Lewis Hamilton drove a perfect race under the artificial lights and took full advantage of the circumstances in both the race and in qualifying to take a convincing 9.6-second victory in today's Singapore Grand Prix, his second victory of the 2009...
Lewis Hamilton drove a perfect race under the artificial lights and took full advantage of the circumstances in both the race and in qualifying to take a convincing 9.6-second victory in today's Singapore Grand Prix, his second victory of the 2009 Formula One season.
"It's tough race, it's not easy for sure. But the track is fantastic, and the fans here are amazing," said Hamilton. "I came here hoping to redeem myself after the last race, and I did it, we did it, and I'm very, very happy."
Hamilton started his McLaren-Mercedes from the pole position, and with the extra power of the KERS system, the Briton easily claimed the lead into the first corner, followed by Nico Rosberg's Williams-Toyota, the German having outsprinted second-place starter Sebastian Vettel from the grid.
Early in the race he had a minor scare as the team radioed him and asked him to switch off the KERS unit as they had detected a probably fault with the system, but the problem cleared itself after Hamilton reset it.
"I had no problems in the car with the KERS," Hamilton explained. "But the team came on the radio and said there was possibly a fault. I had to disable it and re-engage it, and it worked after that."
Rosberg was able to keep pace with, and even push, Hamilton throughout the first stint, but his chances ended as he exited the pits after his first stop on lap 19. As Rosberg was accelerating out of the pits, he lost traction on the tight Singapore pit exit, and slid across the white blend line, incurring a drive-through penalty.
His fate was sealed as the safety car came out -- for a Nick Heidfeld-Adrian Sutil incident -- just as the penalty was confirmed: Rosberg was not able to serve his penalty during the safety car period, and had to wait as the field collected behind Hamilton, effectively ensuring that Rosberg would end up dropping all the way to the back of the field.
Hamilton, on the other hand, made a snap pit stop as the safety car came out, making sure not to lose additional track position.
That left the challenge to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, now freed from behind Rosberg, and once again Hamilton had a hungry young German hanging onto his rear wing. The two traded fastest laps, but neither was Hamilton able to pull away or Vettel able to force the McLaren driver into a mistake.
And, as for Rosberg, it was the pit stop that doomed Vettel's challenge: as he pitted for the second time on lap 40, he was caught for exceeding the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed limit in the pits. Further, as he left the pits, he lost a part of his rear diffuser, critically reducing his rear downforce.
As Vettel ducked into the pits for his drive-through penalty, he handed second place to yet another young German, this time Tim Glock. This time Glock didn't have the pace to challenge Hamilton, but he completed his steady drive in the tropical conditions to take a career-best second place, matching his result from Hungary in 2008.
"I had a good first sting, but I knew I didn't have the pace of the first two or three guys," said Glock. "I just settled down and concentrated. After I changed to the option tires (for the final stint) I pushed quite a lot. My team did not say where I was, and suddenly they said I was safe for P2, I was quite surprised!"
Fernando Alonso, who won the 2008 race in the "crash-gate" scandal-marred race, took advantage of the other front-runners' misfortunes -- apart from Rosberg's and Vettel's, Mark Webber failed to finish, running into the barriers on lap 46, as his brakes failed just after his second pit stop.
The two-time world champion Alonso had had a solid start, taking the outside line through the first corner in his fight with Webber , but while he managed to keep the Australian behind, Glock got past both of them, setting him up for the eventual second-place finish.
"We didn't have the pace all weekend to be on the podium," Alonso admitted. "We have the podium, so (it's) much better than expected."
Of the remaining championship contenders, Vettel was the only one to be able to mount a challenge for the lead, or even for a podium position. His teammate Webber fell steadily backward through the field until the brake failure finally wrote off his day, and the Brawn GP drivers, the front-runners in the championship, were never a factor after starting 10th and 12th on the grid.
Rubens Barrichello looked to be the stronger of the two Brawns, and he made his way past McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen to run seventh early on. With Rosberg's penalty and Webber's DNF, he was able to move up and finish sixth, but not fend off his teammate and championship leader Jenson Button.
Button, who spent most of the race following Kovalainen around the track, got his opportunity when McLaren pitted Kovalainen early in case the Webber incident would bring out another safety car. It didn't, so Button was able to put together a string of quick laps with his light car, and as he exited the pits on lap 62, he had leapfrogged not only Kovalainen but Barrichello as well to take fifth at the chequered flag.
"The first stint was quite frustrating as I could see Rubens getting away from me whilst I was stuck behind Heikki with a heavier fuel load," Button explained. "The safety car then made it very difficult as I still had fuel for a few more laps and should have been able to make up two places at my first stop. I had to put in some quick laps before my second stop to close up to Rubens and then we were pushing to catch Sebastian before deciding to save the brakes and settle for the fifth position."
For the Maranello crew it was another race to forget. Kimi Raikkonen might have run as high as sixth in the late stages, but that was only due to his short final stint: the Finn could do no better than 10th at the finish. For his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, recently of Force India, it was even worse, as he crossed the line in 13th place, ahead only of Vitantonio Liuzzi in the second Force India.
With Vettel being able to rescue fourth place after his penalty and broken diffuser, the three rivals finished fourth, fifth and sixth, minimizing the changes atop the championship standings. With three races remaining and a maximum of 30 points to be handed out, Button still has a strong hold on the title, with 84 points to Barrichello's 69 and Vettel's 59.
See also: Race results