Lewis Hamilton was still mopping his brow long after he had pulverised the title ambitions right out of Sebastian Vettel.
The long, humid 61 laps of the Singapore Grand Prix elicited only the occasional sharp intake of breath from those of us watching, but as the perspiring Hamilton sat next to the vanquished German at the post-race press conference, he wore a triumphant air as if the 2018 World Championship crown itself was his.
For here under the lights that turn the supposedly Ferrari-friendly track into a necklace around the city state, Hamilton had first produced one of the laps of his career to take pole in his Mercedes, a conjuring act he then meticulously converted into the seventh win of his finest season.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates taking victory for Mercedes at the Singapore Grand Prix as he steps off his car in parc ferme
Hamilton’s Mercedes was parked in front of a big screen that projected race highlights at Marina Bay
Hamilton kneels beside his car as he talks to David Coulthard in the post-race interview under the podium
He now leads Vettel by 40 points with six races, and 150 points, remaining. Vettel was not so much glum afterwards as resigned, as if he knew there is nothing he can possibly do to beat the man in the Silver Arrow.
For Hamilton, it was a remarkable weekend that showed his decision to travel 25,000 miles between the last minor miracle he wrought in Monza a fortnight ago and his arrival in Singapore on Wednesday night, largely promoting his avant garde clothing range, was no impediment to the clinical dismembering in hand.
The victory was secured when he made it smoothly to the first corner ahead. From there he could dictate the pace and preserve his tyres, leaving others to do the worrying. For all but a few laps, as the pit stops played out, he was in front.
Vettel started third and then passed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the first lap. He followed Hamilton around until Ferrari called him in to try to undercut the Briton. But the stop left Vettel stranded behind Sergio Perez’s Force India and losing time.
So, Vettel detained, Hamilton emerged from his own stop the following lap in front of the German, as, just, did Verstappen, who finished second.
Ferrari are struggling to keep their heads clear these days. That is primarily because Hamilton is so quick that they have become desperate. It is why Vettel is questioning his Ferrari pit-wall people more often than before.
Hamilton has now extended his lead in the world championship to 40 points from title rival Sebastian Vettel (above)
Fireworks lit up the Singapore sky to greet Hamilton’s fourth win in the last five races to take him closer to a fifth world title
The Mercedes team greet the Brit in parc ferme to congratulate him on his dominant victory at the Singapore Grand Prix
Hamilton finished in front of Max Verstappen (left) and a glum looking Vettel as he salutes supporters on top of the podium
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX RESULTS AND STANDINGS
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 51mins 11.611secs
2 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:51:20.572
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:51:51.556
4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:52:03.541
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:52:04.612
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:52:05.593
7 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:52:54.622
8 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault at 1 Lap
9 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber at 1 Lap
10 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault at 1 Lap
11 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber at 1 Lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren at 1 Lap
13 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas at 1 Lap
14 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
15 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams at 1 Lap
16 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India at 1 Lap
17 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
18 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas at 2 Laps
19 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams at 2 Laps
Not Classified: 20 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 0 Laps completed
Fastest Lap: Kevin Magnussen 1min 41.905secs on lap 51
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 281pts
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 241
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 174
4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 171
5 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 148
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 126
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 53
8 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 50
9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 49
10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 46
11 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 45
12 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 38
13 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso 28
14 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 27
15 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 15
16 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 8
17 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 6
18 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 6
19 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso 2
20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1
Constructors’ standings: 1 Mercedes 452pts, 2 Ferrari 415, 3 Red Bull 274, 4 Renault 91, 5 Haas 76, 6 McLaren 58, 7 Force India 32, 8 Toro Rosso 30, 9 Sauber 21, 10 Williams 7
Hamilton and Vettel each appreciated the chasm between them as they sat in that press conference, which had an end-of-term feel about it. ‘I did not think I would leave Singapore with an extra 10 points over Sebastian,’ said Hamilton, underlining the unlikeliness and significance of the win. ‘The pole was monumental for us.
‘It was a tough race, hardcore. Of course it feels great, but I have been here a long, long time and we cannot get ahead of ourselves. The aim of the team is to deliver more impactful weekends like this. After all my travelling in the last few weeks, if I had made a mistake people would have looked at the things I do and said they were the cause of it. But they don’t affect my performance, as you can see. They add to it.
‘I am in super, super shape. I changed to a plant-based diet last year and this has been the best 12 months of my life physically.’
Verstappen provided the only fleeting threat when he zoomed close to Hamilton as the pair became ensnared among backmarkers halfway through the race. Hamilton was alert to the danger and planted his Mercedes straight in Verstappen’s path. Romain Grosjean was handed a five-second penalty for ignoring the blue flags.
Unlike in 2017, there was a clean run from all the drivers heading into turn one at the start of the race, as Hamilton leads away
Hamilton (left) leads the field at the start of the Formula One Grand Prix as he looked to increase his championship lead
Championship leader Hamilton of Mercedes started on pole at the Marina Bay Circuit on Sunday in Singapore
Drivers squeeze into the first corner at the start of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Circuit on Sunday
Following the first corners, the Force India cars of Sergio Perez (left) and Esteban Ocon collided behind the front runners
The incident saw Ocon crash into the wall, putting him out of the race as a result and bringing out the safety car
Ocon’s car is removed from the circuit following the crash with his team-mate Perez at the beginning of the race
Two Force India cars collided at the start, putting Ocon into the wall and out of the Singapore Grand Prix
Ocon walks away following the crash, with the Frenchman the only retirement of the race during a largely uneventful race
Perez was heavily involved in proceedings. First, he and his team-mate Esteban Ocon collided on the third corner of the race. Ocon complained: ‘I got hit by Sergio badly, badly.’
It seemed that Ocon, in fact, was too rash in thinking he could overtake at that point and, although Perez might have allowed the Frenchman more space had he spotted him, he was merely holding the racing line.
‘There’s no room and I didn’t even see him,’ said Perez. Neither driver was penalised for the accident, which brought out a safety car for four laps. Perez, however, was punished when he turned into Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams, perhaps believing he had cut clear, at the end of a long duel. The Mexican was given a drive-through penalty.
Round and round they went, until two hours after it began Hamilton finished where he had started, first — ahead of Verstappen by 8.9sec with Vettel a further half a minute back.
The fireworks began. Hamilton took his time getting out of the car. He was somewhat emotional as he drank in the win and hoarse as he left the track at gone 1.30am for a plane to a beach and some relaxing yoga.
Hamilton leads Vettel under the safety car, with the German having passed Verstappen on the opening lap
Perez endured a dreadful afternoon, picking up a drive through penalty after another collision with Sergey Sirotkin
After holding off the Renaults, Fernando Alonso (left) comfortably drove to a highly credible seventh place for McLaren
Ferrari’s Vettel dropped to third after the round of pit-stops having emerged just behind Verstappen
Hamilton’s position in first was never really threatened by his rivals as he claimed the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday