Sebastian Vettel has controlled proceedings in today’s Singapore Grand Prix to take his fourth victory in a row and move within mathematical contention of claiming a fourth successive World Championship crown at next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The Red Bull Racing driver was never seriously challenged over the 55-lap race, winning by four seconds from the Lotus duo of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean.
Vettel once again led the field away from pole position as the lights went out, quickly building himself an early lead ahead of Grosjean, who managed to get the jump on Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap.
Behind the the leading trio, chaos quickly enveloped the chasing pack, rather setting the tone for what a thrilling race for anyone other than Vettel.
The first incident came when the two Ferraris and Saubers ran four abreast on the approach to Turn 3. Such a span of cars was never going to work under braking, and it was Felipe Massa who came off worst, forced to pitch his car into a spin to avoid contact with teammate Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard and Esteban Gutiérrez were forced to take avoiding action and steer into the run-off, with the latter tagging Jenson Button’s front wing in the process, forcing the McLaren driver into the pits for a new nose.
Up at the front, Vettel quickly set about building enough of a cushion in the opening laps so as to stay out of the clutches of the chasing Grosjean and Hamilton. While Grosjean was equal to the task of matching Vettel’s pace, Hamilton steadily dropped back as his tyres began to go off.
The Englishman was clearly in trouble on his well-worn rubber, and when teammate Nico Rosberg set himself to overtake his teammate on the back straight, further drama would follow when the German’s nosecone mountings failed at the precise point where he pulled out of Hamilton’s slipstream.
Evidently the structure couldn’t cope with the sudden increase in aerodynamic load, and Rosberg was left trailing a spectacular display of sparks for the remainder of the lap as his wing flapped on the tarmac. Despite his car resembling more of a snowplough than a finely-tuned Formula 1 machine, he was still able to pull away from the hapless Hamilton before pitting for a new front wing, which put him well down the order.
Not long after Rosberg’s maladies, the race had its first of two Safety Car interruptions on Lap 31, triggered by a major front tyre failure for Sergio Pérez. Driving on rather worn tyres, the Mexican suffered a huge brake lock-up into Turn 1, only to find the same tyre throwing its tread a few hundred metres down the road.
The full-course caution neutralised Vettel’s lead as most of the field pitted, with his luckless teammate Mark Webber forced to make two tours of pit lane after picking up a puncture on his brand new set of tyres.
The Force India driver lost control on the approach to Turn 3, sliding into the veteran and punching a hole in Webber’s engine cover, which triggered a major fire.
What followed rather bordered on farce. With the authorisation of the FIA Race Control, a Jeep Cherokee fire vehicle emerged on the back straight to attend to the bonfire that was rapidly taking hold.
Fortunately the field – led by Vettel – took notice of the silliness and fell in behind the Jeep, while the FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting, quickly scrambled the Safety Car to bring the pack into order.
Just before the Safety Car was called, Räikkönen managed to scramble past Grosjean with an aggressive move into the first corner to claim second place from the Frenchman, and the two would ultimately go on to finish in that order behind Vettel when racing resumed with twenty laps to go.
The fixture of the final twenty laps was a brilliant five-car battle featuring Nico Hülkenberg, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. For lap after lap, Hülkenberg resisted the quicker quartet behind him, using his Sauber’s immense traction and straight line speed to pull just clear enough of Hamilton & Co on the long 1.2-kilometre back straight.
Try as he might, Hamilton could not get by the German, who delivered what was unquestionably one of the drives of the day – Räikkönen’s charge to second being the other – to secure a career-best-equalling fourth placed finish. The 12 points that he singlehandedly earned with this result was enough to move Sauber ahead of Toro Rosso in the Constructors’ Championship standings, with the Italian team capping off a bad weekend with a double-DNF in the closing laps of the race.
2013 Korean Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (55 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||55||1:43:13.701|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||55||+ 4.224|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||55||+ 4.927|
|4.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||55||+ 24.114|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||55||+ 25.255|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||55||+ 26.189|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||55||+ 26.698|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||55||+ 32.262|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||55||+ 34.390|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||55||+ 35.155|
|11.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||55||+ 35.990|
|12.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||55||+ 47.049|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||55||+ 50.013|
|14.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||55||+ 1:03.578|
|15.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||55||+ 1:04.501|
|16.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||55||+ 1:07.970|
|17.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||55||+ 1:12.898|
|18.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||53||Brakes|
|19.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||52||Brakes|
|20.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||50||Damage|
|DNF.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||36||Fire|
|DNF.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||24||Accident|