F1: 2009 Singapore Grand Prix liveblog

By Andy Darley

CalendarSunday, September 27th, 2009

 
 

Formula One is under the lights of Singapore and the scrutiny of millions today as it embarks on its second night race and tries to put the Renault crash scandal behind it.

Lewis Hamilton starts on pole with a fuel strategy to win, the Red Bulls look racy and the Brawns have drawn a lucky break by the demotion to the back of the grid of Nick Heidfeld, moving them from the dirty to the clean side of the track.

Stick with us and keep refreshing for lap-by-lap updates – the latest will always be under this line.

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Post-race: And it’s God Save the Queen on the podium, with Jenson a huge step closer to the championship despite Brawn’s unpromising grid positions. Pretty dire race, though.

Lap 61: Last lap. Surely no brainwaves from Hamilton like the last race? Nope – he wins. It’s Glock, Alonso, Vettel, Button, Barrichello (closing very, very fast but JUST falling short), Kovalainen, Kubica, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Trulli, Fisichella, Liuzzi and that’s your lot. Lewis is told on the radio “a flawless drive from start to finish”.

Lap 60: All pretty quiet. Kubica, Nakajima and Raikkonen in 8th – 10th represent the only serious on-track rivalry.

Lap 59: Barrichello is told that Button has the same brake problem as him – and immediately asks how far up the road away from him he is. Ten seconds he’s told, firmly.

Lap 58: Vettel is also nursing his car but now has three seconds on Button. They’ve stopped racing at the front, it’s just the likes of Kimi still bashing away at it.

Lap 57: Button is now braking early for the harsher corners, he’s lost a second on Vettel in a lap. Team radio reveals Ross Brawn telling him to save the car to the end.

Lap 56: A replay shows an eruption of brake dust from Jenson’s right front. Kimi in 10th is taking whole seconds out of Nakajima in ninth. Remember that Nakajima doesn’t have a top eight finish all season – he’s only one retirement and a charging Finn from getting his first.

Lap 55: Hamilton’s lead is 7.7secs. Button is a second faster than Vettel, Ross Brawn comes on the TV feed to answer questions, sounds guarded about Button’s hopes of an overtake and says Barrichello has brake problems.

Lap 54: Jense being told – incorrectly – that three of the four Red Bull cars have retired with brake failures so Vettel may have trouble too. Actually one of the Toro Rosso had a gearbox failure but if it gets Jense motoring on the better tyres we’ll take it.

Lap 53: Kimi pits and emerges in 10th.

Lap 52: Button emerges in fifth, it’s Hamilton, Glock, Alonso, Vettel, Button, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Kovalainen.

Lap 51: Brawn mechanics out for Jense. He’ll come out in a fight with Vettel and Barrichello who is warned to look out for him as he emerges.

Lap 50: Button stays out again… it’s Alonso, Hamilton, JB, Glock, Vettel at the moment but Alonso pits.

Lap 49: Both Toro Rossos arrive in the pits at the same time and are both rolled into their garages. Meanwhile, Button is going great guns, setting personal bests.

Lap 48: McLaren have also pitted Kovalainen, giving Button the chance to jump him by staying out. In fact, Jense currently runs third behind Alonso and Hamilton.

Lap 47: Hamilton pits, perhaps hoping to beat a possible safety car but Webber looks to be beached somewhere safe. Barrichello, Nakajima also pit. Webber is shown to have spun gracefully backwards into one of the few run-off areas on the circuit and gone backside-first into the tyres. Alonso leads.

Lap 46: Webber crashes – surely a brake issue?

Lap 45: Webber pits in a thick cloud of brake dust. Comes out in 14th. Ted Kravitz in the Red Bull garage says Vettel’s diffuser is humped and Webber had debris in his front right brake.

Lap 44: Vettel emerges ahead of Raikkonen. It’s Nakajima 8th, then Vettel, then Kimi.

Lap 43: Vettel being told he’s still racing for fourth or fifth but is a second of his old pace thanks to the aero damage. At the moment, he’s seventh. It’s Hamilton, Glock, Alonso, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Button, Vettel, Webber.

Lap 42: Drive-through for Vettel is confirmed. This is Hamilton’s race on a plate now – if there had ever been any doubt. Glock and Alonso on for the podium. Wouldn’t it be funny-ha-ha-sickening if Hamilton and Glock come a cropper and Alonso wins again?

