A peerless Sebastian Vettel led all but one corner of the Singapore Grand Prix today as he took a commanding seventh victory of 2013, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
It is the 33rd victory of Vettel’s career – putting him ahead of Alonso to fourth in all-time wins – and his third in Singapore. He extends his championship lead over the Spaniard to 60 points with six races to go.
“It’s just a privilege to be part of the team,” said Vettel “To enjoy the moment completely. It’s one of my favourite races here. I’ve won here three times in a row – which is incredible – so I’m just extremely happy with that and extremely happy to be with the team at this stage.”
Alonso and Raikkonen owed their podium finishes to inspired strategy calls by the Ferrari and Lotus teams which pitted them under the safety car on lap 25 and called for them to drive to the finish – 36 laps – on a set of medium tyres. Not doing this cost the Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton a shot at a podium today.
Alonso went from seventh on the grid to 2nd, while Raikkonen jumped from 13th to 3rd.
A surprisingly quick starting Rosberg from the dirty side of the front-row found himself in the race lead as the field entered turn one, only for him to run wide and hand the lead back to Vettel, who nipped inside him into Turn 3.
From here on the lead was never relinquished from Vettel’s grasp as he drove a truly faultless race despite losing a ten second lead to the safety car, for an accident involving Daniel Ricciardo.
Singapore has a 100% record of Safety cars and this stayed intact; much of the order in the second stint was shaken up by the Safety Car. At this point many in the top ten opted to pit, leaving just Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton – who had pitted only shortly before and running a two-stop strategy.
When the Mercedes pair and Webber pitted for the second time, they found themselves in traffic and with much to do in order to regain their previous positions. And around the twisty street circuit they were unable to pick off the cars ahead.
Ahead of this Alonso was able to bring his Ferrari home in typically consistent fashion to keep alive his slim hopes of a third World Championship, but after the race he was realistic about this championship and how it has turned out,
“We try our maximum, we’re trying to improve the car for every race and we are doing it but obviously not enough compared to our opponents,” said the Spaniard. “They are doing a better job than us, they are fantastic every weekend. They are winning and they deserve those wins. This is a sport, someone always has to win and the best one wins and we are not the best ones at the moment but we will keep working.”
Whilst Raikkonen, after also pitting under the Safety Car, drove through the pain barrier to nurse his damaged back to another podium.
Others that had stopped during the Safety Car period were handed the opportunity of a good haul of points, as long as they could reach the end of the Grand Prix on an ever-degrading set of tyres.
This made for an exciting climax to the race. First Nico Hulkenberg was disposed off, before Webber led the Mercedes duo past Sergio Perez and Jenson Button. Rosberg and Hamilton also came close a number of times as they switched across the track, eventually coming home in fourth and fifth places.
Webber had been set for a fourth place finish until a call to short-shift from his engineer was him drop behind the Mercedes and ultimately retire on the final lap. It is more bad luck for the Australian who drove well today with some very good overtaking manoeuvers. After the race he was given a 10 place grid drop in Korea for a third reprimand of the season; this one was for entering the track to get a lift back with Alonso, while cars were still going quickly.
Behind Hamilton was Felipe Massa, taking sixth place as he followed Webber and Mercedes pair past the long-running cars.
The top ten was closed out by Button, Perez, Hulkenberg and Sutil who fought to the finish for the lower points positions.
Paul Di Resta had looked set for a good result but lost control of the car in the closing stages, while Romain Grosjean was running fifth when the team called him in for a problem with the air system on the car and he was forced to retire.
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Singapore, Race, 61 Laps
1. Vettel Red Bull
2. Alonso Ferrari
3. Raikkonen Lotus
4. Rosberg Mercedes
5. Hamilton Mercedes
6. Massa Ferrari
7. Button McLaren
8. Perez McLaren
9. Hulkenberg Sauber
10. Sutil Force India
11. Maldonado Williams
12. Gutierrez Sauber
13. Bottas Williams
14. Vergne Toro Rosso
15. Webber Red Bull
16. van der Garde Caterham
17. Chilton Marussia
18. Bianchi Marussia
19. Pic Caterham
DNF Di Resta Force India
DNF Grosjean Lotus
DNF Ricciardo Toro Rosso