x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hamilton's night delight

The world champion's second win of year, but the McLaren man is helped as penalties hit the respective challenges of Vettel and Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton in action in his McLaren-Mercedes last night on his way to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton in action in his McLaren-Mercedes last night on his way to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton picked up his second win of the season with a virtuoso display to claim the Singapore Grand Prix last night as world championship front runner Jenson Button extended his lead at the top with fifth place. Hamilton dominated the night race in his McLaren-Mercedes as he led from pole and the world champion never put a foot wrong on the tight track as he claimed his 11th career victory.

His nearest rival was Sebastian Vettel, but a drive-through penalty for pitlane speeding at his second pit-stop, dropped the Red Bull man down to fourth, denting his flagging title hopes. Timo Glock picked up his best result of the season with second in his Toyota while Fernando Alonso picked up third for Renault. Button moved up from 11th at the start to be fifth in his Brawn GP car, benefiting from a late second pit-stop to leapfrog teammate Rubens Barrichello and crucially extend his lead by a point to 15 points with three races to go.

But the day belonged to a jubilant Hamilton, who said he had enjoyed the race despite early technical problems with the Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) button on his car. "I felt it was a nicely controlled race from myself and I want to thank my team again for a fantastic job," he said. "I had a problem with my Kers where I had to switch it off and then on again - it was a bit complicated but it worked - and after that I just enjoyed myself."

Hamilton had used his Kers to good effect at the start as he led into the first corner, with Nico Rosberg's Williams passing Vettel to take second. Hamilton built up a three second lead during the early stages of the race, but a safety car period on lap 23 after Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber had struck Adrian Sutil's Force India, leaving debris across the track, forced the field to be bunched up again.

Rosberg dropped out of contention after the safety car as he was forced to serve a drive-through penalty after cutting over the pitlane exit line, allowing Vettel to close in on Hamilton. But Vettel's chances of winning were wrecked by his pitlane speeding penalty, and he gained only one point on Button leaving him 25 points adrift with a maximum of 30 left. His teammate Mark Webber crashed out with 15 laps to go due to brake failure, and the Australian's fourth successive race without a points finish has ended his championship chances.

Hamilton cruised home with Glock picking up his second podium of the season. But the drama in the latter stages of the race came from Button as he moved up the order. Heavy with fuel at the start, the Briton's hopes of leaping up the order at the first round of pit-stops was wrecked by the safety car period. He was held up behind Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren, but was able to run five laps longer at the second round of stops and set his fastest laps of the race to not only pass the Finn but also his teammate Barrichello, who had been held up by slower cars earlier in the race.

Kovalainen finished seventh, with Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber taking the final points scoring position in eighth. gcaygill@thenational.ae