With six races remaining in the 2016 F-1 Season, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg got past teammate Lewis Hamilton on overall championship points by winning the Singapore Grand Prix on September 18. But it was not Hamilton, who troubled Rosberg at Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday. Instead, a late tyre-change action by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo threatened the German and nearly stole the race from him. Earlier in the race, Rosberg always looked on course but Ricciardo going to pits with 12 laps remaining for super-soft tyres brought the race alive in closing stages. Just before that, Rosberg had a massive 22 seconds’ lead over Ricciardo but the new tyres gave Ricciardo a great pace as he began closing the gap with each passing lap. Near the chequered flag, however, Ricciardo fell short by 0.4 seconds and Rosberg coasted to his third straight win of the 2016 season after top podium finishes at Belgian and Italian GPs. The 2015 World Champion Lewis Hamilton had his own fight with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen for the third podium place and though he lost his championship lead to Rosberg, the British driver finished third.
The start of the 2016 Singapore GP was marred by Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg crashing moments after lights went out. Rosberg had gotten off to a flying start ahead of Ricciardo and Hamilton but Hulkenberg getting clipped from behind by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz brought the safety car. The Force India driver crashed into the wall but he got out from the wreckage safe and walked away. At the restart, a Marshall just managed to avoid the on-rushing fleet and caused another bewildering moment before the race could proceed. It was the 200th GP for Nico Rosberg and he had taken his career’s 29th pole on Saturday from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The grid position before Sunday’s start had Hamilton at third place after a messy qualifying session, where he lost 30 minutes of free practice due a hydraulic problem. In the second Red Bull, Max Verstappen was fourth in Saturday’s qualifying, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fifth, the two Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat were sixth and seventh while the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez at 8th and 10th spots, were sandwiched by the 9th placed Fernando Alonso of McLaren.
Fortunately, Hulkenberg’s crash didn’t affect other drivers and they got on with the day’s business. While Rosberg moved away quickly, Ricciardo’s attempt of challenging the German fell through as he kept losing time. Meanwhile Hamilton was having a tough time with his overheating brakes that locked him in lap 32 and and Kimi Raikkonen overtook him at that point. The Mercedes Team managers asked Hamilton to keep pushing until lap 45 and then change to the super-soft rubber. The British driver did exactly as he was told and when his car was fitted with super-soft, he gave a chase to catch up with Raikkonen. That forced the Ferrari driver to go to the pits for the similar tyre compound as Hamilton’s but by then, the Brit had already done enough to get the jump on Raikkonen. Unintentionally, however, the move by the Mercedes managers provided a vital clue to the Red Bull team and they asked Daniel Ricciardo to fit his car with the same super-soft tyres and then chase Rosberg. The strategy nearly worked for Red Bull as Ricciardo began to reduce the gap between himself and Rosberg in the last 11 laps. Rosberg himself didn’t stop for any tyre change since Mercedes team asked him to continue and attempt to hold his position since the race was almost in the last stages. However, despite his best attempts of zipping through the laps, Ricciardo fell agonizingly short of Rosberg, who crossed the finish line four-tenths of a second ahead of the Red Bull driver. While Rosberg recorded his 8th win of the current season, Hamilton finished third behind Riccirado. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, the other Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel finished a creditable fifth since he started from way back on the grid and helped Raikkonen in salvaging a strong result for Ferrari in the constructors’ category. The other Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was sixth, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso came seventh ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, who creditably made a great recovery from being 17th on the grid. Daniil Kvyat finished 9th and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten.
By winning at Singapore in his 200th Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg has overtaken Lewis Hamilton by 8 points. That means Rosberg has brought down his 43 point deficit in just three races after Silverstone’s British GP. With six races remaining this season, the fight between the Mercedes teammates looks like going to the wire, just as thrilling cricket victories sometimes come off the last ball in ODIs or T20 games.
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