Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen wiped out in first lap carnage

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The incident brought out the safety vehicle and allowed Hamilton into a lead he would keep through two more safety auto periods and a perfectly-timed switch to dry weather tyres.

The conditions did not seem to hinder good starts, however, with both Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen making good getaways - and that was where the chaos began.

"We have a long race and a lot of things can happen".

Ferrari blamed Verstappen, while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the 19-year-old was a victim "of somebody else's accident".

That cost Hamilton his 10-second advantage over Daniel Ricciardo but as the race became a countdown to the cut-off time, the Mercedes driver held on to take an invaluable 25 points. "Who would have known that would happen", Hamilton said.

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"But I think Lewis, with where he was on Friday and where he is now, can hang on to the group".

Having started from fifth, on one of the toughest tracks in Formula One for overtaking, Hamilton could not believe his luck. I hoped I would get to race Sebastian at the beginning.

Pole-sitter Vettel, who had been looking to reclaim the world championship lead from Hamilton, spun further ahead and lost his front wing, a crash that also ended his race.

The FIA stewards announced that the startline incident was under investigation, with a ruling expected after the race. "I'm sure there will be more opportunities".

The race was far from over for Hamilton however, with rain falling intermittently and Marcus Ericsson's crash forcing the safety auto to return on lap 38.

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With three safety auto interruptions, the race ended with 58 of the 61 laps completed after hitting the two-hour mark.

The Ferrari driver spoke to the media about the first lap incident after retiring, he said: 'I didn't see that much.

"Initially Sebastian saw I was a little bit better off the line than him and he wanted to close me off, and maybe didn't see Kimi on the left", Verstappen said.

The safety auto came out again shortly after, as Daniil Kvyat crashed his Toro Rosso.

While Alonso was eventually forced to retire, this drive offered a reminder of why McLaren have been so desperate to keep him.

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