferrari’s race unravelled when Lewis Hamilton reported the condition of his tyres. As it turned out, Ferrari misheard the message from Mercedes, drew their own conclusions and pitted Vettel.