Lewis Hamilton reveals Red Bull theory as he gets podium and F1 rival Verstappen fails to win for first time in 11 races

SO that’s what happens when Max Verstappen doesn’t win.

Formula One fans were treated to one of the most exciting finishes in ages as Verstappen’s winning run came to a shuddering halt in Singapore.

Russell’s late crash allowed Lewis Hamilton to take thirdRex

AlamyIt was a rare tough race for Red Bull as Max Verstappen finished in fifth[/caption]

Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, George Russell AND Lewis Hamilton all slugged it out for the win and were separated by less than two seconds.

Ferrari‘s Sainz took the victory while Russell was left choking back the tears after crashing into the barriers on the final lap, so Norris and Hamilton completed the podium.

The exciting climax was exactly the stuff F1 bosses had been hoping for as this season had been dominated by the impressive Red Bull team, who had won all the previous 14 races.

But Hamilton does not expect this shock result to signal the end of their reign at the top, but more of a reflection that they have already downed tools on this year’s car in preparation for next year’s model.

He said: “I don’t know why they are far off pace wise, but it is great to see others up there. It is probably a possibility that they have not been developing.

“Others have brought upgrades and they are working on next year’s car because they are so far ahead and we are still developing this one.”

Verstappen finished in fifth after starting down in 11th after an unusually poor weekend, but he still managed to increase his lead in the championship over his teammate Sergio Perez, who was eighth.

However, despite his 151-point lead, it is unlikely he will retain his title next Sunday in the Japanese GP and is more-certain to do so two weeks later in Qatar.

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And he sent a warning to his rivals that he reckons will be back on the pace in Japan, saying: “I think we will be quick in Suzuka. It’s not my problem, it’s their worries!”

This race came alive in the final stages as four drivers competed for the victory in the gruelling Singapore heat.

Smart Sainz kept Norris at arms length – but sticking within a second of the McLaren man to allow him to receive the DRS boost to fend off the threat of Russell and Hamilton, effectively keeping him as a buffer.

The race went down to the wire and just as Russell tried one last bold attempt to squeeze past Norris, he clipped a wall and ended up in the barriers at turn 10.

It put him out of the race on the final lap, promoting Hamilton to third behind Norris and Sainz.

Russell was noticeably upset and said afterwards: “A millimetre lapse of concentration and game over. So just sorry to the whole team.

“You make a small mistake and you are bitten for it. It’s heart-breaking after such a great weekend. I feel like I let myself and the team down.”

Hamilton added: “We are all trying to be millimetre perfect and it is easy to make mistakes.

“George had been driving phenomenally well all weekend and it was unfortunate on the last lap to end that way, but he will continue to grow and improve and if I can help that – I will be here for the next few years.

“It is about keeping your head down, but I made a mistake last year and crashed into the wall. It can happen to any of us.”

Meanwhile, Norris was delighted with his second-placed finish after some help from his old McLaren team-mate Sainz – despite hitting the same wall as Russell on the last lap.

He said: “Carlos played it smart, there was no reason for me to attack him. George pressured me a lot and then Carlos backed off and gave me DRS, which was helpful. We played it in a smart way to keep the Mercs behind us.

“I did also hit the wall and damaged the steering so that it was off centre, but nothing more than that.”

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