Lewis Hamilton: I knew I was going to win when it rained

Hamilton and Mercedes get the race of their dreams (1:07)

After seeing both Ferrari drivers retire on the opening lap, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes capitalised in a big way. (1:07)

Lewis Hamilton believed he could claim an unlikely Singapore Grand Prix victory as soon as rain started to fall in the build-up to the race.

Hamilton and Mercedes had braced themselves for a race of "damage limitation" after struggling in qualifying. Hamilton could only manage fifth place ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, while Hamilton's chief Formula One title rival Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole.

A downpour in the afternoon had already left the Marina Bay Street Circuit damp, before another shower hit just before the start of the race, leaving the field with no option but to take on either intermediate or full-wet tyres for Singapore's first-ever wet grand prix. Having lacked pace in dry conditions on Friday and Saturday, the Briton was relieved to see the rain fall.

"I needed it to rain, and as soon as it rained, I knew where I was going to finish," Hamilton said. "I knew I had the pace when it rains, but unfortunately we just didn't have the car in the dry, but today with it raining, those are my conditions that I love to drive in.

"If it was dry it would have been much harder, the Ferraris and the Red Bulls were much stronger than us in those conditions but it was a nice reset with the rain that came in and we had intermediates to start with. Still being in that scenario I thought it would have been much closer.

"It's an opportunity to really make a difference with your driving in those conditions. It was the first time for all of us driving in the rain so it was a massive, massive challenge and I love that. That's when you have to rise to the toughest challenges. That's the most exciting part for me. It was just about staying focused and not making any mistakes."

Hamilton made a lightning start to move past Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and profited from a dramatic first-corner collision which wiped out rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to sit second behind Vettel heading into Turn 1.

The Briton was promoted into the lead of the race when Vettel -- who also got caught up in the opening lap clash -- lost control of his Ferrari and spun into the wall on the exit of Turn 3 and retired. Hamilton says he had been looking forward to battling Vettel on-track prior to the German's crash.

"Daniel put up a really good fight today and I enjoyed racing him, but I was hoping I would get to race with Sebastian at the beginning. Coming out of Turn 3 I was just excited to race Sebastian, I was like 'it's on, I'm ready for it' and then obviously he had a problem with the car or whatever it was and lost control."

Hamilton expertly managed three Safety Car periods and went on to take his third victory in Singapore, extending his lead in the championship to 28 points in the process. He believes the challenging conditions made his 60th win in F1 all the sweeter.

"I didn't even realise [it was 60] but wow. I need some time to digest it but these kinds of wins are a lot more satisfying than from pole. When it's those tricky conditions, it is the trickiest race for us. It's so tricky not to make any little mistake. All I needed to do was to bring it home but Daniel was behind me and I couldn't make any mistakes so it was a real challenge but I enjoyed it."