Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix for McLaren-Mercedes and promptly paid tribute to the Marina Bay Street Circuit on which the 12th victory of his career was earned.
HAMILTON HOME FREE ON ‘FABULOUS’ SINGAPORE TRACK
“It’s a fabulous track,” said the 24-year-old World Champion after claiming his second win of 2009 in front of a Singapore crowd just short of 80,000, “the fans are fantastic and they put on a great show here.”
Second, matching the best performance of his F1 career to date, was Germany’s Timo Glock for Toyota, while Fernando Alonso – race-winner in the Lion City last year – produced an upbeat ending to a difficult weekend for Renault with third place, the team’s first podium finish of the season.
Although Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull, the World Championship fight tilted significantly back towards the Brawn GP team, for whom Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello finished fifth and sixth respectively, while Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber crashed out with suspected brake faliure after 45 laps and failed to score a point for the fourth consecutive race.
Brawn now have 153 points to Red Bull Racing’s 110.5 with just 54 to fight for in the final three races of the year, and Button’s hopes of a first Drivers’ World Championship look even stronger as the Englishman leads his Brazilian team-mate by 15.
While the top three finishers were all in the top four in Singapore last year, the missing driver from that 2008 quartet was Nico Rosberg.
The Williams-Toyota driver, second in Singapore in 2008, looked set to challenge for another podium finish until he incurred a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line at the pit exit, relegating the German to a lowly 11th this time.
The race’s major incident came after 21 laps when Adrian Sutil in the Force India had a coming-together with Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber, ending Heidfeld’s remarkable run of 42 consecutive classified race finishes. Sutil had attempted to lunge past the Toro Rosso of Singapore newcomer Jaime Alguersuari, half-spun and collected the hapless Heidfeld as he tried to rejoin the race.
Earlier the Singapore crowd was treated to three enthralling support races – and an historic first for Singapore itself when Ringo Chown stormed to victory in the Aston Martin Asia Cup, the first local driver to take a race win at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Chong, who won the race for the first corner and held off Aussie Mark Williamson and fellow-Singaporean Mok Weng-Sun for 10 exciting laps, was so excited he missed the pit lane entry on his slowing-down lap – then shed a quiet tear on the podium as he thought of his father, a race winner in Singapore as long ago as 1967.
In the 12-lap Porsche Carrera Cup Asia encounter, Christian Menzel emerged from a tight tussle with series leader Tim Sugden through the opening three corners into a lead which the seasoned German driver held throughout.
Behind them Darryl O’Young and guest driver Craig Baird scrapped over second spot until O’Young’s engine went rough on the final lap, allowing Baird and Danny Watts to round out the podium places. Sugden, meanwhile, recovered strongly to come home sixth.
Brazil’s Felipe Nasr continued where he left off on Saturday, streaking into the early lead in the second Formula BMW Pacific race and defying a late Safety Car intervention to win from Americans Michael Lewis and James Kovacic. Singapore’s Suriya Bala Kerisnan Thevar was an unfortunate early retirement on the challenging Marina Bay track.