Hamilton relieved to win 'longest race of my life'

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium.
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Lewis Hamilton made it look simple on the night, but victory in the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix had come with a few scares along the way for the Mercedes driver.

โ€œI am spent. That was a tough race,โ€ Hamilton said afterwards. "It was a long race. That felt like the longest race of my life, so I am glad it is over.

"What a day, what a weekend. I feel super blessed!"

Hamilton's pole winning lap in yesterday's qualifying session was clearly crucial to the outcome of the race - but so was getting a smooth launch from the grid at the start.

"We had a great start," said a relieved Hamilton. "After that was really just able to control the pack, control the pace and look after the tyres and push when I needed to push."

An early safety car and subsequent restart was easily dealt with. Mercedes also reacted promptly when Ferrari attempted an undercut strategy for Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel ended up losing track position to Max Verstappen, and the Red Bull became the biggest threat to Hamilton in the latter stages of the race.

"Max put up a good fight," he acknowledged. "He obviously had some great pace toward the end, so then he would put in a good time and I would pick up the pace.

"I wasn't sure if I would be able to match him at least but it turned out that I could and I pulled away a bit."

Verstappen's best chance to stage an upset was when Hamilton found himself badly held up trying to lap Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin who were absorbed in their own scrap for position.

"Things definitely got interesting towards the end with the backmarkers, which was incredibly difficult," Hamilton admitted.

"You already felt the draft from the cars when you're five, six seconds behind and the car would start to slide a bit more.

โ€œI think I was a little bit unlucky with the traffic,โ€ he said. โ€œThese guys were moving around, it was quite difficult to follow.

โ€œI think Max probably was a little bit luckier getting by some of the guys in terms of at what point on the track, and the guys wonโ€™t let me by, so jeez it was close."

Hamilton and Verstappen received an apology after the finish from race director Charlie Whiting for the delay in clearing the slower cars out of the way, but Hamilton understood the difficulty.

"You can't see the blue flags - they're very dark blue and in the smallest holes out there," he said. "You actually can't really see them until the light panels come on, and then you can see.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.

"Even when the light panels came on the drivers weren't really responding so it made it very, very tough."

It allowed Verstappen to try a move on Hamilton in turn 10, the only moment when Hamilton's victory was in question.

"I had to put on a massive defence and even then I was racing the backmarker," he said. "They still weren't lifting off as I was alongside them .

"That was tricky but after that it was okay. It gets your hairs standing up for a second.

โ€œMy heart was definitely in my mouth for a minute but once I got clear of them I was able to put the pedal down and pull away.โ€

Victory this weekend with Vettel finishing in third place means that Hamilton is now 40 points ahead in the drivers championship with six races remaining.

He said he was surprised that Ferrari hadn't been more of a threat this weekend, at a track that normally suits them far more than it does Mercedes.

โ€œThey put up a good fight this weekend,โ€ he said. โ€œI am not really sure where their pace disappeared to."

While he certainly isn't counting any chickens just yet when it came to the title, Hamilton is clearly feeling positive about his chances of securing a fifth championship.

"It is a dream for any driver, probably for anyone to have a platform to deliver your potential," he told Sky Sports F1. "Even if we're slightly behind in raw pace maybe.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium with third placed Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari. 16.09.2018.

"I don't think about Sebastian, I just think about being the best I can be. I know when I'm at my best, I truly believe - Serena [Williams], Muhammad Ali would have said it, any top athlete - when I'm at my fittest and my clearest mentally, no one can beat me.

"You have to have that. If you believe that when you're at the best you can potentially come second, you've lost already."

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