Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton admitted to having elected to settle for third place rather than risk everything in an effort to relieve former karting sparring partner Nico Rosberg of the runner-up spot in the closing stages of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, the British star wisely deciding that discretion was very much the better part of valour.

Having tracked chief title rival Felipe Massa at a distance throughout the opening phase of the race, Hamilton slipped outside of the points following the flurry of pit-stops under the first safety car period, and from thereon in found his efforts frustrated by the Red Bull Racing of David Coulthard around a circuit on which overtaking was far from easy.

After bravely forcing his way past the Scottish veteran with 19 tours left to go, Hamilton suddenly found himself in Rosberg's wheeltracks and in sight of victory when the safety car appeared for a second time ten laps from home, but having very nearly thrown away a top ten qualifying spot on Saturday, the 23-year-old deemed it better not to take any undue risks on a day when Massa failed to score.

His third place at the chequered flag sees him travel to Japan in a fortnight's time with seven points in-hand - and just 30 remaining to play for.

"A positive end to a difficult weekend at this fantastic new venue," the Stevenage-born ace reflected afterwards. "I started well but then my rear tyres faded and, although we had good pace, I wasn't in a position to challenge Felipe ahead of me.

"During my first pit-stop I lost a bit of time because everybody came in due to the safety car period. After that I was unfortunately stuck behind David, and although I was clearly faster it was really difficult to overtake him.

"After the second re-start, I tried to stay as close as possible behind Nico; however, I didn't want to take chances - particularly as the Ferraris were outside the points. Also, this is not a track where overtaking is easy. The first night race in Formula 1 history was great fun, and I now look forward to the forthcoming double-header in Japan and China."

There was no such post-race joy, however, for McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, whose challenge quite literally took a knock no sooner had the lights gone out, when in attempting to pass the BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica he found himself rudely barged wide, damaging his car.

Though he ran inside the points until the pit-stops, having to queue up behind Hamilton under the safety car cost the Finn further time, and later brake problems saw to it that he crossed the finish line a disappointed and frustrated tenth.

"I made a good start and was going to pass Kubica around the outside of the first two corners," the 26-year-old related. "Unfortunately he touched me and almost spun me around. My underfloor was slightly damaged as a result, I lost momentum and two cars overtook me.

"When the safety car came out and the pit-lane was opened a couple of laps later, Lewis and I came in and I had to wait behind him until it was my turn. It then was a strange race and most of the time I was in traffic with no overtaking chances. Halfway through the race I had brake problems and had to conserve them until the finish.

"I'm happy for Lewis and the team now that he has extended the championship lead and we are on top of the constructors' rankings. I will now go for it in the next races and help to make sure that we stay ahead in both championships."

Indeed, following the grand prix - F1's first-ever night race - McLaren has assumed the lead in the constructors' standings too, a single marker ahead of its scarlet rivals. The Woking-based concern's team principal Ron Dennis made it crystal clear that the squad intends to stay there.

"Today's race was a very exciting one," the 61-year-old acknowledged, "full of incidents triggering safety car interventions that had a significant influence on the final outcome. In the last few laps, having seen Kimi's accident, we advised Lewis not to attempt to overtake Nico but instead to settle for third place and the seven-point lead in the drivers' championship that the resulting six points netted him.

"Heikki's race was spoiled by having to queue in the pits. Overall, then, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix was a hugely successful event, and we're delighted to have emerged from it with the lead in both the drivers' and the constructors' championships."

"A great Formula 1 premiere at night," agreed Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug. "Lewis extended his championship lead with third place, which is a good result. McLaren-Mercedes leads now in the constructors' rankings as well, which is also not bad. Thank you to the organisers and Bernie and his team for their efforts -this spectacular event will create a big response."