Lap 41: Vettel under investigation for speeding in the pitlane – he’s hosed. Jenson draws ANOTHER lucky card. He’s also knocked chunks off his rear diffuser wobbling and swerving over a high kerb.

Lap 40: Vettel pits. Emerges seventh. What – if anything – can Glock do? Buemi having fuel rig problems – J-Alg’s error damaged the first-choice hose, the back-up seems to have problems too.

Lap 39: An overtake! An overtake! Rosberg takes Alguersuari for eleventybillionth place. Such high hopes at the start…

Lap 38: Vettel’s wing mirror breaks off. We’d make a joke about that being the most exciting thing on track at the moment but flying debris stopped being funny a while back.

Lap 37: Hamilton is now the fastest car on track. Vettel pretty damn close too. Legard speculating the safety car might mean the race is ended on time, not laps.

Lap 36: As you were.

Lap 35: Glock closing a little on the two leaders. Rosberg makes a scheduled pitstop, emerges, comes within an inch of hitting the wall at the point Barrichello did in qualifying. Holds it off on full lock.

Lap 34: Still as you were.

Lap 33: As you were.

Lap 32: Rosberg fancies a bit of Trulli, but come on – how likely is that on a street circuit?

Lap 31: Half way point. Hamilton has padded the gap a bit. Apparently his KERS is now working again.

Lap 30: Vettel closes to 0.8secs of Hamilton. Barrichello is trapped behind Alonso while Button and Webber are behind Kovalainen, so this is Vettel’s big chance.

Lap 29: Vettel catching Hamilton and dropping Glock. Who knows, we may yet have a race.

Lap 28: Rosberg takes his penalty and emerges in 14th.

Lap 27: Post race investigation for the Sutil / Heidfeld crash. Nick blameless – and has lost his record for classified finishes. Although they’re racing, it *looks* like they’re still behind the safety car – very processional.

Lap 26: Restart. Rosberg doesn’t take his penalty immediately after all. Alonso looks briefly at Glock but nothing doing.

Lap 25: Sutil retires. Safety car due in.

Lap 24: Rosberg being told by his team to literally follow the safety car in for his drive-through. No messing about. Commentators point out this has hurt the drivers – like Button – who were staying out for a long first stint as they don’t get the light-running laps they were expecting. And of course Rosbrg will end up pretty much last because the field is bunched.

Lap 23: Order is Hamilton – Rosberg (pre-penalty) – Vettel – Glock – Alonso – Barrichello – Kovalainen – Button – Webber – Kubica – Nakajima – Raikonnen – Buemi – Trulli – Fisichella – Liuzzi – Alguersuari – Sutil. Out are Heidfeld and Grosjean.

Lap 22: Kovy and Button pit immediately, ditto Alonso and Nakajima. All racing to beat the pitlane closure. Rosberg will have to wait until the safety car comes in before he can serve his drive-through. Alguersuari drives off with fuel hose in, crew scattered like skittles.

Lap 21: Hamilton pits. Drive-through for Rosberge. Accident involving Sutil and Heidfied. The Force India driver tires an overtake on Alguersuari, clips his wheel, spins, collects Nick who drives safely down an escape road. Safety car – in the middle of the pistops, just like last year.

Lap 20: DC reckons Rosberg was caught by the new pit exit because he was one of the first drivers to use it under race conditions. Reckons the word will be spreading fast to watch out. Rosberg now officially under investigation.

Lap 19: Rosberg pits now. Emerges scrappily – runs wide, crosses out of the pit exit lane, over the kerbs, before he even reaches the white line protecting the racing line – surely a penalty. Webber pits.

Lap 18: Vettel pits. Comes out inches behind Barrichello – the Brazilian had been told to hurry up to avoid getting stuck behind him.

Lap 17: Hamilton’s lead is now three seconds. Legard reduced to doing tourist puffery as a marshal runs out to grab the debris in the few safe seconds.

Lap 16: Plenty of tyre degradation now, but not to any one driver’s advantage. “The race is settling down now” says Legard, but it did that – bar minor changes – on lap two.

Lap 15: As you were.

