It's fair to say that we were robbed of a battle between Hamilton and Rosberg today, because Nico was plagued, from the very start, with car problems. As the drivers streamed away from the start line, to begin their parade lap, Rosberg's Mercedes sat prone on the front row, his hands turning the wheel to full lock left and right and pressing the buttons and gear paddles. He eventually managed a pit lane start, but even then was struggling for pace and it quickly became evident that his car was automatically doing double upshifts and so not gaining enough traction out of the turns. He made a valiant effort to keep his race going, without any moaning or complaining (unlike a certain other driver we know) but in the end was forced to retire. Despite a change of steering wheel, during his pitstop, it simply wasn't enough to heal the cars hurts, as Nico continually flapped the gear paddles with no response from the gearbox. Some would claim that, in the luck stakes, this race has evened things up between the Mercedes teammates, but I don't think anybody wants to see an easy race for an unchallenged Mercedes man this season.
Okay, so it wasn't the easiest of races for Lewis Hamilton, but it threatened to be more difficult than it actually turned out to be. He left the Red Bull's for dead, straight out of the blocks, and then comfortably lead the race, right up until the one safety car period of the race. Sergio Perez had a coming together with Adrian Sutil, on lap thirty, and the resulting obliterated front wing prompted the characteristic appearance of a Singaporean GP safety car. It meant that during the second half of the race, it gradually became apparent that almost everybody had made their final pitstops of the race, all except for Hamilton. Because of this he was forced to drive his socks off, in order to make a gap large enough to allow him to pit and get out in front again. He had to build a twenty-seven second gap, within around only ten laps. It was an almost impossible task. Not, it seems, for a Mercedes F1 car and Lewis Hamilton. He managed a twenty-five second gap and came out just behind Sebastien Vettel and only had to make that one pass to take the lead again. With Seb on very old tyres, the job was done within two laps. However, Lewis Hamilton only just loses out on the Driver of The Day accolade.
Driver of The Day, instead, goes to Jean-Eric Vergne for his fearless racing, during the final couple of laps. Because of an earlier misdemeanour, Vergne had been slapped with a five second stop and go penalty. As the closing laps of the race approached and it was obvious that the five seconds were going to be added to his finishing time, he became wild. He caught and took both Force India cars, the Ferrari of Kimi Raikonnen and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. He did this by virtually sliding around the four cars, racing right up to and almost over the ragged edge, on tyres with about as little grip as anyone else. He then proceeded to pull out a gap that was more than five seconds, meaning that, even with the penalty, he had secured sixth place.
The good thing about Nico's bad luck today, is that the fight for the World Championship is very much alive, with the two Mercedes drivers separated by only three points. The really great thing about this season is that it isn't only about the two horse race for the Driver's Championship, the passion and hunger is evident throughout the whole field.
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