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GP Week : Issue 228
in the hunt. Hamilton may have snatched third from Raikkonen but the big points were always going to disappear down the road. What comes of Hamilton's retirement could be a key factor as the championship begins building to a crescendo. His retirement came because of a throttle problem, tracked back to an issue with the engine itself and not the fly-by-wire pedal or sensors. How much of an issue that proves could dictate whether Hamilton needs to take a new engine for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, which would be his fourth of the season. Rosberg is already staring down the barrel of a grid penalty for an engine change at some point towards the end of the season after he took a fourth engine in Singapore. Hamilton, at this stage, is not in that position but with Ferrari gaining a head of steam the question is how big does Mercedes gamble, and how certain it is in the reliability of whatever engine it straps to Hamilton's back. Elsewhere Max Verstappen drove a fine race, though it shouldn't be forgotten it was his error which forced him to do so. The young Dutchman stalled at the start and was lucky not to be collected as the field streamed by. He eventually began the race from the pit lane a lap down and was lucky with safety cars, though they are a certainty around the Marina Bay circuit. The simple fact is he should never have been at the back of the pack in the first place. He drove well for eighth place, and was right not to let Carlos Sainz through as the team asked in the closing laps, but the question remains where could he have finished had he not made a meal of the start. Pastor Maldonado had a scrappy race. He qualified poorly on Saturday and in the race itself routinely missed apexes and ran wide. That was precisely the cause of his coming together with Jenson Button after he ran off the circuit while defending. The Lotus driver fared rather better than Button in that exchange but couldn't help but be mugged in the coming laps by a couple of feisty Toro Rosso's. At McLaren it was another disappointing race. Having hoped and perhaps even expected points out of the race to end the day with neither car running was a bitter pill. What was fascinating was Button's attitude across the weekend, both in the car and out of it. There was far less of the PR poker face and far more personality, which was endearing for fans but gave the impression of a man who no longer cares. His quips back to the team during the race also suggested a man simply going through the motions and not as committed as he perhaps once was. He was far more open in his criticisms of other drivers too, Maldonado in particular, than he has been which only adds to the suggestion that the former world champion could soon become a former Formula 1 driver. It all leads into the Japanese Grand Prix, which begins on Friday, and creates one of the most anticipated races of the season. At Honda's home track McLaren will be looking for a stronger performance while Mercedes will be looking to prove its lack of pace in Singapore was an isolated incident. Ferrari meanwhile will look to build on its mementum while victory for Vettel, and retirement for Hamilton, catapults the German back into the championship hunt. 22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> SINGAPORE PARTNERS: