All the superlatives have been exhausted in the case of Sebastian Vettel and his dominant displays this year, yet again the Red Bull driver was in a league of his own as he notched up his seventh win of the season in powering to victory in the Singapore Grand Prix.
With it he extends his championship points lead while bagging his third consecutive victory – Spa and Monza and now Marina Bay – and took home the biggest trophy of the weekend for the third time in as many years at the floodlit venue.
It was another master class, another dominant display and another apparently effortless triumph by the triple World Champion. For a fraction of a second he succumbed to an attack from Nico Rosberg into Turn 1, but simply undercut the Mercedes driver exiting the first turn, and thereafter was never challenged despite a mid-race Safety Car to remove the crashed Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, who moves to Red Bull next year…
Vettel’s pace was alien-like as he stretched his lead early on with a succession of laps which saw him edge away at a second a lap from Rosberg in pursuit. Just before mid-distance the gap was close to ten seconds, and the Safety Car concertina-ed the pack. Vettel had it all to do, and when the race was green flagged again he was told to “go for it” by his engineer, whereupon he reeled off a succession of fastest laps.
And that was that. He won by a whopping 32.6 seconds – in a league of his own – but the podium boo brigade was out again. Clearly not true fans of Formula 1, as they fail to respect a driver etching his name up there with the greats such as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark and like all who won races and titles with great cars too.
Vettel said afterwards, “The start was quite hairy, Nico had a better start than me but thankfully he went a bit too deep and I was able to recover which was very important. The car was incredible and it was a pleasure to drive it round this crazy track.
“This is a long race so there are a lot of things that can go wrong so you can’t afford to lean back. At the end I was just controlling the gap. It was hard work out there but we like it because it is one of the most challenging tracks,” added the World Champion.
Big winner on the day was Fernando Alonso who started seventh and a couple of hours later was celebrating second place on the podium, after another trademark display of determination and guts. He did all the hard work in the space of about two hundred metres as he blitzed into third place by the time he exited Turn 1. Thereafter he stuck to a game-plan which allowed him to stay in touch with Rosberg, who ran second for the first half of the race, but then strategy played into the Ferrari driver’s hands and second was his reward for an evening’s work.
Alonso reflected, “It was a fun start and we knew we didn’t have the pace today so we had to invent something with a different strategy from the other teams. It paid off at the end. We are in a position in the Championship where we have nothing to lose. We pushed, the car performed well and the fans pushed us too.”
Man of the match must go to Kimi Raikkonen who overcame a back injury and started from 13th on the grid to finish third. The Iceman kept his cool as he went wheel to wheel with just about everyone. He was the first to pit for fresh rubber and emerged down in 19th. But as is his custom he got on with it, kept out of trouble while maintaining a very strong pace, and capitalised on the lucky break which came his way in the form of the Safety Car period.
“I think I had OK speed and I could overtake people so I just kept the pressure on and I managed to pull away and thankfully no one managed to catch me,” said Raikkonen.
After the race, when asked if his back was paining Raikkonen replied, “Luckily not to much but now afterwards it is not feeling too good but it’s doesn’t matter as we have two weeks now to get it right.
Although Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth respectively, Mercedes were the big losers on the day. Rosberg started second and did not have an answer to Vettel’s pace, but seemed to be the best of the rest, while Hamilton was involved in a number of scuffles that impeded his progress after messing up the opening lap.
Once sensed pure frustration emanating from the Silver Arrows as they tripped over one another in the closing stages of the race, after Rosberg questioned instructions from his pit wall to up the ante.
“Why do I need to push? I don’t want to push more than I have to round here,” asked Rosberg when his engineer told him to go for it in the finally 20 laps.
Team principal Ross Brawn reasoned, ‘The Safety Car came out at exactly the wrong time for us. We felt it was too soon to go for the rest of the race on one set of tyres. It was right on the cusp and we saw [that] it was marginal for other cars.”
Felipe Massa and Hamilton had some nail biting moments, conjuring up memories of their last on-track feud that often ended with bent metal, but the Brazilian survived to finish sixth.
Jenson Button ran as high as third, with Sergio Perez slugging it out in fifth as McLaren gambled on taking their tyres further than most. It almost worked, but in the end they ran out of grip and did well to finish seventh and eighth respectively, while providing most of the excitement in the final stages of the race.
Nico Hulkenberg was in the wars with his Sauber, turning 11th on the grid into ninth and again going head-to-head with most of the top guns and boxing way over his weight.
The final point for tenth went to Adrian Sutil who started 15th and dropped down to 19th early on which prompted a strong fight back from the Force India driver. It was heartache for teammate Paul di Resta who was running as high as third before he parked it nose first into Turn 7. An early shower for the luckless Scot.
Ricciardo described his crash at Turn 18, “The crash was my error, trying to make up for lost ground. Maybe at the end I was just trying to get too much out of it and made that mistake. It’s a delicate corner with not much run-off and I went too deep into the apex. I then braked a bit harder, locked a wheel and went into the wall. It’s not a mistake I’m used to making. I will learn from this.”
Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean looked like podium contenders until separate mechanical failures ended their ambitions.
Grosjean was over cautious at the start, which cost him a few places. But he kept at it and it was clear that the Lotus was getting stronger as the race evolved, but on lap 37 he was told to come into the pits as the “engine pneumatic system lacked air, we topped it up [but], it didn’t fix it” explained the team. A podium had been very much on the cards for the Frenchman.
Then at the very end, as Webber scythed his way to what looked like a podium finish the Renault in his Red Bull cried enough after he was told to short shift with the end in sight. He tried to nurse it around the final lap to at least claim some points, but the back end caught fire and he was forced to park.
Webber burning and Vettel winning at the exact same time, was a vignette which summed up the trials and tribulations the Australian has endured while his teammate has covered himself in glory during their five years together.
In a nice touch, Alonso gave his Aussie mate a lift back to the pits… (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.
Singapore Grand Pirx at Marina Bay Circuit – Sunday, 22 September 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||61||Winner||1||25|
|2||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||61||+32.6 secs||7||18|
|3||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||61||+43.9 secs||13||15|
|4||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||61||+51.1 secs||2||12|
|5||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||61||+53.1 secs||5||10|
|6||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||61||+63.8 secs||6||8|
|7||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||61||+83.3 secs||8||6|
|8||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||61||+83.8 secs||14||4|
|9||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||61||+84.2 secs||11||2|
|10||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||61||+84.6 secs||15||1|
|11||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||61||+88.4 secs||18|
|12||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||61||+97.8 secs||10|
|13||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||61||+ secs||16|
|14||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||61||+ secs||12|
|15||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||60||+1 Lap||4|
|16||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||60||+1 Lap||20|
|17||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||60||+1 Lap||22|
|18||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||60||+1 Lap||21|
|19||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||60||+1 Lap||19|
|20||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||54||+7 Lap||17|
|Ret||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||37||+24 Laps||3|
|Ret||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||23||+38 Laps||9|