Hamilton lights up Singapore

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Lewis Hamilton set the early pace in Singapore (AP) Lewis Hamilton set the early pace in Singapore (AP)

Lewis Hamilton issued a statement of intent following first practice ahead of Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix.

Around one of his favourite circuits, and as dusk turned to dark and the Marina Bay Street track was lit up by the power of 1,500 halogen lamps, so Hamilton also illuminated the stunning venue.

Admittedly it was only the opening 90 minutes, and without doubt the times will tumble further throughout sessions two and three, but the 28-year-old finished comfortably clear of his rivals in his Mercedes.

Hamilton posted a time of one minute 47.055 seconds, leaving Red Bull duo Mark Webber, and in particular three-times champion Sebastian Vettel in the shade.

Webber finished 0.365secs adrift of Hamilton, while Vettel, winner of this race for the last two years, was 0.830secs behind.

Hamilton knows he desperately needs a victory on Sunday if he is to have any hope of clawing back Vettel's current 81-point advantage, with 175 up for grabs from the final seven races.

The Briton was fastest in all three sectors, to such an extent team-mate Nico Rosberg was over a second down on the timesheet in fourth.

As for fellow title long-shots in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus - 53 and 88 points down on Vettel respectively - they were seventh and fifth in the standings.

Raikkonen was 1.299secs down, just one thousandth of a second clear of team-mate Romain Grosjean, with Alonso another seven thousandths of a second further back such was the tight-knit nature of that group.

As for the rest, they were nowhere, with McLaren's Sergio Perez next up, but a staggering 2.212secs behind Hamilton, closely followed by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez in his Sauber.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was down in 12th, a second behind Alonso, with Jenson Button in his McLaren and Force India's Paul Di Resta 14th and 15th, but with both just over 2.5secs back.

Marussia's Max Chilton was 20th, 5.618secs down, leaving Caterham duo Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic to bring up the rear, the latter just over 6.5secs adrift.

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