The second annual Formula One night race through the streets of Singapore was a more exciting and dynamic edition than the first. And it happened without any suspicion - not even in jest - that a driver had crashed on purpose, as happened last year.

In fact, the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday not only had more wild events, but even more tight racing, resulting in frequent changes of position in a race of attrition in which 15 of the 20 cars finished. And the man that came out and survived it all in a masterful drive from beginning to end was Lewis Hamilton, the reigning world champion, in a McLaren Mercedes, who led from pole to finish.

It was the 11th victory of Hamilton's career and the second of the season after he won the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

Timo Glock finished in a surprise second position in his Toyota, as the team had scored points only once in the last five races.

But the most significant man on the podium was Fernando Alonso, who finished third in his Renault. Alonso won last year thanks to a cheating incident involving his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr., which had only come to light last month and which culminated in the resignation of the Renault team's top two directors and a suspended sentence of disqualification from the series for the team. Last year, Piquet Jr. had crashed his car on purpose on the orders of his team directors with the result was that Alonso climbed up the pack under the resulting safety car to win the race after starting 15th.

On Sunday Alonso started 7th and again profited by attrition at the front of the pack due to accidents on the narrow street track. But none was done on purpose.

Briatore, who is also Alonso's manager, had been involved along with another director, Pat Symonds, in asking Piquet to crash his car after 14 laps in last year's race. Last year's victory had been the team's first since 2006.

Sunday's third place finish was the first podium finish for Renault this year.

The same three top drivers were all in the top four in last year's race, and that was not a coincidence, according to Alonso.

This year the safety car was again called in to neutralize the race after an accident on Lap 21.

But despite Hamilton's commanding control of the race from beginning to end, the main interest of the race lay in the tense battle between the four contenders for the drivers' title.

It was one of the last chances for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber of the Red Bull team to gain points on Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of the Brawn team. The Brawn drivers went into the race with a commanding lead in the championship, but Vettel qualified second and Webber fourth, while Barrichello started from only 9th position and Button began in 11th.

The Brawn drivers had a fairly uneventful race and finished in fifth and sixth, with Button increasing his lead in the series by a point over Barrichello.

After Webber began with a flying start to the race, passing Alonso on the first lap, he later had to concede position to the Spaniard since he had been outside the bounds of the track when he passed him. Webber then later spun out of the race when his brakes failed. With only three races left he is virtually out of the championship race.

After a poor start, Vettel worked his way back into second position and attacked Hamilton for several laps in the middle of the race at less than a second behind the leader. It looked like he might be able to win the race and score 10 points to return to the battle against the Brawn drivers.

But then suddenly everything began to fall apart. Vettel made his second pit stop after Lap 39 in 8.4 seconds. But on Lap 42 the race stewards announced that he would be penalized for speeding in the pitlane during his pit stop. He then went over a curb and destroyed part of the underside of his car.

He lost position with his penalty and could no longer attack for the victory. Vettel finished fourth.

Button leads the series with 84 points, Barrichello is second with 69 and Vettel is third with 59. As the German is 25 points behind Button and with only three races left, or a maximum of 30 points available, his chances are virtually finished. Webber is 27.5 points behind Button.

Button gained a single point on Barrichello, and now leads his teammate by 15 points in the drivers' season.

Ross Brawn, the team director and part owner, called the race one simply of "recovery," after a poor qualifying session on Saturday.

When asked how he felt about the now virtual certainty that the team and drivers would win the championship, he remained stoic.

"I've been in too many world championships where I have lost them on the last race," Brawn said. "So it's not done until its done."