Lewis Hamilton won the second ever night race in Singapore earlier today, with a confident drive to which none of the others had an answer. The world champion was as assured as he was during his championship year, with a car working extremely well under him. The real winner of the day, however, was his fellow Brit Jenson Button. Button’s fifth place takes him ever closer to the world championship, particularly on a day when none of his close rivals could score heavily.
Sebastian Vettel looked the most likely to put the pressure on Button, with what had looked like a fast car. But his pitlane error cost him dearly, and may well be a turning point in the season. The perennially unlucky Mark Webber will also rue the mechanical failure that led him into retirement, but he had not looked as swift as Vettel this weekend. Button’s team-mate Barrichello, perhaps labouring with a car damaged by his accident yesterday, was not the force he should have been.
This year is looking increasingly like one Button will win by default. The man from Frome has not been convincing since Turkey, but yet none of his rivals have had the car, or have shown the steel to push home the advantage Button’s lack of form has conferred on them. Webber is, by way of his retirement today, now out of the world championship – and many thought him the most credible candidate to topple the Briton. Vettel has made mistakes, but has also been dogged by a lack of reliability that has put the kibosh on his championship aspirations.
Meanwhile, the fact that the car has come to him late in the season, when some other teams are winning races, has effectively rendered Barrichello’s challenge less potent. He may well come to regret the lack of early season form that saw him following Button home when Brawn were dominating. He still is the man in with the best chance but he has to hope for misfortune for Button.
Other performances of note include that of Timo Glock, who earned a well-deserved second in his Toyota. It is a sign of how far that TF109 has come – that it was so uncompetitive at Monaco, and yet on a street circuit later in the season it can come second to a McLaren. Toyota are perhaps finally showing signs of the level of endeavour that succeeding in F1 requires.
Fernando Alonso was a half-decent third, as well. The Renault man brought his car home for the first Renault podium of the season, and promptly dedicated it to the team. The team as well as Flavio Briatore, a quote which will probably raise eyebrows. Alonso’s performance on the track can never be faulted, however. In a season when the cars have been perhaps more influential than ever before, with both their new aerodynamic configurations and occasional lack of reliability, it is still a pleasant sight to see the two best drivers, Alonso and Hamilton, reminding everyone of their prowess.
And meanwhile a man who has not been at his best for some time edges towards the championship, because he has still been better than all the rest. The F1 championship is a marathon, not a sprint, and Button could see glory come his way as early as Japan next week.