SINGAPORE: 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.