Hamilton wins as Button closes on title

2009 Singapore Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton took an emphatic win in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton took an emphatic win in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton took his second victory of 2009 in dominant fashion in the Singapore Grand Prix.

But the McLaren driver would have had a tougher fiht on his hands if his two closest challengers, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, hadn’t been handed penalties for pit lane transgressions.

Meanwhile Jenson Button moved closer to the championship by finishing one place ahead of team mate Rubens Barrichello.

Webber in trouble at start

Start, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

Start, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

Hamilton never looked like being headed into the first corner, but there was a desperate scramble behind him as Rosberg and Fernando Alonso moved up from their advantageous positions on the clean side of the track.

Rosberg took second place off Vettel with little difficulty and Alonso, who’d taken Mark Webber with similar ease, shaped up to pass Vettel at the first corner.

Vettel rebuffed Alonso and that left the Renault driver back in the clutches of Webber. He moved around the outside of the Renault at turn seven, but both drivers ran wide and went off the track. Webber held the positon, and Timo Glock darted down the inside of Alonso at the following corner to take fifth.

Webber didn’t keep the position for long. On lap six he slowed and let Glock and Alonso past on the instruction of his team. Whether they felt they were likely to get a penalty, or race control had told them they would, isn’t clear – but Webber was clearly unhappy about the decision after the race.

Penalty stymies Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Singapore Grand Prix, 2009

With a little more fuel on board than the cars immediately behind him, Hamilton didn’t pull away by much at the front. By lap six he had just 1.9s over Rosberg. That was partly due to problems with the McLaren’s KERS, which refused to work early on in the race, before coming back to life again.

Vettel was the first of leaders to pit, coming in from third on lap 16. Rosberg came in on the next lap but this stop proved the undoing of his race. On his way back to the track he asked a little too much of the surface grip at the pit lane exit, skidded wide and across the pit lane blend line. A penalty was inevitable.

What happened next turned Rosberg’s plight even worse. Adrian Sutil was locked in battle with Jaime Alguersuari, and spun his Force India while trying to pass.

Unwisely, he kept his foot down and tried to set off while Nick Heidfeld was passing in his BMW. The pair made heavy contact, putting Heidfeld out on the spot (ending his record streak of finishes) and leaving Sutil crawling back to the pits and retirement. After the race the stewards handed Sutil a fine but did not give him a penalty for the next race in Japan.

The safety car came out while the marshals dragged Heidfeld’s broken car away. With the rules stating Rosberg could only serve his penalty on a racing lap, it meant he would fall even further down the order once he finally took his penalty.

Amazingly, in a repeat of last year’s race, we now saw a car attempting to leave its pit with a refuelling hose still attached. This time it was Alguseruari, who jumped away from his mark before the signal. But he didn’t make it as far down the pit lane as Felipe Massa did, and was able to return to the race. However, both he and team mate Sebastien Buemi failed to see the chequered flag due to technical problems.

Hamilton made his pit stop as the safety car was heading onto the track and he kept the lead of the race. After Rosberg took his penalty Vettel took up second with Glock now third ahead of Alonso.

Vettel put Hamilton under some serious pressure during the second stint, rarely more than a second behind the McLaren. That was partly because he had less fuel on board, but when he came in for more on lap 39 he made the mistake that ended his hopes of victory. He broke the pit lane speed limit, and a return to the pits three laps later for a drive-through was inevitable. Making matters worse, his right-hand mirror had fallen off, and a skid along a kerb damaged part of his diffuser.

Vettel penalised too

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2009

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2009

Vettel’s problems meant Hamilton was now under no pressure at all and Barrichello moved up to fourth ahead of Heikki Kovalainen and Button. The championship leader was fuelled to pit a few laps after his team mate, but another incident gave him the opportunity to get ahead.

The lap after Vettel served his penalty, Webber came into the pits. As well as the fuel and tyres routine, his mechanics played close attention to the overheating front-right brake. He kept going but two laps later the car got away from him at turn one and he went backwards in the barrier at speed.

A swathe of drivers reacted by diving into the pits in anticipation of the safety car being deployed: Hamilton, Kovalainen, Nakajima, Alguersuari, Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonio Liuzzi and – crucially – Barrichello, but not Button.

