Monday Motor Sport Report

F1: Lewis charges to Singapore win and title lead

DISASTER struck the championship leader Nico Rosberg while his Mercedes AMG team-mate Lewis Hamilton raced to a fighting win under bright lights at a steamy 2014 Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.

Rosberg, who enjoyed a useful 22-point advantage before the race, was forced to retire on lap 13 after a steering column wiring loom failure. The malfunction was first detected on the laps to the grid at the spectacular Marina Bay Street Circuit and ultimately left him stuck in neutral at his first pit stop.

For the fifth time in his Formula One career, Hamilton showed his dominance of a weekend with a clean sweep of pole position, fastest lap and the race win. He now leads the title race by three points.

When the lights went out, Hamilton tore off to secure an excellent buffer before a safety-car intervention brought the pursuers back on to his tail. But he again put a 26sec gap into Red Bull Racing pair Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso before making his final tyre stop, rejoining behind Vettel, the reigning world champ.

The Mercedes driver took less than a lap to reclaim the lead and thereafter was well in command to the flag.

Vettel and Ricciardo managed their tyre wear well enough to stay ahead of the equally rubber-impaired Alonso to claim the other podium places.

It was Vettel’s best result of the year, and Ricciardo nailed yet another podium, despite being compromised by intermittent battery issues.

Perth’s finest, who again out-qualified his four-time world champion team-mate to start third, lost out to Vettel and Alonso in the usual madness in the opening few seconds of what he regards as his second “home” race, Singapore being only 500km further from Perth than Melbourne.

Alonso cut the first chicane and had to give back a position to Vettel, but Ricciardo was not so lucky.

RBR team principal Christian Horner was not convinced that Alonso shouldn’t have been forced to also cede a position to Ricciardo after the Ferrari driver’s inventive pass. “After an interesting start, Fernando had to give back the position to Sebastian, but unfortunately not Daniel also.”

This and the pace car later meant the team was all about strategy on the fly. 

“We went onto the soft tyre at the first stop; by the time we got to the second, Fernando had got the undercut on us, so we went onto the different tyre to change the strategy,” said Horner.

“Then the pace car came out and we were in a horrible situation of having to decide if the tyre could make it to the end. But the drivers did an incredible job today and got the cars to the finish on what must have been minimal rubber by the end.

“Second and third is a great team performance, especially with the double pit stop [both cars stopping on the same lap] during the race, which was done in an exceptional time.”

Ricciardo suggested the Singapore GP was “solid” for the team. But not as strong as it might have been.

“We were really close to the Mercedes in qualifying and we expected the race pace to be a bit faster today, to be honest,” Ricciardo said after the race.

“We weren’t quick enough in the first stint and we had a few other issues going on, with brakes and some power issues that were coming and going.”

Renault’s Thierry Salvi didn’t shy away from Ricciardo’s powerpack problems: “Daniel had reliability issues with his power unit and had to manage the energy management in very tricky situations. He again proved his ability to stay calm and focused, even in difficult situations, and stayed very quick. Once again reliability is the key point and we suffered this weekend.”

Then some optimism from the Renault man: “The car has the potential to win and we need to work harder to deliver it in the final races of the season.”

Ricciardo, too, remains hopeful of better things to come at the next GP: “Suzuka is in two weeks and that’s another track we can be optimistic for, so I’m looking forward to that.”

WRC: Rally Australia must finish in Sydney

AFTER praising Australia’s world rally championship event for its slick organisation, spectator-friendly vantage points and roads that the competing drivers really like, co-driver turned commentator Luis Moya says the event would be even better if it finished in Sydney.

“Everyone loves this rally, but it is too far from big population centres,” said Moya, who called the notes for dual world champ Carlos Sainz in 24 WRC events the Spaniards won together.

Moya, now a popular commentator for European television as well as an ambassador for the Volkswagen WRC team, believes a big finish to Rally Australia in the nation’s biggest city would bring it to greater attention from media and curious Sydneysiders.

NASCAR: Logano wins chaotic Chase race

JOEY Logano raced way on the restart to win a chaotic finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, advancing to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Logano stayed out of strife through a total of 15 cautions at the Sylvania 300, but had the speed at the end to go away with a pivotal win.

Logano’s win after Team Penske team-mate Brad Keselowski’s success in the opening Chase race is an ominous show of strength by the mega-bucks outfit  just months out from a V8 Supercar debut in Australia.

But before Penske gets its V8 Supercar campaign up and running, its focus is on winning the 2014 Sprint Cup championship with one of its two gun drivers.

Four drivers will be eliminated after every third race, and a win guarantees an automatic berth into the next round. Logano and Keselowski have both advanced.

Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola are in the bottom four of the 16-driver field and at risk of getting cut at Dover next week.

Though ineligible to win the title, the four dropped drivers will continue to race until the end of the season.

Having missed the race for the Chase, Marcos Ambrose is merely making up the numbers in his final NASCAR season. At New Hampshire, he drove the Richard Petty Ford to 24th.

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