‘I f***** it up big time’: Lewis Hamilton apologises to team after crash during Singapore Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton made a mid-race apology to his team for one of two uncharacteristic errors that blighted his Singapore Grand Prix, itself a procession lit up by the occasional spark.

In terms of the title mathematics, it left Max Verstappen, who finished seventh, 104 points ahead of his nearest nominal pursuer Charles Leclerc, runner-up on the night, with four races remaining, starting in Suzuka, Japan, on Sunday. Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, the excellent race winner, lies 106 back.

So Max, the performer of the season by head and shoulders, will win his second title if he triumphs at the weekend and notches the fastest lap, no matter what the rest can achieve in his wake.

Team Mercedes were forced to replace Lewis Hamilton's front wing during the race

Team Mercedes were forced to replace Lewis Hamilton's front wing during the race

Team Mercedes were forced to replace Lewis Hamilton’s front wing during the race

Actually, neither of the world’s most famous drivers, Hamilton nor Verstappen, had a dream night’s work at Marina Bay. The Briton started third, slipped down to fourth off the line, and then twice fell off the racing line and finished ninth.

On the first of those occasions, 33 laps into the intended 61 laps before the two-hour guillotine ended proceedings a few miles early, he smashed into the wall after carrying too much speed as he harried Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for third.

He broke the advertising hoarding, reversed out, fell down a place and limped to the pits, for his crew to lick collective wounds. ‘I’m so sorry about that guys. I f***** it up big time,’ said the seven-time world champion.

Hamilton (pictured) apologised to his team over his radio admitting that he had 'f***** it up'

Hamilton (pictured) apologised to his team over his radio admitting that he had 'f***** it up'

Hamilton (pictured) apologised to his team over his radio admitting that he had ‘f***** it up’

A mea culpa is not unheard of from Lewis’s lips but it does run counter to the perceived usual direction of finger-pointing.

That mistake pushed him down a place to fifth and then into the pits for a new front wing after an hour’s tedium stuck on Sainz’s tale on a tight street track rendered slippery by rain that had fallen earlier. It was bouncing ankle high off the Tarmac and the race was delayed an hour and five minutes, which was a little longer than excitement demanded.

Hamilton’s second off-line excursion occurred in the final throes of the humid night as Verstappen, whose travails we shall return to, was close behind him. The Briton was attempting to pass Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, but missed the corner and let Verstappen through.

Hamilton was able to continue the race despite crashing into a wall at Turn seven

Hamilton was able to continue the race despite crashing into a wall at Turn seven

Hamilton was able to continue the race despite crashing into a wall at Turn seven 

The British driver scolded his team, claiming that they 'need to listen to him' in the future

The British driver scolded his team, claiming that they 'need to listen to him' in the future

The British driver scolded his team, claiming that they ‘need to listen to him’ in the future  

In truth, it was a miserable day for Mercedes. Less said about George Russell the better. One sentence on his gloom will suffice: he endured probably his worst weekend with the team in qualifying 11th, starting in the pit lane after engine changes, before clipping Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Haas’s Mick Schumacher as he struggled for his usual sure-footedness to finish 14th and last of the evening’s survivors. Just a little hurrah for Russell setting the fastest lap as events closed.

As for Verstappen, who needed to win and Leclerc and Perez to falter badly to leave Singapore with the trophy for a second year, his ill-fate was all but sealed on Saturday night, when he was told to abort his final qualifying lap in order to meet the requirement to have a litre of fuel on board for scrutineering.

He was flying at the time, pole at his mercy. Disbelieving, he turned the air blue and left the track ASAP. No debrief. Too angry for that. As he reflected of his ‘really terrible’ weekend: ‘It started with yesterday’s big f*** up. I wasn’t making a statement by leaving the track when I did. It was how I felt. I just wouldn’t have been much use.’

Hamilton (pictured) currently sits in sixth place in the Formula 1 driver's

Hamilton (pictured) currently sits in sixth place in the Formula 1 driver's

Hamilton (pictured) currently sits in sixth place in the Formula 1 driver’s championship

Verstappen slipped from eighth to 12th after his ant-stall inexplicably kicked in on the grid. Having climbed to fifth by lap 40, by when the field had finally switched from intermediate tyres to slicks on a slow-drying surface, he saw ahead of him McLaren’s Lando Norris (who went on to finish fourth, a place behind Sainz). Verstappen went charging adventurously into Turn 7 and ended off the road in a rubbery plume of white smoke.

He said: ‘I completely bottomed out as soon as I hit the brakes. I went alongside Lando and it is a little bumpy off line. I massively locked up both wheels and had a flat spot, so I had to box again.’

As for Perez, he produced an unremitting display from the moment he beat pole-sitter Leclerc to the first corner. He survived a stewards’ inquiry for twice falling more than 10 lengths behind the safety car, the five-second penalty meted out at 1.45am local time not enough to deny him a deserved triumph.

Max Verstappen called for rivals to keep their mouths shut amid spending cap breach accusations

Max Verstappen called for rivals to keep their mouths shut amid spending cap breach accusations

Max Verstappen called for rivals to keep their mouths shut amid spending cap breach accusations

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