The safety car wasn’t deployed, and when Button finally came in five laps later he had built up enough of a lead to hold a comfortable advantage over Barrichello.

That was the last major development in a race that had often been quiet. Button didn’t bother chasing after Vettel, preferring instead to look after his troubled brakes and increase his championship lead by a precious point. If he takes five more off Barrichello at Suzuka next week, he’s the new champion.

But it was the reigning champion who was un-catchable at Singapore. It might not have been a vintage race, but unlike last year, at least the result was genuine.

Singapore Grand Prix

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120 comments on Hamilton wins as Button closes on title

  1. Chris P said on 28th September 2009, 2:17

    Favourite moment of the Singapore GP:

    As the drivers were in the back room getting ready for the podium, Lewis and Timo were sucking down bottles of water to rehydrate and in comes Fernando with a can of Coke! I’m not an Alonso fan but that deserves some credit.

    Next weekend, if he makes it onto the podium, I’m hoping for him to light-up a cigarette while chugging down the champagne! Bring back the days of the semi-professional driver, I say.

  2. Just a little note , on LH’s 1st pitstop,he had 21 guys working on his car….rule is 20 max.

  3. m0tion said on 28th September 2009, 2:37

    Webber’s flick around and use of his rear brakes to prevent a big shunt was great car control. With the Webber decision I think Charlie Whiting should feel under a lot of pressure now. He wasn’t clean in the Piquet thing either because he needed to have been proactive when he got notice. Here Alonso was taking Webber wider out and Webber was in too far in to be expected to back off and the choice of touching when you have available run off should not be forced upon drivers by Charlie Whiting. Kimi by comparison drove off at an angle and Mark just stayed on it holding tight and parallel next to Alonso. Bye bye Charlie, not good enough.

  4. Bigbadderboom said on 28th September 2009, 6:38

    I agree that Kimi completley got off with a cynical bit of driving in spa, and i also agree that Webbers control after the brakes gave out was quality. BUT he used part of the road that was not designated as track to his advantage in aiding the passing of another car, if the run off wasn’t there then he’d be in the wall or have to brake and pull in behind, the consistancy is nothing short of apalling in the stewarding I agree but Mark broke the rules, you cannot complain about that, but you can complain that Kimis went unpunished.

    • m0tion said on 28th September 2009, 8:33

      Bigbadderboom, I like your wall analogy BUT if there was a wall I believe it would have also been in Webber’s favour. Alonso didn’t have momentum out that previous corner, so much so that he didn’t need to move across to Webber’s line while he was trying getting back on the gas. He only did it because he could do it without touching. Alonso is that smart, the smartest in the car by far, and they have both raced like that in the past … but they don’t touch unless there is no choice.

    • I agree. This needs to be looked at because there is, yet again, inconsistencies in rulings. Brundle yesterday described the Webber/Kimi decisions of it being a “matter of judgement.” Others will say that it’s a “matter of what car you’re driving.”

      If the FIA is remotely interested in sorting F1 out and rid F1 of the bad reputation it is currently experiencing, then the performance of the stewards needs to be address. Todt has mentioned bringing in a Stewards Review Group to sort these issues out and if/when he is elected I hope the group does.

  5. every race iv watched, before they step onto the podium they all speak to each other…at singapore they all sat down shaked hands and never spoke a word. Is it me or do you think timo and lewis where quiet about alonso being 3rd incase it was another fix? or where they just tired.

  6. If McLaren put a good car together next season and Kimi joins Lewis it will be like 1988 McLaren clean sweep (almost)but with 2 Senna’s rather than a senna and a Prost!! Bring it on.

  7. I’m surprised (though not really) that Red Bull weren’t at least reprimanded over sending Webber out with clearly failing brakes after his last pit stop.

