The race for the F1 World Championship took a dramatic turn in Singapore as the “miracle” that Lewis Hamilton needed, presented itself like a gift from above and cleared the path to an unlikely victory.
Going into this weekend it was widely expected that Hamilton and his Mercedes team would struggle in comparison to Sebastian Vettel and the Scuderia, but with Red Bull also sticking their noses in, it meant the silver arrows were relegated to 5th and 6th on the grid for the showdown in Singapore.
“Well we knew coming here it would be difficult” Lewis said in the drivers pen following qualifying,
“I got everything I could out the car, I gave it everything. Literally threw the sink at it”.
This was backed up by the fact he was around 6 tenths of a second faster than his teammate in the sister Mercedes. A tough day at the office beckoned, to use an old but accurate cliché.
“Although I didn’t pray for a miracle and I didn’t pray for anything to happen. When it rained I thought ‘this is it – I can win from 5th in the rain.’ I was so sure I was going to be able to do something” Lewis shared after the race.
His confidence in going into the race in wet conditions and excelling can and does get misconstrued as arrogance from some sections of the F1 fanbase, but to be fair if you look back at the record books it is hard to argue that Lewis isn’t this generations ‘rain man’ after consistently blowing away the competitors in wet and changeable conditions throughout his career.
But this time it wasn’t just his uncanny ability to extract vastly more lap time over his competitors on the soaked streets of Singapore that won him this race. It also took a moment of characteristic aggression and uncalculated risk from his main competitor for this title.
As the lights went out on the grid to signal the start it was apparent that Vettel on pole and the young Max Verstappen sitting alongside him on the front row did not have the best of starts compared with the chasing pack. Heading along the pit straight to the first corner, Kimi Raikkonen with an unbelievable start was pulling alongside Verstappen only a meter or so from the pit wall. Unaware of the blistering start his teammate had made, Vettel moved across to cut off the young Dutchman, and so the cookie started to crumble. Verstappen caught in as literal a Ferrari sandwich as you can get had his nose alongside the title contender to his right, Raikkonen now fully alongside and edging in front of him from his left had nowhere to go. With Vettel still drifting across the track to cover, Raikkonens’ rear right wheel encountered the front left wheel of Verstappens’. This instantly broke the suspension of both cars and speared the Ferrari across the bow of Verstappen and into the sidepod of Vettel.
Raikkonens car was destroyed across the right side and was out of control heading into turn one, ending up slamming into an already stricken Red bull as he came across the track again and launching the McLaren of Fernando Alonso into the air who had avoided the shenanigans up till this point and had found himself in an unlikely 3rd by turn one. The Spaniard just can’t catch a break this season.
Vettel had carried on in first place albeit with extensive damage to the left side of his car, but as his wounded steed haemorrhaged coolant from his destroyed radiator system all over the rear wheels, he lost control just before turn 5 and swiped the entire nose cone assembly from the car and was travelling backwards as the entire grid whizzed by him.
As all this was unfolding, Hamilton had managed to stay out of trouble around the outside into turn 1 and was into an impressive 2nd place into the first corner, giving a perfect view of his main rival losing it along a relative straight part of the track and collecting the wall, inheriting the lead he would now not surrender.
The nature of this sport is that bar the radio transmissions we don’t get much of an insight into a drivers emotional state at any given moment, but given a 4k camera in the cockpit aiming at the drivers face at this race I would dare say you would have seen smile lines around Hamilton’s eyes under the bright floodlights.
At the end of the night, after 3 safety cars, 8 retirees, and a race cut short by the time limit, Hamilton had come home to register his 60th race win of his career and extend his championship lead to the largest gap anyone has had this season of 28 points.
Is this ‘The’ defining moment of the season?
Hamiltons slogan of ‘Still I Rise’ couldn’t be more apt after winning at arguably the teams weakest circuit and with only 6 races left of the season there is still plenty to play for, but with Hamiltons current run of 5 wins in 6 it would take a very brave person to bet against him coming out on top come the end of November.