Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton claims championship lead with Singapore victory

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Lewis Hamilton produced a commanding performance to win the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday as Nico Rosberg retired.

The Briton led for all but a couple of laps around the pit-stops to retake the lead in the Drivers' Championship for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Rosberg retires

The big story of the race began before the start as mechanical problems hit Rosberg in the garage.

The team tried to rectify the issue by resetting the system and changing the steering wheel, however, when they set off for the formation lap the Mercedes was stranded on the grid forcing the German to start from the pit-lane.

Eventually he got going, however, but made little progression as he was hindered by further issues. Eventually his race was ended as he pitted for the first time and was unable to select any gears.

Hamilton leads away

With Rosberg out of the picture, Hamilton led away into the first corner as Fernando Alonso jumped up to second before running wide at the first corner and was forced to give a place back to Sebastian Vettel.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as the race settled into a quick pattern with drivers looking after the all important fuel and tyres.

At the first pit-stops, Alonso successfully used the undercut to pass Vettel for second but little in the way of action followed until at half-race distance Sergio Perez lost his front wing on the approach to turn 10 after contact with Adrian Sutil, spreading debris all over the circuit and causing a safety car, continuing the trend of the Mercedes SLS being used in every race so far in Singapore.

Different strategies

At the second round of pit-stops, just prior to the safety car period, the two Red Bulls, still embroiled in a battle with Alonso, made the switch to the soft compound tyres whereas the Spaniard stayed on the super-soft rubber.

This meant when the safety car came out, the Ferrari driver made the switch to the soft tyres and attempt to run for the full second half of the race.

Aware of this threat, Vettel and Ricciardo also took the gamble and stayed out on their soft tyres whereas the leader Hamilton would have to stop again.

Hammer time

When the safety car came in, it was time for the Mercedes driver to put the hammer down and try and build a gap to the Red Bulls who had now jumped Alonso in anticipation of a final stop.

The Briton was pulling out a lead by upwards of two, and sometimes more, seconds until, with nine laps to go, he made his final stop.

His effort wasn't quite enough as he lost the lead to Vettel but just joined ahead of Ricciardo in second and could set about catching the German.

Any hopes of making it four straight wins at Marina Bay were soon dashed for Vettel as Hamilton made his move into turn seven using DRS and was clear to go on and win the race.

Vettel holds on

After being passed by Hamilton, the world champion looked as if he may lose out to team-mate Ricciardo as the Australian, and Alonso, closed up very quickly.

However, Ricciardo would run out of time as the two-hour limit just beat the 61 laps and Vettel claimed second and the Aussie also held off Alonso who had to settle for fourth.

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Action-packed finale

Hamilton was not alone in pitting for a third time as the two Toro Rossos and the Force India of Sergio Perez looked to make up some late places.

But it was the Williams of Felipe Massa who claimed an impressive if quiet fifth ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne who completed some excellent overtakes to finish sixth.

Sergio Perez picked up three places in the last couple of laps to take seventh ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.

Jenson Button was forced to retire from seventh late on with a failure as Valtteri Bottas' tyres seemed to be almost on the canvas rather than rubber and he lost several places late on to miss out on the points in 11th.

Hamilton lands decisive blow

Back at the front and Singapore could be seen as the decisive race in the quest to be crowned 2014 world champion.

Hamilton now leads by just three points from Rosberg and, after his win in Monza, has the momentum heading into the final five races.

It is certainly Hamilton's championship to lose, but it will be interesting to see how the pressure of being the chased rather than the chaser may affect the Briton as the season moves on to another classic track at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks time.

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