Sebastian Vettel has won the Singapore Grand Prix, inheriting victory after a gearbox failure forced Lewis Hamilton to retire from the lead of the race.
Hamilton led away from pole position, as Vettel passed Pastor Maldonado for second place at the inside of turn three and Jenson Button got by the Williams a few turns later. The order at the front remained the same through the first round of pitstops, before disaster struck for Hamilton on lap 23 as he cruised to a halt with a broken gearbox.
Vettel took the lead and was never headed over the remainder of the two hours. He, Button and most of the field made their second stops under the first of two safety car interventions when Narain Karthikeyan crashed under the grandstand at turn 18. The second period was initiated when Michael Schumacher lost control under breaking and rammed into Jean-Eric Vergne as they fought over the minor points, eliminating both from the race.
Button, who nearly wiped out Vettel as the pair prepared for the first restart, looked like he might push the Red Bull driver to the finish but the German was able to open up a lead of 8.9 seconds before the checkered flag. It was Vettel’s second Singapore win in a row and his first victory anywhere since Bahrain back in April.
While Vettel inherited the race win, Fernando Alonso was arguably the biggest gainer from Hamilton’s misfortune. The Spaniard couldn’t match the top four in the opening stint but caught Maldonado before both made their second stops early, shortly before the Karthikeyan-triggered safety car. Alonso fitted another set of softs with Maldonado going back on to super-softs. The Venezuelan had to defend hard to keep Alonso behind when they rejoined, and so when the safety car came out he went back to the pits to put the softs on with the intention of going to the finish. It wasn’t to be though, as he was soon forced to park it in the garage with a hydraulic issue.
Alonso took that set of softs to the finish to claim third with Paul Di Resta not too far behind to get his best result in F1 in fourth. Nico Rosberg was a distant fifth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was given a free pass on Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean in the latter stages.
Felipe Massa had an interesting race, which began with him being relegated to the back when he came into the pits at the end of the first lap. From there he managed to fight his way up the order over the duration of the race, making a particularly opportunistic move on fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna for ninth on the narrow Anderson Bridge. Senna seemed to shut the door but Massa somehow still squeezed through before going on to get by Daniel Ricciardo for eighth before the finish.
Senna’s race fell apart after that, dropping out of the top ten before pulling off after reporting a lack of power. Mark Webber took the final point having pitted before the first safety car and then made a second stop under the second safety car that relegated him down to 15th. Sergio Perez once again tried a different strategy that this time didn’t work out as he finished 11th, as both he and Sauber teammate Kamui Kobayashi sustaining damage in contact with Nico Hulkenberg, who had to pit with a puncture.
All that allowed Timo Glock to claim a 12th place finish that moved Marussia into tenth in the constructors’ championship ahead of Caterham, who had a tough race from the word go when Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov both got caught up in first lap incidents.
The result means Alonso’s lead stands at a slightly-diminished 29 points with Vettel now second and Raikkonen and Hamilton losing ground. Next up is the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.