Lewis Hamilton feels relaxed rather than relieved after reclaiming the lead in the battle for this year’s Formula 1 world title.
In taking the chequered flag at the Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton claimed victory number 29 of his Formula 1 career and his seventh of the season, two more than when he won his only title in 2008.
Championship rival and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg suffered his second retirement of the campaign – a wiring loom breaking in the steering of the German’s car, leaving him without a number of vital functions ahead of the start of F1’s only night race.
As the field filed away on the formation lap, Rosberg was left on the grid frantically attempting to engage his car into life.
It was to no avail, forcing his mechanics to rescue the 29-year-old and push him into the pit lane, from where he managed to get going.
But running 21st and last – Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi retired on the formation lap – he made little headway, even against the likes of Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson.
After 14 laps, as he pulled in for his pit stop, the team’s bid to change the steering wheel and coax his car into some sort of fighting mode ultimately failed, and with it came retirement.
After a consoling hug from Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff in the garage, Rosberg then watched Hamilton win to take a three-point lead in the drivers’ championship.
It is only the second time this season Hamilton has had his nose in front, the other being for one race going into a highly-contentious Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton said: “I just feel relaxed.
“I came here to do a job, and I came through it without any issues on our side of the garage all weekend, which was a real blessing.
“I also came here hoping to gain seven points on Nico (the difference between first and second), with anything more than that a bonus.
“Of course, the extra points are a huge help, and you would think I should be relieved, but that’s not the case.
“At the moment I’m not thinking that.”
Instead, Hamilton is more concerned with Mercedes’ reliability record that has now resulted in five mechanical retirements overall – three against him and two for Rosberg.
That does not factor into accounting the brake failure which resulted in a crash in qualifying in Germany, nor the car fire in qualifying in Hungary that was sparked by a fuel leak.
“We’ve had several DNFs (did not finish) now on our cars,” added Hamilton.
“I know the team will not be 100 per cent happy because we want to win collectively, to get those one-twos, to be the dominant team.
“So by not getting that result they’ll be going back to the drawing board trying to figure out what happened.
“They’re constantly coming up against things and perhaps other people are starting to be a bit more reliable than us, so that’s an area we can still definitely improve on.”
Rosberg was despondent but philosophical as the fight now goes down to the final five races.
He said: “It was the toughest day for me this year, even worse than Silverstone (where he retired with a gearbox problem).
“None of the steering wheel functions worked, so I had no DRS, the gears were all over the place, my brake balance was totally in the wrong place. Sitting on the grid I felt helpless.
“From a team perspective unreliability is our weakness and we need to get to the bottom of it and try and improve on that.”
There was still drama for Hamilton to negotiate before he claimed his win with the deployment of the safety car on lap 31 after the front wing of Sergio Perez’s Force India shattered across the track following a collision with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.
After six laps to clear the debris, Hamilton was left running on the supersoft tyre – but needing to make a final stop – while those behind were looking to go to the end of the race on soft rubber.
Hamilton then wrung the life out of his car for 16 laps in a bid to come out ahead of as many cars as possible.
He filed in between Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo but on fresh tyres needed only one-and-a-half laps to take over at the front, from which point he stormed to victory, with the race reaching its two-hour limit after 60 of the planned 61 laps.
Second for Vettel was his best result of a troubled year, with third for Ricciardo moving him to within 60 points of leader Hamilton.
McLaren’s Jenson Button suffered his first retirement for two years eight laps from home, whilst Chilton was 17th and last in his Marussia.