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GP Week : Issue 101
31 HEIKKI Kovalainen made a split-second decision not to enter the pit-lane with his Lotus increasingly engulfed in flames – opting instead to try and stop near a marshall’s post. The car had caught fire, with just over a lap to go, after a collision with Sebastien Buemi's Scuderia Toro Rosso. After the race., Kovalainnen explained that he hadn’t realized just how big the fire was until he was about to enter pit lane. He opted to stay out and coast down the straight, looking for a marshall with an extinguisher. In the end, he was able to put the fire out himself, with an extinguisher passed across the pit wall, but the car was badly damaged. Smart thinking from Heikki as Lotus engulfed F1 SINGAPORE >> A second DNF in a row – this time after an on-track fracas with Mark Webber – has left Lewis Hamilton with work to do to get back into the championship chase. The collision happened at Turn 7 on lap 36. Webber’s Turn 5 exit had been compromised by lapped Lucas de Grassi, offering Hamilton some momentum. He pounced through the Turn 6 right- hand sweep, side-by-side, to nose ahead, but Webber came back –now on the inside – into Turn 7. It was very, very tight, Hamilton turning across the Red Bull, hooking his left-rear over Webber’s right-front. Normally, the money would be on damage to the front suspension of the inside car, but infact it was the McLaren which was terminally damaged. Webber, though, continued on, albeit into a nail- biting final 25 laps with a vibrating right- front wheel. The retirement was Hamilton’s second in as many races, having retired in Monza following similar contact with Felipe Massa at the second chicane. As a result the Briton goes into the final four races with a 20-point deficit in the championship: “I couldn't have expected a worse two races especially at this crucial stage of the season,” said Hamilton. “I saw Mark made a mistake and got caught by a backmarker so I knew I could slipstream him into Turn Seven and I thought I was enough past him. “I couldn't see him and turned in and left enough room and the next thing I know I got hit. I don't know what happened. I'll have to watch it on TV and see what really happened. Twenty points is massive and with four races to go that is a big gap, I have to get my head down and hope for something.” Ferrari may have closed the gap on Red Bull since their crushing victory in Hungary two months’ ago, but McLaren still has a lot of work to do to reel in the championship leaders and, with time quickly running out. In the second half of Sunday’s race, Jenson Button lost an average of a second per lap to Alonso and Vettel at the front of the field – his fastest lap time was 1.7 seconds shy of Alonso’s. The impressive speed of the Red Bull was not all Mark Webber was counting on, however, after making a clever strategy call pay off to secure his eighth podium finish of the year. After starting fifth and keeping his position off the line, the early Safety Car period on lap 3 gave Red Bull the opportunity to do something different in an effort to get its championship leader onto the podium. Webber’s crew opted to pit him, which dropped him to 11th, but he had soon worked his way back to eighth after overtaking Glock, Kobayashi and Schumacher on the road. Although he failed to get past Williams’ Barrichello, the Brazilian’s pace was good enough to keep Webber in contention for the podium, and, when McLaren’s pace began to falter it became clear that Webber would easily climb to third, leapfrogging Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Kubica and Barrichello. “I settled into the first stint and we had an early Safety Car. The team told me to pit, which I questioned, but they assured me it was the right thing,” Webber recalled. “I wasn’t sure and knew it was going to be a long stint on the primes, but when we came out and re-queued behind the Safety Car I realised I was in a reasonable position. “I passed a few guys, then got to Rubens who was driving very well and I couldn’t clear him. “We then had another restart and it can be difficult to get away cleanly when you have back-markers involved. “I got caught up behind one the Virgin cars – he was doing his best, but Lewis got a good run on me down the outside into Turn 7. He turned in, but I was still there and we collided at the apex. It was a racing incident, as the stewards subsequently agreed ...” However, while Hamilton was out on the spot, things weren’t rosy for Webber either – his right front tyre perilously close to popping off the rim. How it stayed there for 25 laps is anyone’s guess – regardless, he was able to maintain a couple of seconds back to Button to the end. Fate is easing towards the Australian. Webber tangles with Hamilton but stays on-track for podium finish