Rosberg holds off Ricciardo to win Singapore

Nico Rosberg overcame brake issues, some strategy confusion and Daniel Ricciardo rapidly closing in on him in the final stages, to win the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit here on Sunday.

A HARD-EARNED VICTORY: Nico Rosberg found himself having to nurse his tyres towards the closing stages while being mindful of Daniel Ricciardo, on fresh rubber, gaining on him at alarming pace.

Rosberg’s eighth win of the season, and third in as many races, gives him an eight-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who finished third.

In his 200th F1 race, Rosberg, who led comfortably at one stage, was made to sweat in the final stages, with the three drivers behind him making a late switch to a three-stop strategy.

This left the German, on older tyres, vulnerable to attack from Ricciardo on fresher rubber as the Red Bull driver gained more than a second per lap. Rosberg, however, managed to squeeze out just about enough from his worn tyres to win the race by less than half-a-second.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth after running third for a brief while, capitalising on an error from Hamilton to overtake him, but lost out on a podium spot after the final sequence of pit stops.

Sebastian Vettel, who had to start from the back of the grid after mechanical issues to his Ferrari in qualifying on Saturday, produced a stellar drive to finished fifth.

On the opening lap, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg got off to a good start from P8, but crashed out before turn one when he was tagged by Carlos Sainz’s Torro Rosso.

Once the Safety Car had cleared the main straight, Rosberg took control of the race, opening up a 2.1 second lead over Ricciardo by the fourth lap.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had a poor start from P4 and slipped to eighth. He had a tussle with Daniil Kvyat but could recover only to sixth.

Even a few laps into the race the Mercedes drivers were told to manage their brakes in the early part, and they had to back off significantly.

After the first round of pit-stops, Rosberg led from Ricciardo, followed by Hamilton and Raikkonen.

The Finn made a move on Hamilton on lap-34 when the latter locked up his tyres and ran wide just a lap before the duo made their second pit stops.

The top four were all running soft tyres, and looked set to go till chequered flag when Mercedes made the call to put Hamilton on a three-stop strategy on lap-46 to recover third.

Ferrari too decided to call Raikkonen in on the next lap, but Hamilton’s out-lap on fresher tyres was strong enough to get him the jump on the Ferrari and into third.

Ricciardo too made his third stop, forcing Mercedes to consider pulling Rosberg in. But, with the back-markers’ traffic, there was a threat of his losing the lead, and the team decided to keep him out on old tyres.

With four laps to go, Daniel Ricciardo looked set to catch up, but Nico Rosberg managed to to stave off the attack and take the chequered flag just marginally ahead of the Red Bull.

Force India’s Sergio Perez produced a fine drive from P17 to finish eighth, and the four points from that moved his team to fourth in the constructors standings, one point ahead of Williams, which failed to score.