The records keep tumbling, and in a fortnight’s time we will see Sebastian Vettel become the sport’s youngest-ever double World Champion. The German has all but wrapped up the 2011 championship with another flawless performance to take victory on the streets of Singapore.
With Jenson Button driving a hard-charging race to finish second ahead of Vettel’s team-mate Webber, Vettel now needs to score just a single championship point to successfully defend his crown.
The Red Bull driver led the field away from pole position, initially pulling away from the rest of the field at over a second per lap. A mid-race safety car interruption bunched the field and created some excitement for fans, and the German still had everything under control, even when Button mounted a late charge to whittle down his lead in the final laps.
Button’s second place finish – his fourth podium result on the trot – owed as much to his excellent start as his fabled ability to nurse his Pirelli tyres during the race. The Briton held the position for much of the race bar his visits to the pits for fresh tyres, but he ultimately didn’t have the pace to pose a serious threat to Vettel’s almost assured run to victory.
By finishing ahead of his other championship rivals, Button remains the only driver mathematically in contention for the championship, although he’ll still need to win all of the remaining five races and have Vettel finish outside the top-ten in all of them as well. A tall order indeed, but the 2009 World Champion again outperformed team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had another trying day at the office.
Starting from fourth place after losing some crucial running during qualifying, Hamilton made a great start to challenge Webber down the inside into Turn 1. But Webber successfully squeezed Hamilton onto the dusty inside line, and Hamilton was forced to brake early, dropping as low as eighth.
His run to fifth place was typically eventful and entertaining. Trying to recover from his poor opening lap, Hamilton quickly caught and passed both Mercedes GP drivers when the DRS was enabled, making light work of the silver cars to move up to sixth place.
Challenging Massa for fifth after the first round of pit stops, Hamilton had a good run on the Brazilian in the DRS zone and tried to out-brake the Ferrari driver at the outside of Turn 7. Attempting to cut back and try a ‘switchback’ move, he clipped the back of Massa’s car, cutting Massa’s tyre and damaging his own front wing in the process.
It was a clumsy move by Hamilton that was sadly so typical of his 2011 season, and it was little surprise to see him hauled in for a drive-through penalty after scuppering Massa’s race.
That he was able to fight his way back from 15th to finish fifth was impressive. Certainly, the mid-race safety car helped his cause by compressing the field, but he was easily the best exponent of using the DRS at the circuit, making plenty of passes as he worked his way up the order.
But the war of words wasn’t over between Hamilton and Massa, with the Brazilian allegedly getting into an altercation with the McLaren driver after the race. The pair have had something of a chequered history since their run-in at Monaco, and they also had a near-collision during yesterday’s qualifying session as well. While Hamilton certainly served the punishment before staging his impressive climb through the order, Massa’s run to an eventual ninth place was rather insipid, leading his post-race dummy spit to look more like a severe case of sour grapes.
While Button cruised serenely to second place, Webber finished third, having managed another slow getaway from the front row – admittedly, his cause was not helped by starting from the dusty side of the grid off the racing line.
It was a typically fighting drive from Webber, who twice passed Alonso on the road. He had to repass the Spaniard again after their first pit stops when the Ferrari driver managed to reclaim third place. Both passing moves were particularly skilful and opportunistic – particularly the second pass into Turn 10 – while Alonso was again left to lick his wounds after ending up the loser in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Behind the top-five, Paul di Resta claimed sixth place and the best finish of his short Formula 1 career. The only runner starting in the top-ten run on the harder Pirelli rubber in his opening stint, his first pit stop came much later than his nearest rivals, while his second trip to the pits came just as the Safety Car was brought out, allowing him to leapfrog Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil.
The excellent result for Force India saw them comfortably move into sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship battle with Sauber and Toro Rosso, in what was the team’s most competitive showing this season.
Sergio Pérez claimed the final point in tenth place, surviving a read-end mauling from Michael Schumacher, which launched the seven-time World Champion into a frightening bit of ‘air time’ as he attempted to overtake the Mexican. Schumacher caught the back of Pérez’ Sauber, and sailed into the barriers at high speed, fortunately without injury, although the Safety Car was brought out to clean up the mess.
2011 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (61 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||61||1:59:06.757|
|2.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||61||+ 1.737|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||61||+ 29.279|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||61||+ 55.449|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||61||+ 1:07.766|
|6.||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||61||+ 1:51.067|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||60||1 lap behind|
|8.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||60||1 lap behind|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||60||1 lap behind|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||60||1 lap behind|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||60||1 lap behind|
|12.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||60||1 lap behind|
|13.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||60||1 lap behind|
|14.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||59||2 laps behind|
|15.||Bruno Senna||Lotus Renault GP R31||59||2 laps behind|
|16.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||59||2 laps behind|
|17.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||59||2 laps behind|
|18.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||59||2 laps behind|
|19.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||57||4 laps behind|
|20.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||57||4 laps behind|
|21.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||56||Accident|
|DNF.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||47||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||28||Collision|
|DNF.||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||9||Accident|
|Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||54||1:48.454|
Click here to view the current Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship standings.