McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton won the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, while Brawn GP driver Jenson Button extended his Formula One championship lead by one point.
Hamilton started from pole and protected his lead to finish 9.6 seconds ahead of Timo Glock, who equalled Toyota’s best-ever race result by finishing second. Fernando Alonso provided some good news for scandal-hit Renault by finishing third for the team’s first podium finish of the season.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel pursued Hamilton for much of the race, and closed the gap to just half a second after 37 of 61 laps. But his hopes of victory were dashed by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, and he finished fourth.
Button worked his way up the field from 12th place to finish fifth, one place ahead of teammate and championship rival Rubens Barrichello. Button leads the championship by 15 points ahead of Barrichello with three races to go.
“I’m really happy to get fifth, four points, pull one on Rubens and only lose one to Vettel, so really this has been a good race,” Button said.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber exited on lap 45 after a brake failure that sent him spinning off the track, effectively ending the Australian’s slim championship hopes. Webber had been running in fourth in the early part of the race.
Brawn now holds a 42.5-point lead over Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, meaning it needs just 12 points over the final three races to take the crown in its inaugural season.
Vettel is 25 points behind Button, and has little chance of preventing one of the Brawn drivers from taking the championship. However, he was not conceding defeat quite yet.
“There’s always a chance,” Vettel said. “We try to push as hard as we can and try to win races. If not, at least finish second, if not, at least finish third. We want to do the best we can and see what happens.”
Barrichello is running out of chances to overtake Button, but was equally defiant.
“I’m not going to throw my towel in,” Barrichello said. “I will fight to the end.”
McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen was seventh and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica was eighth.
Hamilton’s only headache came early in the race when his KERS power-boost system failed, which required the driver to reboot the system via some button pushing on the steering wheel - quite a feat on a circuit of constant turns.
“Like I didn’t have enough things to think about in the car, pressing all those buttons, but it was fun,” Hamilton said.
While Vettel loomed up during the second stint, Hamilton described the race as “pretty straightforward.”
“I was never really under serious pressure. When Vettel was behind me I knew I was five laps longer (fuelled) and I just had to keep him behind.”
Williams driver Nico Rosberg was running second through the first stint of the race, but crossed the pit-lane exit line on his way out after his first stop, and had to serve a drive-through penalty that cost him a chance of any points. He finished 11th.
Alonso’s podium finish brought some smiles back to the Renault garage after a week when they dealt with the fallout of having staged a crash here last year. The team lost team principal Flavio Briatore to an indefinite ban, chief engineer Pat Symonds for five years and saw an exodus of major sponsors.
“I would like to dedicate it to Flavio, who I know would have watched the race on television,” Alonso said. “Part of the first success of the season is due to him.”
Glock’s second-place finish was a welcome return to form for Toyota - believed to be weighing up its F1 future - whose early season strength had dissipated in the European races.
“When you fall down and fight back again, its really important for the team,” said Glock, who equalled his personal best finish.