Sebastian Vettel has claimed his third win in a row – and his third on the streets of Singapore – with a commanding lights-to-flag victory in last night’s 61-lap race around the Marina Bay street circuit.
The German – who finished over half a minute ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen (who put in the drive of the day to finish third from thirteenth on the grid) – now enjoys a commanding 60-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Vettel led for all but a handful of metres in the race. As the lights went out, it was fellow front-row starter Nico Rosberg who made the better getaway from the much dirtier left-hand side of the grid, slipping up the inside of the pole-sitter under braking into Turn 1. But the Mercedes driver had rather overdone it in his efforts to claim the lead, sliding wide on the exit kerbs and allowing Vettel to nip back up the inside and claim a lead he would never surrender.
Having fended off Rosberg’s brief challenge – and no doubt to the disappointment of everyone hoping for a close tussle at the front – Vettel skipped away into an unchallenged lead to the tune of over a second a lap in the race’s opening stint.
His weekend-long pace advantage was obvious to all, and a combination of rapid in- and out-laps – coupled with super slick pit work from his mechanics – meant that his lead was even greater when he emerged from his first pit stop, now shod on the Medium-compound Pirelli tyres.
His well-earned gap was eliminated on Lap 25 when future teammate Daniel Ricciardo slid into the barriers at Turn 18, which triggered a lengthy Safety Car period while the Australian’s Toro Rosso was removed.
But any concerns that he might be challenged from that point were eliminated courtesy of a brilliant restart from the Red Bull Racing driver, who once again tore away from the chasing pack to run unchallenged for the rest of the race.
The result marked Vettel’s third grand chelem – pole position, victory with every lap led, and the fastest race lap – of his career, and it once again prompted loud booing from a small band of spectators still bitter about his ‘stolen’ victory earned earlier in the year at the Malaysian Grand Prix, for which the largely-likeable driver remains unrepentant.
While it was the 33rd victory of Vettel’s incredible career – a result that all but guarantees he will become the fourth four-time World Champion in the sport’s history – the action behind was a little more interesting in what was a typically dull Grand Prix under the floodlights.
Second place went to Fernando Alonso, whose excellent drive came off the back of a brilliant getaway from seventh on the grid, rising to third place by Turn 1 with some precise driving in the first few hundred metres of the race. It was a rather lonely drive for the Spaniard, who will no doubt again be ruing an increased points deficit to Vettel and his Ferrari’s (or his) inability to qualify further up the field.
The final podium spot went to Kimi Räikkönen, who delivered one of the best drives of the season to advance ten positions from his troubled 13th-placed grid slot. Having suffered with debilitating back pains for much of the weekend, the Finn was typically gritty in overtaking his way past the faster qualifiers.
As is rather customary in the Singapore Grand Prix, the opening two-thirds of the race – with the exception of Räikkönen’s overtaking efforts – provided fans with a rather tedious race, where the drivers simply needed to stay out of the walls and keep their tyres in shape until the final dozen laps.
Räikkönen did just that. His podium result came with an excellent lunge on Jenson Button in the closing laps, with the Englishman opting to remain on well-worn tyres in the hope of snatching the McLaren team’s first podium finish of the season.
But the former champion’s rubber was too well-worn, and after he was overtaken by the Lotus, the chasing Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – along with Mark Webber and Felipe Massa in the second respective Red Bull and Ferrari – all nipped by.
Button finished a disappointed seventh ahead of teammate Sergio Pérez, who crossed nose-to-tail in a close battle with the fast-closing Nico Hülkenberg and Adrian Sutil.
The former’s Sauber teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez, was unable to translate his first top-ten qualifying performance into his first points’ finish. The Mexican finished in twelfth place, sandwiched between the Williams pairing of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
Webber should have claimed fourth place, but his Renault engine was running well past its prime. Despite repeated calls to short-shift in the closing laps, the V8 unit was unable to hold itself together, forcing the Australian to cede positions to both Mercedes’ and Massa before it ultimately let go with a fiery display on the last lap.
Compounding his misery, the Australian hitched a lift back to the pits with Alonso, only to find himself hauled in front of the FIA Stewards – along with the charitable Spaniard – and hit with reprimand which translated into a ten-place grid penalty for the next Grand Prix in Korea, a penalty that had the paddock and fans in uproar.
The veteran’s crime was not necessarily for grabbing the lift (although that in itself presents its own safety concerns), but for venturing onto the circuit before parc ferme had been declared. As it was the Australian’s third reprimand of the year from the FIA Stewards, the punishment was automatically increased into the grid penalty.
Webber was one of four retirees in a race rather lacking in major carbon-fibre damage or mechanical malaise. Also joining him as a late-race retiree was Paul di Resta, who threw away a points’ finish with a rare mistake, outbraking himself at the end of Raffles Boulevard and nosing it into the barriers.
With Ricciardo being the race’s first retirement after his own crash, Romain Grosjean was robbed of a well-deserved points finish when his Lotus’ Renault engine lost air pressure, forcing him into the pits at mid-distance.
2013 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (61 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||61||1:59:13.132|
|2.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||61||+ 32.627|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||61||+ 43.920|
|4.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||61||+ 51.155|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||61||+ 53.159|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||61||+ 1:03.877|
|7.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||61||+ 1:23.354|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||61||+ 1:23.820|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||61||+ 1:24.261|
|10.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||61||+ 1:24.668|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||61||+ 1:28.479|
|12.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||61||+ 1:37.894|
|13.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||61||+ 1:45.161|
|14.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||61||+ 1:53.512|
|15.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||60||Engine|
|16.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||60||1 lap behind|
|17.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||60||1 lap behind|
|18.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||60||1 lap behind|
|19.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||60||1 lap behind|
|20.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||54||Accident|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||37||Air Pressure|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||23||Accident|
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