Lewis Hamilton suffered his first race retirement of the 2015 season as his quest for a third world title hit a stumbling block during an action-packed Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s Brackley-based Mercedes developed mechanical problems midway through the 13th round of the 2015 World Championship season, forcing him to retire.
That marked the end of a disappointing weekend for the defending world champion, whose Mercedes car had struggled to cope with the pace of both Ferrari and Red Bull throughout the three days, which came as somewhat of a shock given the Brackley’s team’s dominance over the past 18 months.
Neither Hamilton nor his team-mate Nico Rosberg were ever in the hunt for victory in Singapore with the German finishing in fourth position.
Hamilton said: “It was a difficult weekend for me and the team. We found it difficult to get a balance on the car from the start of free practice, and that stopped me having a chance to go for pole position.
“We do have the quickest car but for some reason the tyres were not switching on and it is apparent on both cars. We have never seen it before.
“Once the race started it was about trying to get to the front and I believe I could have won but for the problem.”
Sebastian Vettel’s drive from pole position to victory never looked in doubt as he hauled himself back into the title mix, while Daniel Ricciardo finished second for Red Bull with Kimi Raikkonen completing the podium.
Finishing in fourth, Rosberg failed to take full advantage of Hamilton’s struggles although he has closed the gap to 41 points in the standings.
“This was a difficult weekend but I’m happy to have still been in a position to score points,” Rosberg said afterwards. “Sometimes in motor racing things don’t go the way you want, and I would have liked to scored more points today, but at least I finished.”
The Silverstone-based Sahara Force India cars experienced a mixed weekend. Sergio Perez took seventh to move ninth in the standings, while Nico Hulkenberg crashed out after a clash with the Williams of Felipe Massa.
Hulkenberg was judged to be at fault and has consequently been handed a three grid drop penalty for this week’s Japanese Grand Prix.
He said afterwards: “I felt the penalty was unfair, especially as it had been handed to me by the stewards before I had even had a chance to put my side of the story to them.”
The Bicester-based Toro Rosso duo, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, were involved in a fierce battle near the end of the race when Verstappen found the tyres on his car wilting. Despite calls from the pits to let Sainz through, Verstappen maintained his position to finish eighth with his Spanish team-mate ninth.
The youngster commented: “I felt I had the pace to keep ahead and I managed to do it.
“If you’re one lap down and you manage to be back in the points as the leading Toro Rosso, then for me there is no reason to switch positions.”
Standings: 1. Hamilton, 252pts; 2. Rosberg, 211; 3. Vettel, 203; 4. Raikkonen, 107; 5. Bottas, 101. Next race: Japan - September 27th.