Hamilton dominates in Singapore;
Button extends title lead with a champion’s drive;
Opportunity missed for Red Bull: Vettel hit with penalty; Webber crashes out
Lewis Hamilton flew to his second win of the season with a pole-to-flag victory in the Singapore Grand Prix, while under pressure championship leader Jenson Button did everything that was asked of him by climbing to fifth place from eleventh on the grid crucially finishing ahead of his teammate and title rival Rubens Barrichello.
Much like last year’s Singapore Grand Prix, there was little in the way of overtaking around the Marina Bay circuit and it was left to the safety car to produce the main drama. Mark Webber triggered its second appearance when a brake failure pitched his Red Bull into the barriers on Lap 46 – effectively writing off his title hopes in the process.
Timo Glock was the chief beneficiary having fuelled to the end of the race moments before Webber’s crash. The Toyota driver went on to finish in second place ahead of last year’s controversial winner Fernando Alonso who set a searing pace on the softer compound tyres during his final stint to claim his second podium of the season.
Sebastian Vettel finished fourth but could have challenged Hamilton for the win had he not picked up a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane during his second pit stop.
Nico Rosberg was another driver to see his hopes of a podium dashed by a penalty. The Williams driver was on course to repeat his stunning second place in last year’s event – untill he crossed the white pitlane line after his first pit stop. He was forced to wait until after the first safety car had come in before taking his penalty, which dropped him to the rear of the grid.
Vettel’s penalty allowed Jenson Button to consolidate his championship lead with fifth place. The Brawn started on the sixth row of the grid after what he described as a “disastrous” qualifying performance, but a solid start allied to a long middle stint enabled him to bring himself into play in the second half of the race, while the second appearance of the safety car helped him to vault ahead of Barrichello and Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren.
Robert Kubica picked up the final points paying position for BMW Sauber ahead of Williams’ driver Kazuki Nakajima in ninth.
The result sees Button extend his championship lead to fifteen points over Rubens Barrichello with just three races remaining.
“It was a good day for us,” Button told BBC Sport. “I’m happy to get fifth, which is four points and pull one of Rubens and only lose one to Sebastian Vettel. It was a good race. I go to Japan very positive for the next race.”
“I wish I did those laps in qualifying,” he said pointing to a string of flying laps on the softer compound tyres in the latter stages of the race.
“That’s the frustrating thing. It would have made life easier for me in the race. I got stuck behind Heikki Kovalainen for quite a few laps, but when he pitted I was able to get past him.
“I could see Rubens pulling away because he was stopping four or five laps shorter than me but I couldn’t do anything. It’s difficult because when you’re that close behind someone you lose downforce.
“The first safety car was frustrating because I was going three or four laps longer than Heikki. When he pitted I should have had three full laps and would have done Rubens and maybe Mark Webber, so it didn’t work for me. But I’m very happy with the result.”
Button’s compatriot Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, who has started on pole position in the last two races but failed to convert them to race victories, was relieved to get to the chequered flag to claim McLaren’s second win of the season – and the eleventh of his career.
“It was a tough race, not easy that is for sure,” said the world champion. “There is no break, so the focus is as much as you could possibly get. I came here hoping to have a good result and hoping to redeem myself after the last race, I did it, we did it and very, very happy.”
“It was a very very tough race, I think I could speak for all of us. Conditions made it very tough. Generally the race was pretty straightforward for me. I got a good start and managed to bridge a good enough gap. I knew I was longer than the guys behind me.
“I had a lot of serious pressure. I knew I was five laps longer, so I looking after tyres and it was a nicely controlled race.”
“The team said there was possibly a fault [with my KERS device] but it was still working. I had to disable it and re-engage it. There were quite a few switch changes. There was never a problem after that.
“I did have a bit of pressure from Nico and the cars behind at the beginning. They seemed to be quick at the beginning, I was looking after tyres but paid dividends in the end.”
Hamilton was lucky not to get caught out by the deployment of the safety car. It first came out on Lap 21 in response to a collision between The pair were being held up by Jaimie Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso at the rear Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld.of the grid – a situation that for Force India at least was in stark contrast to their recent performances in Spa and Monza. A frustrated Sutil sent a move up the inside of the Toro Rosso but he spun on the inside kerbing and collected Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber. The Force India driver pitted for repairs to live another day, but Heidfeld was forced to retire.
Alguersuari meanwhile went on to have a moment all on his own at his first pit stop. The Toro Rosso rookie left his pit bay before the lollipop had been raised, and as the fuel hose was still attached, he knocked several of his pit crew onto the floor. No one was seriously injured, but the teams morale took a further hit when Sebastian Buemi in the sister STR car was forced to retire due the lack of an available fuel rig.
The big loser of the first safety car period was Nico Rosberg. The Williams driver was on course to repeat his stunning second place in last year’s event – untill he crossed the white pitlane line after his first pit stop. He was forced to wait until after the safety car had come in before taking his penalty, which dropped him to the rear of the grid.
He eventually climbed to eleventh place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who, along with Ferrari teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was having a torrid time getting the F60 to perform around the twisty Marina Bay circuit.
Fisichella, who must be wondering whether he made the right decision to switch to Ferrari from Force India, found himself locked in a battle with his former teammate Tonio Liuzzi at the rear end of the grid – a further testament of the difficulties of overtaking at the Marina Bay street circuit.
The Italian eventually hauled himself ahead of his compatriot after the second round of pit stops.
Meanwhile Romain Grosjean’s torrid weekend continued as he retired on Lap 5 with a brake problem.