IT wasn’t quite the result Red Bull Renault had hoped for, but Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo still claimed second place – and his fourth consecutive podium – in a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix that eliminated three potential winners within five seconds of the start.
Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen collided heavily after the start on the rain-soaked Marina Bay circuit and Raikkonen’s out of control car also took out Fernando Alonso’s McLaren Honda.
It allowed Lewis Hamilton, who qualified fifth in his Mercedes, to weave through the carnage and take the lead.
He then led the whole way, despite being delayed by three safety cars which minimised his lead, then pulled away again and went on to a ‘miraculous’ win.
There was a lot of luck in the incident-packed race: Mercedes was not supposed to feature on the podium after being comprehensively outperformed by both the Red Bull Renault and Ferrari teams in the qualifying sessions, and Daniel Ricciardo was fortunate to claim second place after battling a gearbox problem.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas ran third in the 20-car field that ended with just 12 finishers.
Vettel, who started from pole position, appeared to cause the huge starting line crash, cutting in on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was being overtaken on the left by Raikkonen,
However, race stewards later deemed the crash a ‘racing incident’ with no ‘predominant’ driver to blame. Verstappen had a rather different view, laying the blame squarely on Vettel.
Hamilton, who earlier said it would take a miracle for him to win, got exactly that and racked up his 60th career victory and his third win in a row.
“God blessed me today, for sure,” he said on the podium.
“I capitalised on the incident. Who would have known that would happen?”
Ricciardo had a lonely race in second spot, unable to catch Hamilton but staying ahead of Bottas, while Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished a career-best fourth.
Ricciardo, described by podium compere Eddie Jordan as ‘the pride of Australia’ said his car did not have the pace it had in qualifying.
“Still, it was a good thing I had a bad start, or I would have been caught up in that crash,” he said.
“The team was asking me to manage the gears and I learned we were losing oil pressure in the gearbox.
“Of course I came here to win and really wanted it, but second place is great and I’m not going to complain about it.”
Team principal Christian Horner described the race as “enormously frustrating”.
“First we lost Max in an incident that quite clearly had nothing to do with him,” he said.
“Then, after the re-start, Daniel started to lose an awful lot of gearbox oil, which created a lot of problems with oil pressure.
“We felt it unlikely he would get to the end of the race, but he managed to nurse the gearbox incredibly well, and was able to hold off any threat from Valtteri (Bottas).
“So it has been another second place for us in Singapore, but a strong podium to take away considering how things were looking after the first 15 laps.”
There was a lot of action back in the depleted field, with Force India’s Sergio Perez, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and McLaren’s Stoffel van Doorne having a great scrap but finishing in that order and another dogfight a few second behind them between Lance Stroll (Williams) Romain Grosjean in the Haas and Esteban Ocon in the other Force India.
Felipe Massa was 11th, just two seconds behind Ocon and the sole other finisher was young German-Mauritian Pascal Wehrlein, two laps astern in the Sauber.
The next Grand Prix is in Malaysia, on the Sepang circuit, on October 1.
It’s another good hunting ground for Ferrari and Red Bull, unless another ‘miracle’ favours Mercedes.