Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton lost top spot in the Drivers’ World Championship at the Singapore Grand Prix to his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
It is the first time that Hamilton has trailed Rosberg in the standings since claiming victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July to move just one point behind Rosberg.
Initially Rosberg had been 43 points ahead of Hamilton but the Brit soon closed the gap and quickly proceeded to open up a 19-point lead. Yet a string of three victories on the bounce has led to Rosberg leapfrogging Hamilton in the standings and rediscovering his early form. The reigning champion, Hamilton, was only able to muster up third position in Singapore.
The blip in performance from Hamilton started at the Belgian Grand Prix where he commenced qualifying in 21st position due to engine penalties which meant that he was placed further back on the grid.
In hindsight, for Hamilton to recover from such a position and come third was remarkable. He becomes the first person ever to make up that many spaces in a race.
Then at the Italian Grand Prix, it seemed that Hamilton would be back on track to winning ways when he found himself in pole position at the start of the race but slipped to sixth right at the beginning and handed Rosberg the victory once again.
Following on from that loss, Hamilton experienced further problems at the Singapore Grand Prix. Rosberg finished 0.704 seconds faster than Hamilton in qualifying, which is a large margin for the Brit to lose by, despite issues with brakes and the fact that the car was “not where it should have been after free practice one”, according to Toto Wolff, Mercedes director.
During the race, Hamilton made a mistake on turn 7 and opened up a space for Raikkonen to squeeze inside him. Credit for the victory must not be taken away from Rosberg though.
Due to a sensational qualifying, Rosberg was able to control the race right from the off and did not have to rely on taking over his rivals during the race as Hamilton spectacularly showed in Belgium.
This time, having started the day in third place, Hamilton was unable to challenge neither Rosberg nor Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and was now facing the prospect of missing out on the podium.
As a result, the Mercedes Team decided to go for ‘plan B’ which included changing Hamilton’s tyres for super soft rubber as he went for a final pit stop in the 45th lap, with Raikkonen pitting on the following lap and Ricciardo on the lap after.
While Ferrari gave Raikkonen’s car the ultra-soft tyres, which have the most grip but are the least durable, he was unable to respond to the challenge from Hamilton. As Raikkonen came out of the pits, Hamilton managed to sneak past him and regain third position.
However Hamilton now has something much more important to get back, and it seems that he has already managed to come back from a position that he dubbed as an “impossible mountain to climb”. Now it is agonisingly close with just six races left in the calendar.
The fight for the championship will be a two-horse race between the Mercedes drivers, with both Ferrari and Red Bull’s drivers out of the contest. Sky Bet fancies Hamilton, the three-time champion, to defend his title at 4/6 while Rosberg comes in at 6/5.
However, it seems that Hamilton no longer has a psychological edge over Rosberg as the German is making far fewer mistakes than he did last season and the comprehensive win in Singapore was evidence of this newfound confidence.
Whatever the result, the duel between the protagonists will fuel an interesting ending to the season for the sport.
Image courtesy of Alberto Gonzalez Rovira