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Lewis Hamilton

The hidden mistake in Hamilton's greatest lap

It is now five years since one of the greatest laps in Formula 1 history - through Lewis Hamilton at the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.

XPB 959284 Hi Res
To news overview © XPBimages

Every Formula 1 driver will tell you that a perfect lap is just impossible to achieve.

Maybe there was a snap of oversteer here, a loss of traction that cost you a fraction of a tenth there or perhaps you braked slightly too early for the left-hander to end the lap that meant you spent longer in the corner and couldn't get on the power quite as soon as you would have liked.

Lewis Hamilton has been a particular advocate of this idea, that perfection is just not possible to achieve despite getting it right on a Saturday 104 times from his 324 entries - a strike rate of 32.10%, more than double the next highest active driver. No prizes for guessing who that soon to be three-time World Champion is.

But the closest Hamilton has ever got to achieving his perfect lap came at the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix, in the middle of a white-hot title fight with Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari - with the Marina Bay circuit considered a Mercedes 'hoodoo' track.

Until Hamilton pulled out his greatest lap.

The background

Heading into the race, Hamilton had just come off the back of a stunning 'away' win in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Kimi Raikkonen had taken pole with Vettel riding shotgun on the front row and Hamilton third, but with the Finn not in title contention, the expectation was that Vettel would be waved past and Raikkonen act as rear-gunner.

That might have worked had Ferrari not informed him on race day morning in Italy that he was out for 2019 and Charles Leclerc in.

So, at the start, Raikkonen moved to defend against Vettel, who was got an awful run through the first chicane and allowed Hamilton a run through Curva Grande as he stuck it up the inside on the run to the Della Roggia chicane.

As Hamilton swooped around the outside of Turn 4, he and Vettel collided, the Ferrari spinning out, leaving Raikkonen the only threat to the Mercedes.

Hamilton would hunt Raikkonen down and took the lead on Lap 45 for the second of four wins on the trot, extending his lead over fourth-place finisher Vettel to 30 points.

But Singapore was a track that did not suit the Mercedes long-wheel base with the team struggling there historically, although Hamilton was the defending race-winner after the first lap carnage in 2017.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The controversy

After picking up the win at Monza, there were two weeks before the flyaways started, as Hamilton clocked up the airmiles.

He flew from Milan to London to Shanghai to New York and finally to Singapore to promote his clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger, much to the disgust of Fleet Street's finest who were out-raged at the temerity of Hamilton, especially when the title was on the line.

Toto Wolff rubbished that when asked about it in Singapore, insisting that a happy, relaxed, content Hamilton would be a super fast, devastating Hamilton on track.

And so it proved.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The lap

Throughout practice, Hamilton's pace had been nothing special, and he narrowly avoided a Q1 exit by a couple of tenths, with only Pierre Gasly behind him who advanced to Q2.

Q2 was better and just a tenth off the pace before Hamilton unleashed a lap for the ages.

He clocked in at 1:36.015 having danced the W09 through the streets on his first run, going 1.329s faster than he had minutes before in Q2.

But, if you listen and look closely, approaching Turn 20, Hamilton changes down into third gear to help better turn the car for the right-left chicane.

On the exit of Turn 21, he fractionally keeps the car in third gear for too long as the rev-limiter goes crazy.

Despite this minute mistake, it was enough for pole after he had aborted his second lap following a mistake at Turn 5 and getting beached on the exit kerb.

Max Verstappen man-handled the Red Bull to within three-tenths but Hamilton had delivered the lap.

He would convert into a simple victory, pulling out a further 10 points on third-place finisher Vettel and head to Russia and Japan in form.

His fifth-title was wrapped up in Mexico with the Singapore pole lap proving a decisive blow to Vettel and Ferrari's hopes.

Is Lewis Hamilton's pole lap at the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix his greatest ever? Let us know in the comments below and by voting in the poll!

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