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Alonso cruises to victory in Singapore Grand Prix

Spaniard Fernando Alonso has closed in the Formula One championship lead after winning an incident-packed race for Ferrari in Singapore on Sunday, ahead of his rivals for the title, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.


AFP - Fernando Alonso produced a masterful drive on Sunday to win an incident-packed Singapore Grand Prix ahead of a charging Sebastian Vettel to put the world championship title race on a knife-edge.

Starting from pole position, the Ferrari star led from start to finish for the second race in a row to take the chequered flag just 0.2 seconds ahead of the Red Bull driver.

It was a measured performance from the two-time world champion Spaniard, who outpaced his title rivals under floodlights for his fourth win of the season and the 25th of his career.

In hot and humid conditions but on a dry track, the other Red Bull of Mark Webber came third to keep him atop the championship standings, leaving McLaren's Jenson Button in fourth.

But it was another disastrous day for Lewis Hamilton in the other McLaren, failing to finish his second Grand Prix in a row after colliding with Webber on lap 36, dealing his championship hopes a potentially devastating blow.

Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes came fifth, with Rubens Barrichello in a Williams sixth, Robert Kubica's Renault seventh and Adrian Sutil's Force India eighth.

It leaves the championship race finely poised with four Grand Prix to go, starting in Japan next month before South Korea, then to Brazil and Abu Dhabi for the finale.

Webber now leads with 202 points ahead of Alonso on 191, Hamilton on 182, Vettel a point further adrift and Button on 177.

The front row of the grid was always going to be decisive on the tight Marina Bay street circuit where overtaking is difficult, and Alonso made the most of starting on pole, as he did in Monza two weeks ago.

Driving with aplomb and assurance on a track that demands precision, nerve and confidence, he came through the opening corner scramble in prime position ahead of Vettel.

The top five off the grid went through the first lap in the same position, with Alonso first, followed by Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Webber.

But there was disaster for Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber when the German was forced back to the pits for a new front wing following contact with Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India.

The incident saw the safety car deployed on lap 3 when Liuzzi's car stopped at Turn 10 to end the Italian's race.

Webber took the opportunity to pit early and switch from soft to hard tyres, with the Australian coming out in 11th.

Alonso was steady at the front and by lap 10 had a 1.8 second advantage on Vettel, which stretched to three seconds by lap 20 as he kept clocking fastest times.

Hamilton was the first of the championship front-runners to pit, on lap 29, with Alonso, Vettel and Button all following him in.

When they came out Alonso had a 1.2 second lead on Vettel with Webber up to third, with his early pit stop strategy paying off.

But then the safety car came out again when Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Hispania's Bruno Senna hit the wall to end their races.

It was a sensational restart with Hamilton trying to pass Webber on the outside, and they made contact, with the Briton coming off worse.

The Australian survived but Hamilton, who won here last year, was forced to retire, throwing his steering wheel to the ground in disgust as he got out of the car.

Minutes later and Michael Schumacher and Heidfeld collided. Heidfeld's race was over and Schumacher had to pit for a new front wing.

Alonso and Vettel were wheel-to-wheel at the front but the experienced Spaniard held on to win here for the second time in three years.

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