SINGAPORE - Lewis Hamilton moved to the top of the Formula One standings with victory in Singapore on Sunday, yet the Briton was more relieved than delighted after his team mate suffered mechanical issues and the safety car was deployed midway through the race.
Hamilton had arrived in Southeast Asia 22 points behind fellow Mercedes drive Nico Rosberg but after squeaking pole position in qualifying, Hamilton made the most of the German's misfortune to forge a three-point lead by the end of the day.
Rosberg found himself stuck on the front row of the starting line when his steering wheel failed, eventually beginning the race from the pitlane, and when he retired after mechanics failed to solve the issue, Hamilton had a clear path to victory.
"Obviously yesterday in qualifying it was close between everyone so I didn't really know what to expect today but I got off cleanly," Hamilton, who recorded his seventh victory of the season, told reporters after beating the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo to the line.
"It would have been a far more hardcore race had Nico been with me as the car was feeling very good and we would have been strong. Later on in the race, I was a little bit unaware of what I needed to do."
Hamilton got away cleanly and appeared well on course for an easy victory until a seven-lap safety car period midway through the race altered the strategies of the three cars behind him, with all of them opting to run to the finish on the same tyres.
The Briton had yet to use both types of tyre - a mandatory requirement for every race - so needed to forge a big a lead as possible to give himself a comfortable advantage ahead of his final pitstop.
"The second-to-last stint, I extended my lead as long as I could and the team said 'we need 27 seconds'. I needed six seconds more at that point and my tyres were dropping off so I didn't really understand why," he added.
After pitting on lap 52 and returning to the track just behind Vettel, Hamilton was confident his fresh soft tyres would carry him through to a second Singapore victory following his 2009 triumph.
"Fortunately we got to where I needed to go and we pitted. I came out and saw Sebastian going past but straight away knew they were doing a two-stop strategy and I would have good pace," he added.
"So I took it easy on the first lap and it was actually a tight gap where I passed and maybe I should have overtaken him somewhere else but he was very fair and I got by.
"It was an amazing job from the team and the guys back in the factory. The car was spectacular in the race."
Despite inheriting the championship lead from his team mate, Hamilton admitted that he would have preferred to see Rosberg pick up points than suffer his second retirement of the season.
"Well of course the points are something... I came here hoping to really gain those seven points (25 for a win, 18 for second) and anything more than that was just a bonus, so today of course those extra points are a huge help," he said.
"That's several DNFs (did not finish) we've had now on either car and we want to continue getting those one-twos still.
"I know the team will not be 100 per cent happy today because we wanted to win collectively, we want to be the dominant team all together, so by not getting that result, they'll be going back to the drawing board, trying to figure out what happened." With five races remaining, Hamilton leads the standings with 241 points while Rosberg has 238.