Lap 14: The yellow flag is explained – debris. A bit of Glock’s front wing fell off and landed inches off the racing line. It’s only take seconds to remove but it might require a safety car to allow a marshal out there safely to pick it up.

Lap 13: Hamilton leads Rosberg by about 2.5secs, Vettel about the same behind him and then 10secs to Glock. Liuzzi tries a pass on Fisi, the Ferrari driver defends but may get the same penalty as Webber. There’s a yellow flag out there too but no-one seems to know why.

Lap 12: Kimi overtakes Buemi for 12th.

Lap 11: J-Alg now leads a six-car train and frankly it’s the only thing of interest at the moment.

Lap 10: And now Rosberg’s hitting back, though he’s still two seconds down. Rob Smedley is obviously watching the TV, because he radios Fisi to tell him about Sutil’s woes and urge him to overtake. Fisi is significantly faster anyway. Kimi, Alguersuari, Sutil and Fisi are 13th – 16th.

Lap nine: Hamilton now pulling away from Rosberg gradually. Sutil is being told he’s overheating, stuck behind Alguersuari.

Lap eight: Grosjean, interviewed, says this is the worst weekend he has ever had. Given his Monaco GP2 crash, that’s really saying something. We now hear that Webber had to surrender a place to Alonso for overtaking him around the outside near the start. And as Glock had got past Alonso, Webber had to let him through too. Radio suggests an unhappy Australian.

Lap seven: Webber is suddenly in sixth, behind Glock and Alonso. No idea why yet but you have to suspect a wobble of monumental proportions – apparently lost 8secs in a single lap.

Lap six: Vettel is now fastest, though Hamilton responds. No change in running order since lap two, apart from Grosjean’s departure from the back of the field. Turns out to be his dodgy brakes again.

Lap five: The Beeb reports that 10th-place Button is already 18 seconds down on Hamilton – again underlining the importance of the fake safety car last year that backed the field up. Meanwhile Hamilton is being told on radio that his KERS has a problem. But frankly, with his lead, so long as it doesn’t actually electrocute him who cares?

Lap four: Hamilton’s lead is 1.5secs, Rosberg is keeping pace with him, the Red Bulls are hanging on too. And we’ve lost Grosjean already, crawling into his pit box at milkfloat pace.

Lap three: Kimi stranded down among the Toro Rossos after getting into dusty ground at the start, Fisi has gained some places but it’s not going to be Ferrari’s day today.

Lap two: It’s settling down now… Hamilton – Rosberg – Vettel – Webber – Glock – Alonso – Barrichello – Kubica – Kovalainen – Button.

Start / lap one: Hamilton keeps lead, Rosberg up to second, Alonso threatens to get third but Vettel defends and Webber eventually overtakes. Kovalainen going great guns with KERS against the Brawns. Glock’s got himself up to fifth at Alonso’s expense.

Celeb gossip alert: Nicole Scherzinger, supposedly estranged from Hamilton, is shown in her usual place in his garage.

Brundle makes the point we highlighted in our qualifying report – all four drivers trying to come to terms with new cars mid-season qualified at the back. The current testing regime is unsustainable. They’re on the parade lap now, anyway.

Interesting to see 7-11 sponsorship on the Red Bull – they spend a fair bit in IndyCar on Tony Kanaan’s car, of course.

Mario Theissen explains that Heidfeld’s penalty for having an underweight car came after they blundered with his ballast – paints an amusing picture implying mechanics scratching their heads trying to figure out the problem until the ‘doh’ moment, after which they turned themselves into the authorities for punishment. Was it an attempt to cheat in qualifying, he’s asked? No, he jokes – if it was, we wouldn’t have admitted it. Hmm.

Hmm. Renault – according to Jake Humphrey – are predicting rain. That’s a scary thought. Time for the Singaporean anthem now. Maybe it’s the lights, but that was an awfully shiny suit…

Gridwalk & preview: Ross Brawn and Rubens Barrichello sound optimistic, but there’s no sign of Jenson on the grid. His father John says he thinks he’s burning off some fuel, which sounds a bit dodgy to us.

Nico Rosberg reckons his strategy should trump Vettel’s and looks very chipper, while Seb sounds gloomy and cautious. Interesting. With Brundle pushing the idea that McLaren struggle on long runs, could we be seeing Rosberg – last year’s moral victor – on the top step of the podium?

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