Hamil­ton’s light fan­tas­tic

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

Lewis blazed a neon-lit vic­tory trail in Sin­ga­pore, leav­ing Ros­berg to won­der who’d pulled the plug

Who knew what to ex­pect from this edi­tion of the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix, with its du­elling Mercedes pro­tag­o­nists sep­a­rated by 0.007secs on the grid, un­der skies that were by turns empty but for blaz­ing sun­shine, teem­ing with un­sea­sonal rain or heavy with smog? It was almost as if the el­e­ments them­selves were be­ing de­ter­mined by the spin of the roulette wheels at the casi­nos nearby.

Also spin­ning, in the air: the rear wheels of Nico Ros­berg’s Mercedes-Benz W05 Hy­brid as it sat on its jacks in the garage, the seconds tick­ing down to the race start, me­chan­ics busy­ing them­selves with try­ing to lo­cate an in­ter­mit­tent glitch in com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the steer­ing wheel and the rest of the car.

Luck – the roll of the dice, the spin of the wheel – would play a part in the out­come of this race, but so too would old-fash­ioned dar­ing. As Lewis Hamil­ton, alone on the front row, took off neatly from pole, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel took ad­van­tage of Ros­berg’s ab­sence (“It’s quite weird to stop with no car ahead but not be­ing on the front row,” he re­marked) to blast through from the fourth grid slot into sec­ond. The other RB10, pi­loted by Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, was slower away from third, ham­pered by a bat­tery that would not dis­charge fully. This prob­lem would ham­per the long-shot ti­tle chal­lenger through­out the race.

The out­side line at Sin­ga­pore’s Turn 1 has worked for Fer­nando Alonso be­fore and so it would again, though he car­ried far too much speed and plunged through the run-off – briey snatch­ing sec­ond place from Vet­tel and war­rant­ing a check from the stew­ards for over­step­ping the track lim­its. Said of­fi­cials, su­per­in­tended by no-non­sense 1980 world cham­pion Alan Jones, took barely a minute to dis­miss the in­ci­dent, for Alonso wisely ceded the po­si­tion to Vet­tel and noth­ing more was said.

Ric­cia­rdo couldn’t follow his team-mate, which forced him into a con­sol­i­da­tion run – out of Alonso’s slip­stream to max­imise cool­ing air – un­til the rst stops. So it was that ev­ery tenth Vet­tel could pull out of Alonso dur­ing this rst stint car­ried him fur­ther away from the pos­si­bil­ity of Red Bull is­su­ing team or­ders, and he drove ac­cord­ingly.

Ros­berg, mean­while, was ying blind in the dark: “The only thing on the dash that’s work­ing is your gearshift pad­dles, okay?” The nor­mally calm voice of Tony Ross took on a re­signed tone as he is­sued this and fur­ther bul­letins re­gard­ing the W05’s bur­geon­ing trans­mis­sion mal­adies.

He was al­ready strug­gling to pass Mar­cus Eric­s­son, of all peo­ple. So as Ros­berg pulled in to the pits for his tyre stop and another change of steer­ing wheel, the in­evitable hap­pened. Flickick on the newly in­stalled pad­dles; no re­sponse. Try again. Noth­ing. A fran­tic wave of two cyan-

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