  8. UnicornF1 said on 28th September 2009, 11:56

    it is outrageous the penalty to Webber.
    He was forced to surpass from outside.
    Moreover, Alonso was from the outside too.
    They were both off the track, so why should Alonso take Webber’s position?
    Also check what is happening to a previous corner –> http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/lap1_sing_2009-470×313.jpg
    Alonso is going once again from the outside.
    I think this issue should be a topic by itself and be discussed thoroughly and evenmore now that elections for the FIA president are expected.
    I’m sicked of the FIA rules that depend from the team that they are applied to.
    But I forgot… Alonso should get a podium before he gets to Ferrari. Probably his expected red uniform gave him the advantage over poor Webber.

    Renault and Alonso are overprotected by FIA or is it just me that sees it like that?
    Does this overprotection sources from the fact that Alonso moves to Ferrari?

  9. UnicornF1 – Really, have you really thought about what you posted?

    A) it was not a penalty from the FIA, Red Bull asked him to give the place up so that they avoid the much more costly stop-n-go.

    B) Alonso was in front of Webber. Drivers don’t get penalized for going off the track when they don’t pass anyone. Alonso is not passing Webber in your picture and he was not passing Webber when they both went off….Webber was passing him!! Therefore, Webber gets the call from Red Bull. it’s pretty obvious that it is ‘fair’ when during the radio transmission from Red Bull to Webber (RB says give the positions back to Alonso and Glock), Webber said “why Glock”….he didn’t question giving a spot back to Alonso, he knew…

    So, what is kinda weird is that he gave Glock the position. the Alonso position was clear…this makes your Ferrari and overprotection comments silly…or worse…

    But it does make Patrickl’s comment funny…

    • UnicornF1 said on 28th September 2009, 21:35

      A) Are you sure about that? Check Webber’s interview: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78990

      Mark Webber – DNF: “We had a suspected brake problem, so when I came in for my pit-stop, the guys made a visual check. It seemed reasonable for me to continue, but then we had the failure and I retired. The guys did everything they could – I think they were seconds away from retiring me when we had the failure, so it’s disappointing. The first lap was pretty feisty, as you’d expect on a street circuit and I had a bit of a fight with Fernando in Turn 7 and we both ran wide. About nine laps later I had to let Fernando back through, but unfortunately Glock was in the middle by then, so I had to let them both through. My race was heavily compromised from there. I thought the incident was fifty/fifty – but the stewards decided I had to let Fernando and Glock through, so I lost the hard work I’d done during my first stint. It was a hard penalty I think, Kimi did something similar in Spa and got away with it. I’d like to say thanks to the guys in the garage for this weekend – they’re awesome and that’s why we’re second in the Constructors’ Championship. Fingers crossed we can finish this year on a high.”

      B) If RedBull called and not FIA then ok, my comment is silly. But my comment is based on Webber’s words I quoted you above.

      So, what did really happen?

      • Yea, I’m sure…he passed Alonso while running wide. Alonso didn’t pass him, so it’s obvious that he gained advantage.

        The stewards probably made the call to give the position up, but it is ridiculous to think that track stewards want Alonso to win because he is going to Ferrari MAYBE next year….to imply that the FIA is overprotecting Alonso is silly given that it was a pretty clear off track over taking.

        For a guy like Webber (outspoken on other drivers) to say 50/50 means nothing at all, he’s basically saying it was a fair call.

        • UnicornF1 said on 28th September 2009, 22:57

          ok I am withdrawing this silly comment. It was a wrong think to say.

          …but at the end of the day you admit that this was a stewards call which would result in a penalty if Webber didn’t obey.

          The point is that Webber was running wide and passed Alonso who was also running wide.
          So why should we favor one or the other?

          • ok, it does seem as though the stewards made the call.

            But, there is not driver favoritism here just because they both went wide. The problem with this situation is that Webber gained advantage by going off and passed Alonso. Alonso was in front so he couldn’t gain an advantage. there is nothing in the rules that says the car in front can’t go off track, even if they theoretically gain an advantage (example, Alonso goes wide to legally block Webber, Webber does not get by….no penalty)

            So, it doesn’t matter what Alonso was doing…he could have been doing a 360 at the apex. the bottom line is you can’t go off track and make a clear pass (the Kimi at Spa turn 1 situation is debatable because either 1) the stewards missed it, 2) he didn’t make a clear pass OR did not have any other option [which is what Kimi said], or 3) there is a grand conspiracy set forth to dictate the outcome of every race by handing out…or not handing out penalties.

            the bottom line….Webber should have known better and stayed behind…I seem to remember Button doing it a few times this year and look at where he is in the points.

