Formula One : Hamilton Takes Singapore Night Race in Style

Nico Rosberg at the Italian GP 2007
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Lewis Hamilton drove a superb 61 laps to take the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix today and was joined on the podium by Timo Glock for Toyota and Fernando Alonso for Renault. Alonso helping to dispel the evil spirits floating round the street circuit following Renault’s torrid week as the cheating which gifted him this race last year by Pat Symmons and Nelson Piquet Jr. came out. Jensen Button ended a less-than-spectacular weekend for leaders Brawn by managing to snatch an extra point from teammate and challenger Rubens Barrichello.

By no means an easy race, all the drivers faced huge physical, technical and reliability challenges in the heat of a humid evening on the island. McLaren warned Hamilton early on that his KERS system may well be malfunctioning; the Red Bull cars – including Torro Rosso – all faced reliability issues with Mark Webber having to spin his car to a safe stop as his front brakes failed. Similar fate awaited the Brawn duo who clung on to coax their cars in for 5th and 6th with dying brake systems. Poor old Nico Rosberg, who jumped Vettel at the start to track Hamilton throughout the race in 2nd place, lost all when he jumped the white line exiting the pits to face a drive-through penalty which effectively took him out of the race. Great result for Glock who needed to do well to keep himself in the market for a drive next year.

Perhaps the most controversial incident – in a race chock full of issues including an outing for the safety car – was the penalising of Mark Webber who had to allow both Alonso and Glock past after being judged to have taken an advantage by using the off-track area to pass the Renault. Controversial in that earlier races on the same circuit had seen similar tactics used by other drivers who were not penalised. Definitely a rules infringement but with varied interpretation by the stewards and doubly harsh as he had to allow both drivers by, whereas Alonso arguably also benefited from the same drift. This probably would not have made much difference as Webber’s car ultimately failed him and there is no indication this is due to the earlier battle.

Last word for Sebastian Vettel who let Rosberg take him on the start but otherwise kept pace tactically to challenge Hamilton briefly for the race. I always saw the Red Bulls being hit by engine and/or gearbox problems as the drivers use up their allocation but the brake problems which felled Webber and challenged others were a result of the local conditions, not season-long wear and tear. Vettel penalised with a drive-through for speeding, he still managed to exit the pit lane in 7th, very much still in the race, he nabbed a point back on Button but way behind the potential shown at the start. It may not be his year – still in with a numbers-chance if the Brawns fail to score / DNF in the remaining 3 races – but the young German is very much one to watch and will doubtless be Hamilton’s main challenge for the Championship next season.

Great entertainment and a superb package again from the BBC. With the Crashgate scandal now hopefully put to bed and a real race on for the championship, if only between the Brawn pilots, it’s on to Japan next weekend.

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