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Lewis Hamilton capitalises on Sebastian Vettel's first-lap drama in Singapore

MARINA BAY, Singapore -- Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic and rain-hit Singapore Grand Prix to extend his championship lead to 28 points over title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel was involved in a dramatic first corner incident with Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, which saw the trio all retire from the race on the opening lap. Hamilton, who started fifth on the grid, managed to avoid the carnage and took the lead as Vettel's initial crash damage resulted in him spinning out on the run to Turn 4. A replay showed fluid streaming out of Vettel's damaged sidepod after Turn 1 and it is likely it caused him to lose the rear of his car and hammer his Ferrari against the barrier. Although Vettel continued for a short distance, his team soon came on the radio to tell him to stop due to a loss of water pressure.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his 2017 Singapore Grand Prix win. MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images
Through drying conditions and three safety car periods, Hamilton led a reduced field of cars until the race time limit of two hours elapsed on lap 58. Despite having his lead zeroed during at three Safety Car restarts, he held off Daniel Ricciardo in second place and crossed the finish line with a 4.5s lead over the Red Bull. Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas fought back from sixth on the grid to finish third, completing a strong result for the team, which now has a 102-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

The result also has huge ramifications for the drivers' championship as Hamilton extended his lead to 28 points -- enough for him to retire from the next race and still lead the championship regardless of Vettel's result. What's more, Hamilton's victory -- his seventh of the season -- came on a track where Mercedes had struggled all weekend and Vettel was expected to win from pole position.

First corner carnage

As the cars arrived on the grid 15 minutes ahead of the race, rain started to fall and lightning lit up the sky over Singapore. It was the first time in the Singapore Grand Prix's history that rain had hit on race day and the grid was a mix of drivers opting for intermediate and full-wet tyres.

Verstappen -- who qualified second on the grid -- made a good start, but so did Raikkonen from fourth and he was soon alongside the 19-year-old's car. Vettel's getaway was routine but he soon found Verstappen closing in on him on the inside, and the Ferrari driver moved across to cover the Red Bull, apparently unaware Raikkonen was on the other side of the No.33 car and next to the pit wall.

Sandwiched between the two Ferraris, Verstappen made contact with Raikkonen, sending the Finnish driver's car into the pit wall. Raikkonen touched Vettel and lost control of his car as he collected Verstappen and Fernando Alonso in Turn 1. The incident took Verstappen and Raikkonen out on the spot, while Vettel continued with a scarred sidepod and fluid draining from the cooling systems within. Alonso also continued despite a large chunk of his sidepod and floor missing, but he retired on lap eight after McLaren lost all telemetry from the car.

The first corner accident led to a five-lap Safety Car period, with Hamilton leading Ricciardo and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg at the restart. Despite his struggles earlier in the weekend, Hamilton's car looked good in the wet conditions and he built a five-second buffer to Ricciardo within a handful of laps.

A second Safety Car

On lap 11 Daniil Kvyat outbraked himself at Turn 7 and buried his Toro Rosso in the wall beyond the run-off area. The stricken Toro Rosso and damaged barriers caused a second Safety Car and presented the first opportunity for a variation in strategies. The track was still too wet for slicks, but pitting for a fresh set of intermediates was a no-brainer for Ricciardo, who took on new rubber but still retained second place. Bottas moved up to third by not pitting and Carlos Sainz was elevated to fourth on the same strategy. Hulkenberg dropped to fifth by following Ricciardo's lead and switching from the full wets he started on to a set of new intermediates.

Despite the slight tyre disadvantage, Hamilton again built a lead over Ricciardo at the restart on lap 14. Kevin Magnussen was the first to brave slicks on lap 25 and within two laps the rest of the field followed suit. Mercedes played it conservative by keeping Hamilton out on intermediates a lap later than Ricciardo, but by the time he returned to the track his lead had extended to over ten seconds. Ricciardo managed to take a couple of seconds out of Hamilton in the following stint, but keen to protect his rear tyres, Hamilton was able to manage the race from the front.

The sprint to the finish

One final curve ball was thrown on lap 38 when Marcus Ericsson lost the rear of his Sauber on the Anderson Bridge and clipped the barrier. Unable to carry on, Ericsson jumped out of his car and left it blocking one of the bridge's two lanes, causing a third Safety Car period of the race. Once again, Hamilton nailed the restart and built a third and final lead over Ricciardo, which he held until the chequered flag. Bottas was unable to make a serious impression on Ricciardo in second place and finished third ahead of Sainz, who retained fourth for Toro Rosso despite coming under pressure from Sergio Perez in fifth.

Jolyon Palmer took his first points of the season in sixth ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne's McLaren, which had a solid race to finish seventh ahead of Williams' Lance Stroll. Romain Grosjean took ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon's Force India in the final points paying position in tenth.

Author: Laurence Edmondson, ESPN UK
Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/20730369/lewis-hamilton-capitalises-sebastian-vettel-first-lap-drama-singapore

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