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Rosberg wins S'pore GP, opening 8-point lead
ZIKA and the haze failed to have an impact on the ninth edition of the Singapore Grand Prix but the sluggish global economy did, in a mostly incident-free race won by Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
Trailing just 0.4 of a second behind him was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, followed by Rosberg's team mate and title rival, Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, while his team mate and last year's Marina Bay champ Sebastian Vettel was fifth, fighting from right at the back of the grid after his Ferrari broke down during qualifying.
The Mercedes team continues to dominate the Formula One season and won at the Marina Bay Street Circuit despite initial fears that Red Bull and Ferrari would leave the German team trailing around the twisty and slippery track.
Rosberg started from pole position and immediately charged ahead to open a big gap. But as he managed his tyres towards the end of the 61 laps, Ricciardo came dangerously close.
Before Rosberg's win, only three other drivers had triumphed in Singapore - Vettel, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. The safety car was deployed only once, when seconds after the start, Nico Hulkenberg's Force India clipped the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz and spun dramatically into the pit wall.
Under a clear sky with no worries about pesky mosquitoes or smoke from forest fires, there was the usual heat and humidity in a race filled with exciting overtaking on a tight circuit with literally little room for error.
One of the best moves was when Hamilton made a mistake on lap 34 to allow Raikkonen to pass him, although the former regained third place after the latter's pit stop on lap 47.
A factor that did affect this year's race was the economy. According to race promoter Singapore GP, overall F1 ticket sales in 2016 were about 15 per cent lower than in 2015.
However, the drop in the corporate crowd was less, at about only 5 per cent. Yet the turnout, at least on Saturday, in some of the hospitality suites was noticeably smaller.
But for Singapore GP, it was not unexpected. The race promoter is understood to have accounted for Singapore's depressed offshore marine and banking sectors. It also noted that the decline was in line with other races on the F1 calendar so far this year.
Still, the buzz around the Marina Bay Street Circuit was palpable, both among the human and animal audiences.
The latter included a family of otters in the bay peeking at the on-track excitement and action, as well as a large monitor lizard that cut across the circuit before the qualifying session on Saturday. While a trespassing tourist at last year's race was jailed, the reptile is unlikely to be taken to task.
After 15 races and six more to run, Mercedes is set to swipe both the drivers' and constructors' championships with a maximum of 150 points up for grabs.
Defending world champion Hamilton is now eight points behind Rosberg, who leapfrogged his team mate to lead with 273 points and is hungry for his very first drivers' title.
Ricciardo represents the best of the rest with 179 points - a massive 94 points behind Hamilton.
The Singapore race is the first to be held since new owner Liberty Media's £6 billion (S$10.7 billion) takeover of F1. The American corporation is expected to shake up the world's most glamorous motorsport by attracting a new and younger audience.
The F1 circus crosses the Causeway to the Sepang International Circuit in a fortnight's time. The Malaysian Grand Prix will follow the Singapore Grand Prix on Oct 2, instead of its previous March date. This means that after 15 years, it returns to the original end-of-the-year fixture of its inaugural Formula One World Championship race in 1999.
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