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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 25 May, 2019
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Nico Rosberg regains championship lead after third consecutive win

Lewis Hamilton has been replaced by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the top of the Formula One title standings.

Nico Rosberg celebrates his Singapore Grand Prix win.
Nico Rosberg celebrates his Singapore Grand Prix win.

NICO ROSBERG REGAINED the lead in the Formula One drivers’ championship after converting his pole position to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, making it three straight wins for the Mercedes man.

Rosberg qualified fastest, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo splitting the pole sitter and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had a frustrating drive plagued by brake problems, and the 31-year-old German was again quick off the mark as he seeks his first world title.

Rosberg had led the championship by 43 points after a string of wins at the start of the season, only for Hamilton to haul him in and open up a 19-point advantage at the mid-season break, but Rosberg now has the advantage again, leading by eight points after his eighth win of 2016.

It was the seventh time in eight races the pole sitter has gone on to win in Singapore, where the Marina Bay Street Circuit is notoriously gruelling.

It was mostly an incident-free race after Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg crashed out on the opening lap, resulting in the 100 per cent record of safety car deployment in this race continuing, with drivers racing conservatively to get safely to the end of the night-time GP.

But the contest suddenly came alive in the last quarter, with Red Bull’s bold pit strategy giving Ricciardo the chance to haul in Rosberg, although he fell just short after getting stuck behind back-markers in the last few laps.

Ricciardo’s teenaged team-mate Max Verstappen provided much of the excitement again, thrillingly diving down the inside of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso to claim a sixth-place finish, while Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari worked his way through the pack to finish fifth after starting on the back row.

It was mostly a dominant weekend again for the Silver Arrows despite Ricciardo claiming second spot, with Rosberg rarely troubled as he cruised to victory, but Hamilton was increasingly frustrated as braking issues stymied his chances of improving on his starting position of third.

The Briton dropped behind Kimi Raikkonen on lap 33, but a smart pit strategy from Mercedes allowed the defending world champion to undercut the Ferrari driver and reclaim his podium place.

Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing Hamilton is now eight points behind championship leader Rosberg. Source: Yong Teck Lim

Hamilton was an overwhelming favourite to win the championship a few weeks ago, but he now faces a fight to the finish with Rosberg suddenly the man to beat.

Vettel was always going to be one of the drivers to watch in this race after winning the Singapore GP in four of the last five years.

The German started on the back of the grid as a result of a suspension issue during qualifying but made his way through the field smoothly to secure a solid points haul.

A top-five finish was the most Vettel could have realistically hoped for after his qualifying woes and he ended up just a single place behind his team-mate Raikkonen.

There was drama in the opening minutes of the race, as Hulkenberg was sandwiched by the two Toro Rosso cars and crashed into the wall.

The safety car was deployed – continuing the 100 per cent record of it being used in the Singapore GP – while the debris was cleared by the race marshals.

But when the race restarted on the fourth lap, one marshal obviously had not got the message as he had to run off the track as Rosberg sped towards a left-hander. A lucky escape.

TITLE STANDINGS
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 273
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 265 (-8)
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 179 (-94)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 153 (-120)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 148 (-125)

1. Mercedes 538
2. Red Bull 316 (-208)
3. Ferrari 301 (-219)
4. Force India 112 (-387)
5. Williams 111 (-390)

IN THE POINTS
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +0.488s
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +8.038s
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +10.219s
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +27.694s
6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +71.197s
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +89.198s
8. Sergio Perez (Force India) +111.062s
9. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +111.557s
10. Kevin Magnussen (Renault) +119.952s

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