Sebastian Vettel is just one point away from clinching the world championship after another dominant performance in the Singapore Grand Prix. Only Jenson Button stands in his way, but a single point from any of the remaining five races will do it for him.
It was Vettel’s ninth win of the season, he joins Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell as the only drivers who have won nine races in an F1 season. It was also the 19th of his career. Amazingly, having led almost 600 laps this year this was the first time this year he has led a race from start to finish!
Jenson Button had another strong weekend with second place, which consolidates his position behind Vettel in the drivers’ championship and takes him further ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton in the points race.
Button, who jumped Webber for second place at the start and was untroubled thereafter, was reeling Vettel in at the end here, but he didn’t really have a chance to attack the champion, especially after being held up earlier by Kobayashi, who didn’t observe the blue flags and was given a drive through penalty. He also lost time at the end behind the two Williams cars which were battling for position.
“I was in control,” said Vettel of the closing stages. “Obviously I faced the traffic first, had to slow down, but then Jenson has to face the same problem once I’m through. I found myself on the last lap with five seconds lead. We had turned the engine down towards the end of the race. Jenson looked like he was flat out, nothing to lose, but we were in control.”
Mark Webber finished third after a good battle with Fernando Alonso, whom he had to overtake once again. But once again he is left ruing his poor starts, losing two places off the line here to Button and Alonso, albeit he did start from the dirty side of the grid.
Paul di Resta had an outstanding night; he chose a different strategy being the highest placed driver on the grid to start on the (harder) soft tyre. It set him up for a career best sixth place, with Force India’s joy being completed by Adrian Sutil picking up more points in 8th place.
Force India knew they didn’t have the pace to compete with Mercedes on qualifying pace, but believed they could get from lights to flag faster than the Silver Arrows using the two types of tyre available. So it proved, Di Resta beating Rosberg, who once again was not able to finish ahead of his grid position.
Ferrari saw Alonso come in fourth on a day when Technical Director Pat Fry admitted that their car didn’t have the pace on either tyre compound. This is a big disappointment for Ferrari, who were very competitive in Monaco on the same tyre compounds.
And it was another of “those” races for Lewis Hamilton who lost four places at the start, then had a collision with Felipe Massa in which he broke his front wing and for which the stewards gave him a drive through penalty. In total Hamilton passed through the pits five times.
Massa lost out hugely in the incident; he had a puncture and had to tour slowly back to the pits. He was furious with Hamilton after the race and confronted him privately, but Hamilton rebuffed him. So he raised his objections in front of the TV cameras and later lambasted the Englishman,
“He cannot use his mind,” said Massa. “He could have caused a big accident. He is paying for that, that’s the problem. He doesn’t understand, even paying for a problem.
“The problem was that I was in the middle so I had a puncture in my tyres and I pay a lot. It is important that FIA is looking and penalising him all the time he is going in the car because he cannot think about it,” Massa added.
The pair had had problems the day before with Hamilton forcing his way past the Ferrari driver on an outlap.
Hamilton fought back through the field with a series of overtakes to claim fifth place at the end and following the confrontation with Massa, did not face the media for comment.
The race once again featured a safety car around half distance; this seems to be the time when it happens here – possibly as a result of tyre wear and driver fatigue – and it maintains Singapore’s 100% safety car record. It was annoying for Vettel in one sense, as he had built an 18 second lap, largely thanks to a mesmerising opening stint.
But in another sense it was helpful to him as traffic was a big problem today and by bunching up the field behind him, it meant that he didn’t have to lap as many cars as he might have done in the second half of the race without a safety car.
The safety car was triggered by an accident for Michael Schumacher, who misread the body language of Sergio Perez’ Sauber and hit him. Perez was able to continue and scored a point for tenth place.
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Marina Bay Circuit, 61 Laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h59:06.537
2. Button McLaren + 1.737
3. Webber Red Bull + 29.279
4. Alonso Ferrari + 55.449
5. Hamilton McLaren + 1:07.766
6. Di Resta Force India + 1:51.067
7. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
8. Sutil Force India + 1 lap
9. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
10. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
11. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
12. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1 lap
13. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
14. Kobayashi Sauber + 2 laps
15. Senna Renault + 2 laps
16. Kovalainen Lotus + 2 laps
17. Petrov Renault + 2 laps
18. D’Ambrosio Virgin + 2 laps
19. Ricciardo HRT + 4 laps
20. Liuzzi HRT + 4 laps
21. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 5 laps