Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton storms to victory at the Singapore GP night race to replace teammate Nico Rosberg atop the F1 World Championships' points table
Singapore: Lewis Hamilton vaulted into the lead of the world championship by racing to victory in yesterday's Singapore Grand Prix after Mercedes team-mate and title-rival Nico Rosberg failed to finish.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton sprays champagne on second-placed Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull yesterday
The victory was Hamilton's seventh of the season and his second in succession following his win a fortnight ago in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and hands the Briton a slim three point lead in the standings heading into the final five races of the season.
"I was dreaming it last night but you never think it's really happened," Hamilton, leading the championship for only the second time this season, said on the podium.
"I just want to say a huge thanks to my team. What they've done this year is absolutely incredible and to be arriving here knowing that we have a car that we can fight with and just the feeling I had through the race, I couldn't do it without them," the 2008 world champion added.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, a triple winner and the most successful driver around Singapore, scored his best result of the season by taking second.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton leads Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel (2nd) and Daniel Ricciardo (3rd) during the Singapore F1 GP at the Marina Bay Street Circuit yesterday. Pic/AFP
His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo followed him home in third to secure a double podium for the reigning world champions.
"It's a circuit that I really enjoy, really like, the atmosphere is great," Vettel, who has won the race for the last three years in succession, said on the podium.
"I had a good start, got past Daniel and then I think we had a decent race, played a little bit of a strategy…"
Rosberg, who headed into the race with a 22-point lead over Hamilton in the championship, ran into trouble before the race even got underway.
A gearbox glitch forced the German to change steering wheels before the start but whatever gremlins had struck his Mercedes persisted and the 29-year-old, who had qualified second, was left stranded on the grid.
Forced to start from the pitlane, Rosberg was unable to make much progress even against such backmarking opposition as the Marussia and Caterham cars once the race got underway and remained mired near the back of the field.
The 29-year-old was given another new steering wheel at his first pitstop but was unable to select first gear and was forced to retire from the race.
"It was a horrible feeling really, to see everybody go. Because then I knew it was over," Rosberg told Sky Sports television shortly after recording his second retirement of the season.
"Then the whole steering wheel just wasn't working so I didn't have any hybrid power, and the shifting, I would shift two gears at once all the time and I had no DRS," he added.
"The car just wasn't working at all. And then there was no point to continue. It was a tough day really."
With Rosberg out of the way, Hamilton, starting on pole, settled into an untroubled lead at the start.
Lap-times between his Mercedes and Vettel's Red Bull were evenly matched in the initial laps before Hamilton then set about stretching his legs at the head of the order.
A safety-car about halfway through the race made things a little tense for the Briton, who still needing to make his final stop, had to open up a gap over the Red Bulls who had gambled on running all the way to the end of the race.
Hamilton set about lapping at a searing pace which was sometimes a second and a lap quicker than Vettel's laptimes but was nevertheless jumped by the German when he came in for his final stop.
But with the Mercedes' tyres significantly fresher than the Red Bull's, Vettel was a sitting duck and Hamilton retook the lead within two laps.
He eventually crossed the line 13.5 seconds ahead of the reigning champion in a race that ran right up to the two-hour time limit and ended after 60 of the 61 laps had been completed.
Behind the top three, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso took fourth ahead of former team-mate Felipe Massa in the Williams.
Jean-Eric Vergne, currently looking for a drive for next season after being sacked by Toro Rosso, drove a storming race to sixth ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez, the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, who made it two Force India cars in the points.
McLaren's Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten while team-mate Jenson Button was forced to retire.
The result allows Force India to move back ahead of McLaren to fifth in the constructors' standings with the Silverstone-based squad holding a six point advantage over the former champions.