The only blip in otherwise a dominant performance from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was the chaos caused by traffic during the 2018 Formula 1 Singapore GP.
Hamilton was cruising from pole on the streets of Singapore with title rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel losing out to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen early in the 61-lap race under the beaming lights.
However, the Mercedes driver came under a spot of bother just for one moment on Lap 38 while lapping the slower cars in Turn 10. Hamilton caught up with the battling trio of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
Gasly let Hamilton through but Grosjean and Sirotkin ended up fighting against each other in the sequence of corners, thereby limiting the Mercedes driver’s chances to pass at ease. In fact, Hamilton admitted that he had to overtake them at full speed.
Grosjean was found as the guilty party as he was handed a time penalty and also penalty points on his superlicense, which takes him to nine in the one-year cycle – only three away from getting a race ban.
In all this, Verstappen came really close to Hamilton, which surprised him pretty much as he shouted inside the car that he won’t let the Dutchman pass. Eventually, Verstappen did not have the pace to challenge Hamilton as they settled down for the rest of the race.
“With the traffic, my approach was of not taking risk,” he said after the race. “There are different drivers who have different mentalities and also when you start to get closer to a driver, you start losing grip, start sliding around.
“There are more opportunities for [making] mistakes. If you are lucky, you catch them at the right point and you don’t lose any time but everytime I caught them [in Singapore], it was at an unfortunate point and I had at least a lap or half a lap behind several of them.
“Then we had a little moment where they wouldn’t just let me go. They were battling and even to Turn 10, they were still flat out and so I had to overtake him. It was really weird. I didn’t know if he would turn in or something like that.
“Max was obviously right behind me. I had to go on the defensive like, I was like ‘where the hell did Max come from?’ and I really felt [and shouted inside the car that] ‘you are not getting by, no bro’.”
Even though Verstappen got close to him, the Red Bull driver knew it would be waste to try and push for the move as he thought it would be unfair to pounce Hamilton in the situation where his race was compromised due to the slower cars ignoring the blue flags.
In the end, Hamilton took the win with Verstappen and Vettel behind to build a 40 points gap with six races remaining despite having the second-best car in the last few races. Even with the lead, Hamilton for now is not thinking the title race is over.
“We’re really just taking it one race at a time, knowing that Ferrari have had quite good pace for the last few races,” he said. “Generally, whilst we’ve finished on front foot, we start on the back foot, kinda thing, each weekend.
“But [we enter the weekend] with a mentality that, if we do a good enough job, maybe we’ll come out ahead. It was a tough race. It was a hardcore race. The cars are much quicker than usual.
“That moment we had with the backmarkers and the crazy day we had yesterday, with the crazy last two weeks, it has just been intense. Of course it feels great but I’ve been here a long, long time so I know I can’t get ahead of myself; we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
“We have to continue to remain humble and just keep working as hard as we can. So, right now, I just feel, job done. I’m really happy with it. Still lots of points available but with this performance, and this focus that we have as a team.
“I truly believe that we can deliver impactful weekends like this for the rest of the season. So that’s the goal.” For the incident with the blue flags, FIA’s race director Charlies Whiting issued an apology to Hamilton after the race.