Hamilton’s light fantastic
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 – briey 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. Flickick on the newly installed paddles; no response. Try again. Nothing. A frantic wave of two cyan-