          • UnicornF1 said on 29th September 2009, 21:51

            Maybe you have a point there, I agree the way you present it.

            However I think the rules should be clearer and applied everytime in the same way. Evenmore, between the stewards there should probably be also a retired F1 driver who knows the sport from the inside and has experienced several situations.

  10. wasiF1 said on 29th September 2009, 3:22

    what was Nico thinking?He threw a podium?

    The championship is over for Red Bull!
    It will be good for them to concentrate for next year car & let the two Brawn drivers fight.

    I think Jenson Button will be champion,all he needs to do is to stay behind Barrichello.

  11. Praveen Titus said on 29th September 2009, 14:42

    According to the available evidence, it wasn’t Alonso’s fault that Symonds, Briatore and Piquet indulged in foul play. Alonso really was in a class of his own last year at Singapore and deserved the win (ie, if he did not have a part to play in the conspiracy). He proved it again with a brilliant 3rd place this year. He was my driver of the day, though I didn’t like him dedicating his podium to Briatore. His one-off bearded appearance though was cool. Alonso is a class driver – let’s not take that away from him. Any wonder Ferrari is pursuing him?

  12. m0tion said on 30th September 2009, 0:22

    mfDB, you ran away from the line I put to you. If there was a wall instead of a runoff, Webber would have had the pass because Alonso wouldn’t have “”blocked” him into it. Maybe Keith can post the video and we can see just where the cars were relatively from the previous corner where Webber was already outside and hads drive while Alonso was inside and had lost momentum. I’m thinking you are spinning it for Charlie. Even Todt says there are changes coming in top ranks. I have a fairly good track record predicting events and both Bernie and now Charlie are on my list.

    • UnicornF1 said on 30th September 2009, 10:24

      “Ifs” do not help.
      If there was a wall or a sand trap at Spa, Kimi wouldn’t have gone wide and would turn the first corner 5th or 6th!
      If in Singapore the kerbs were absent and the drivers were given all the available space we wouldn’t have this conversation now.

      Here are some video links:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMCMfqiQiDM
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5ixCQE5EOI

      and Kimi at Spa (this video was linked to the previous one):
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcjM6LYxS7k

    • motion, I’m not sure what you mean by running away from the line, i guess you mean a previous post.

      If there was a wall Webber would be in the hospital. Like Unicorn said, “ifs” are meaningless. If I was an F1 driver, I would have backed off and passed Alonso properly. I’m not spinning anything for Charlie, just discussing the rule of passing off the track as I’ve seen it applied since I started watching F1 22+ years ago. We’ve seen it time and time again, you cannot pass someone off the track. The isssue here isn’t if Webber did something illegal, that’s obvious. The only issue is the inconsistency with handing the penalties out.

      To say that Kimi went off at angle and his move was more illegal than Mark’s is insane. I think they were both illegal. You said that ‘just because Mark was going straight he shouldn’t be expected to back off’ (???) what really, he passed Alonso off the track….what does going straight have to do with that. Webber knows better and didn’t even complain about it (and of all the guys out there, Mark would have thrown a fit if he disagreed).

  13. UnicornF1 said on 30th September 2009, 11:08

    Please, check this battle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qjQiOJpHBM
    would you be satisfied if someone got a penalty for driving and overtaking off-track?
    Wouldn’t you prefer to be able to see more of this and less penalties?

    • Unicorn, did either of them get a penalty for that, I can’t remember, but I don’t think so. That was a crazy battle. they both ‘seem’ to be giving position back when they gain advantage (Kubica seems to do it at min 1:28.

      The rule seems pretty vague with that type of racing and going off track, were they bumped and did they gain an advantage.

      Just for argument sake, what if Buemi started 17th in Monza and just cut the turn 1 chicane, came back on track and was 7th. would anyone be satisfied with that?

      The point is, going off track and gaining advantage is and should be illegal.

      Even more important is that the rules are vague and the people handing them out are basically incompetent. I’m ready for a change in the system.

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