By John O’Brien
Germany’s Nico Rosberg celebrated his 200th Formula One race by retaking the championship lead from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton after a pole to flag win in Singapore on Sunday.
After a chaotic start that brought out a safety car on the opening lap, Rosberg stayed clear of Red Bull’s late-charging Daniel Ricciardo at the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Triple world champion Hamilton completed the podium in third place.
“The whole car was on the edge, it always is here in Singapore, so it’s very satisfying to finish like that,” Rosberg told reporters.
The German’s third victory in a row, and 22nd of his career, lifted Rosberg on to 273 points, eight clear of Hamilton, with six rounds remaining and Australia’s Ricciardo a distant third on 179 in the title race.
Rosberg’s win was his eighth of the season and first in Singapore, a grand prix that has only been won by world champions until now.
The German had started two points behind Hamilton and, despite leading comfortably halfway though the race, crossed the line just 0.488 seconds ahead of Ricciardo after having to complete the last 28 laps on the same soft tyres.
Red Bull opted for a bold tyre strategy to put pressure on Rosberg late on and Ricciardo was eating into the advantage at roughly three seconds a lap in the closing stages but ran out of road before the chequered flag.
“Of course Daniel tried to pull one up on me with the pitstop at the end, we knew it was going to be tight but we got there so I’m very happy,” added Rosberg, who opened a 43-point lead on Hamilton at the start of the season before falling behind when the Briton won six of seven races.
Hamilton had his own private battle with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen behind the leading duo, the Briton losing third place to the Finn after a mistake on lap 34 but reclaiming the position with a timely pit stop to hold on to the finish.
“This weekend has been a tricky one for me but I’m just happy to get on the podium and get some points for the team,” Hamilton said.
“The brakes were way overheating so I had to slow down. Once I did my second or third stop we managed to sort it out.”
Last year’s race winner Sebastian Vettel drove brilliantly from last on the starting grid to claim fifth place in the other Ferrari, the German coming home ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso in a McLaren.
The safety car was deployed immediately after the start when Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India, eighth on the grid, suffered a heavy crash after making contact with Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso.
Rosberg got away cleanly to lead from Ricciardo, with Hamilton in third and Raikkonen behind him after Verstappen suffered a woeful start to slip back to eighth from fourth on the grid.
The race restarted and Rosberg would have been startled to see a marshal at the end of the start-finish straight picking up debris, the man just managing to get off the circuit before the Mercedes reached him.
There were no more safety cars, throughout a 61-lap race that has yet to be completed without one, but the different tyre strategies of the leading cars made for a tactical and exciting race on a circuit that offers very few overtaking opportunities.
Mexican Sergio Perez was eighth for Force India with Russian Daniil Kvyat ninth for Toro Rosso.
Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen scored the final point for Renault in only the second finish in the points for the team this season.
Result from the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1:55:48.950
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull – TAG Heuer +00:00.488
3. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 00:08.038
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:10.219
5. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 00:27.694
6. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull – TAG Heuer 01:11.197
7. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 01:29.198
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India – Mercedes 01:51.062
9. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 01:51.557
10. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 01:59.952
11. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas – Ferrari 1 lap
12. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
13. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber – Ferrari 1 lap
14. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 1 lap
15. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 1 lap
16. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor – Mercedes 1 lap
17. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber – Ferrari 1 lap
18. Esteban Ocon (France) Manor – Mercedes 2 laps
r. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 18 laps
r. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 26 laps
r. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India – Mercedes 61 laps
r. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas – Ferrari 61 laps
Driver and Constructor Standings after the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 273
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 265
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 179
4. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 153
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 148
6. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull 129
7. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 70
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 66
9. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 46
10. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 41
11. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 36
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 30
13. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas 28
14. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso 25
15. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 17
16. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 7
17. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor 1
18. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren 1
19. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas 0
20. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 0
21. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 0
22. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 0
23. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia) Manor 0
24. Esteban Ocon (France) Manor 0
1. Mercedes 538
2. Red Bull – TAG Heuer 316
3. Ferrari 301
4. Force India – Mercedes 112
5. Williams-Mercedes 111
6. McLaren 54
7. Toro Rosso – Ferrari 47
8. Haas – Ferrari 28
9. Renault 7
10. Manor – Mercedes 1
11. Sauber – Ferrari 0