While the stat books will show it was a clinic by Nico Rosberg, it was anything but in the closing laps of Formula 1’s night race.
The race started just shortly after 8:00 p.m. local time (8:00 a.m. Eastern time) and the Mariana Bay Street Circuit’s record of always seeing a safety car continued with a wreck by Nico Hulkenburg right off the line. Max Verstappen spun the tires getting off the line, which caused a log jam behind. Hulkenburg made contact with Carlos Sainz, spun down the track and slammed the inside wall.
Valtteri Bottas and Jenson Button also sustained contact during the first lap melee and both retired from the race.
There was also a scary incident on the restart when a track marshal was still on the racing surface when the race went green. Thankfully, the marshal made it to his post unharmed.
After that, the race settled into the typical follow the leader routine. Although there were a few interesting battles during, especially with Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton making slight contact racing for second just past halfway.
Beginning under 20 laps to go, the cars pitted for the final time except for one, the race leader Rosberg. The Mercedes team opted to not pit Rosberg onto fresher tires and have him run to the finish on his current set of soft tires.
“We couldn’t come in because I had traffic. I was very slow on that lap and he would’ve beaten me,” Rosberg said of the decision to not pit.
What started as a gap of over 30 seconds from second-place Daniel Ricciardo to race leader Rosberg shrank as the laps winded down. With five laps to go, the gap was 5.2 seconds and Ricciardo was on pace to possibly be within DRS range on the final lap, but lapped traffic stalled him for a lap and made all the difference.
“It was close,” Ricciardo said. “As soon as we did a pit stop, we though Nico would come in. I pushed really hard on those tires. By the end, we were a little bit dead. But at least we got close and made it exciting.”
He got within a second of Rosberg on the final lap, but ran out of time to make a move for the win as Rosberg scored the victory in the Singapore Grand Prix.
“It’s been an awesome weekend here in Singapore for me,” Rosberg said on the podium. “Already yesterday with the pole lap and then today [with the] great start. Had a good car in the race. Of course, Daniel tried to pull one up on me with the pit stop at the end there. We knew it was going to be tight in the end, but it worked out. So [I’m] really, really happy.”
He also addressed being told to manage his brakes the whole race.
“The whole car was on the edge,” he added. “It always is here at Singapore. So it’s all the more satisfying with a race like that.”
Ricciardo settled for the second step on the podium.
“We’ve come very close this year on numerous occasions, but I’m not gonna stand up here and be disappointed,” Ricciardo said. “I think we gave it a good shot. We tried something at the end with the strategy and we got within half a second. It was close, but we’re up here (podium) again. It feels great.”
Hamilton rounded out the podium for the 99th time in his career. But as podium interviewer Martin Brundle put it, “It’s not the sweetest one I suspect.”
“No, definitely not,” Hamilton said. “First of all, big congratulations to Nico. He drove fantastic all weekend and fully deserved the win. Very tough day today, but it always is in Singapore. This weekend has just been a bit of a tricky one for me, but I’m so glad I can get back on the podium and get some points for the team.”
He also addressed his struggles early in the race.
“It’s my brakes,” he added. “I was struggling with the brakes way overheating. So I just had to slow down and watch the other guys pull away. I was just looking at different ways to try and get them back under control. Eventually, once I did on, I think my second stop or third stop, the brakes were under control. But of course, towards the end, I still got a bit of heat in them.”
He was also asked if he’s concerned about being eight points behind Rosberg with six races remaining.
“Well it’s a lot different than when I was here last year, but with everything that’s gone on this year, I’m still in the fight. It’s still a long way to go and I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got,” he added.
Raikkonen came home fourth and Sebastian Vettel, who started dead last, rounded out the top-five.
Max Verstappen finished sixth, Fernando Alonso finished seventh, Segio Perez finished eighth, Daniil Kyat finished ninth and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top-10.
As for the Haas F1 Team, Esteban Gutierrez finished 11th and Romain Grosjean retired from the race before it started with brake wire issues.
Rosberg leaves Singapore with an eight-point lead over teammate Hamilton in the drivers championship.
Next up for Formula 1 is a trip to the capital of Malaysia for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.