The miracle Lewis Hamilton had called for came on the astonishing first lap of the Singapore Grand Prix, when his title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out in a three-car smash at 120mph.
It made Hamilton, the eventual winner, the clear favourite for the title, his lead extended to 28 points with six races remaining.
Rain was falling hard on the street circuit as the action began – the first wet night race ever. And the action lived up to the context as Vettel, who started on pole, gently squeezed Max Verstappen, who was the sandwich in the path of Kimi Raikkonen, who had started fourth.
Lewis Hamilton took charge of the championship in Singapore as he surged to victory after Sebastian Vettel crashed out
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen collided with his teammate Sebastian Vettel in the first turn of the race
Vettel apologised to his Ferrari team-mate for the crash by radio message after trying to edge out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen
The German looks distraught after his race ended early, which could turn out to be a defining moment in the championship
Nothing that happened from now on was in any way gentle. Tearing away along the start straight and, having just flicked up to fourth gear, BANG. Verstappen and Raikkonen collected each other, ending their races there and then.
Vettel, whose Ferrari was damaged but not wrecked by the impact, carried on for a moment or two longer but he finally spun out, his car helplessly trickling the wrong way against the traffic.
The safety car came out. And Hamilton was suddenly in the lead, one he maintained for the rest of the night on an exciting occasion that felt pivotal in the championship contest.
Fernando Alonso was also involved the collision after sandwiching Verstappen in between himself and Raikkonen
Verstappen’s damaged Red Bull car is removed from the track following the crash in turn one
Verstappen looks on frustrated after being forced to retire for the seventh Grand Prix this season
Fernando Alonso, who like Hamilton had made a fine start, was caught up by the out-of-control cars, retired from the race after carrying on despite being lifted off the ground.
Who was to blame for the accident that sent sparks flying into the night?
Martin Brundle, commentating on Sky, said: ‘I think it was Vettel’s fault as he didn’t realise his team-mate (Raikkonen) was there and squeezed Verstappen. If you’re going to blame anybody, you have to blame Vettel. There was nowhere Verstappen could go.’
Vettel put a brave face on his massive setback on a circuit suited to the Ferraris. ‘I don’t know, I didn’t see that much,’ said the German.
Hamilton was in pole position for the race now but Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was not giving up easily
Mercedes driver Hamilton did manage to gain a nine-second lead on Ricciardo and seemed set for a comfortable win
But Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson was shown a yellow flag on lap 38 after spinning out on the entry to Anderson Bridge
Ericsson’s crash led to the safety car coming out much to the anger of Hamilton as he saw his lead slashed
‘I had an average start and then went to the left trying to fend off Max and the next thing I get a bump on the side and see Kimi’s car.
‘That’s how this business is, and we’ll move on. It doesn’t change much.’
Raikkonen was not going to blame his team-mate, saying: ‘I don’t think I could have done anything differently to avoid it. I made a good start but then, unfortunately, got hit.
‘I knew where Max was and whatever the cause of the accident, it doesn’t change very much. The result is what it is.’
However, Verstappen, whose front left wheel first collided with Raikkonen’s right-hand side, said exactly what he thought: ‘I think mainly Sebastian started squeezing me. Maybe he didn’t see Kimi on the left but that’s not an excuse.
‘If you are fighting for the world championship you shouldn’t take those risks, squeezing someone that much. You can see what happens. Lewis is leading the race and the three of us are out.
‘I don’t think it was a racing incident. I was in the middle doing nothing wrong. We’ll see what happens.
‘I’m happy not only I retired, but all three of us, so we all have a bit of pain.’
The stewards said they would look into the matter after the race.
The early accident was a massive stroke of luck for Hamilton, who made no mistake as the rain soon stopped and the track slowly dried. He has now won the last three rounds, and has a firm grip on the standings going into the next race, in Malaysia, in a fortnight.
Daniel Ricciardo, of Red Bull, was second, keeping Hamilton honest throughout the long and exhausting night, which included three safety cars, the other two for minor accidents involving Daniil Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson. Valtteri Bottas was third.
Britain’s Jolyon Palmer finished sixth for Renault – his best and first points’ scoring finish of the year. He drove well and deserved his eight points.