Escape to victory

Hamilton has chance in S'pore to top drivers' standings if results go his way

MONZA - In two weeks, the Marina Bay Street Circuit may well provide a stunning backdrop to one of the most dramatic Formula One races in recent times, with the drivers' world championship lead at stake and the sub-plot of a feud between team-mates festering.

Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix for Mercedes yesterday to cut German team-mate Nico Rosberg's F1 world championship lead down to just 22 points with six races remaining.

If Hamilton (216 points) wins the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix and Rosberg (238) finishes outside the top eight, he will be the new championship leader.

In F1, the race winner earns 25 points and the driver coming in ninth gets two points.

Hamilton will surely arrive here full of confidence, having won the Singapore night race with McLaren in 2009, and on the back of an impressive outing at Monza.

He dropped to fourth on the opening lap but recovered with a daring high-speed slalom to take second and then the lead.

He finished 3.1 seconds ahead of Rosberg, who appeared to crack under pressure after 29 of the 53 laps when he made a mistake at the first chicane.

A poor consolation for the German runner-up, it was still the first time he had finished on the podium at Monza.

Rosberg was booed when he stepped onto the podium as the fallout from his clash with Hamilton early in the Belgian Grand Prix a fortnight ago effectively ended the Briton's race.

Brazilian Felipe Massa came home third, 25 seconds adrift of Hamilton for his first podium finish of the season, ahead of his Williams team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas, Australian Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull team-mate and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.

It was Hamilton's sixth win this year, his second at Monza and the 28th of his career. He needs just three wins to equal Nigel Mansell's British record of Grand Prix successes.

For the first time in five years, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso failed to finish a race, retiring his Ferrari with mechanical problems.

"Well done guys on the deserved one-two, it's a good result for the team," said Rosberg in a team radio message. "Sorry to the guys on my side of the garage. It's a shame."

On a bright near-perfect late summer's afternoon, it was Rosberg who made a perfect start.

Hamilton appeared to be bogged down without sufficient torque to pull away from his first pole since Barcelona in May, allowing not only the German but also Kevin Magnussen and Massa to pass him and pull clear.

Within a lap, a partial answer emerged when Hamilton radioed in to report he was racing without the use of his Energy Recovery System. The team confirmed he had to wait for a reset but the Briton, keen to recover, made swift inroads into his rivals' advantage.

Significantly, Mercedes had changed the front wing on Hamilton's car on the grid before the start, after a team member had, it was reported, caused some damage. He pushed hard but without doing enough before he pitted and rejoining just behind Rosberg again.

Yet despite his crew advising him to sit tight until the final laps, he pushed on and pressed the German. It paid off as Rosberg, for the second time, ran straight on at the first chicane and presented the lead to the Briton on lap 29.

The drivers' championship lead may well follow at Marina Bay.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE