Sebastian Vettel has won the 2013 Singapore Grand Prix after a dominant performance, to claim his seventh victory of the season so far.
He was only briefly headed at the start of the race; when fellow front row man Nico Rosberg made the better start, but ran wide at turn one. The pair went wheel to wheel through turn two and three, before Vettel got back ahead and immediately began to pull away.
Despite a safety car appearance just before half race distance for a crash by Vettel’s future team mate, Daniel Ricciardo, the reigning champion was still able to win by over half a minute.
Fernando Alonso put in a typically gutsy performance to finish second. The foundations of yet another podium finish were once more laid in the opening seconds of the race, where he made an incredible start to rocket from seventh to third place.
Equally impressive was Kimi Raikkonen’s performance. The Finn, who has been struggling with back pains this weekend, made up ten places from his starting position to finish third. He overtook Jenson Button around the outside of turn 14 with only a few laps ago to deny the McLaren driver his first podium of the season so far.
The race, which could definitely be described as something of a slow burner, was brought alive in the last few laps due to many of the front running cars being on different strategies, the catalyst of which was Ricciardo’s safety car inducing shunt.
It meant that both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were holding third and fifth places respectively, but struggled to fend off Kimi Raikkonen, as well as the two Mercedes cars of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who were all on fresher tyres. Felipe Massa was the last man to find a way through the McLaren road block and finished sixth.
Button’s drop off in performance was dramatic, and ultimately finished seventh, with Perez a place behind in eighth. However, both were fortunate that Mark Webber retired from the race on the last lap, with the rear of his car ablaze.
The Australian had been having a strong race up to that point, thanks to an early switch to the prime tyres. He had managed to jump Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes through an earlier round of stops, and for a time looked to be challenging Alonso for second position. Late on, he too managed to get past Jenson Button, and began hunting down Kimi Raikkonen, before receiving a message from the pits that he needed to short shift.
Unlike Monza, the problem only became worse in the final few laps, until he was forced to slow right down. Rosberg, Hamilton and Massa had all managed to find a way past the hobbled Red Bull driver before he pulled off the track at turn seven. He was therefore classified a lap down, and out of the points, in fifteenth position.
Both Mercedes drivers suffered challenging races, with front row starter Nico Rosberg finishing in fourth place, almost a minute behind Vettel. He’d struggled for pace after the first round of stops when discarded tyre rubber became jammed in his front wing, and never looked likely to challenge Vettel even after his strong start.
Hamilton will be also disappointed to have finished in fifth on a weekend where he was unable to match team mate Rosberg’s pace. His race was compromised early on when he passed his old foe, Felipe Massa, off track in the opening seconds of the race, and was duly ordered to give the position back. He did so, but failed to retake the position for the rest of the opening stint, until the Brazilian pitted on lap thirteen.
Nico Hulkenberg was another driver who attracted the attention of the stewards for passing off track when embroiled in a battle with Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez. He was judged to have passed Perez off circuit at turn seven and like Hamilton, had to cede the position.
Singapore has a tradition of being something of a race of attrition, yet there were unusually few retirements this year. Romain Grosjean’s strong weekend was ended when he retired with an air consumption problem. The Frenchman had made a tardy start to the race and dropped to fifth, but had been running in the points till he had to retire in the pits shortly after the race restarted following the safety car.
Another man in trouble was Paul di Resta. The Force India driver was one of the stars of the show after a difficult qualifying session had seen him start from seventeenth position on the grid. A differing strategy to many of the front runners meant he climbed his way into the points when they pitted, and managed to stay ahead of Fernando Alonso for several laps, despite the Spaniard having much fresher tyres.
He was hunting down Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg late on when he got his braking wrong for turn seven and crashed. He only lost his front wing, but was unable to re-join the action, and was therefore the race’s third official retirement.
Hulkenberg managed to hang onto eighth place after losing position to the two Mercedes cars, while Adrian Sutil benefitted from both his di Resta’s and Webber’s misfortune to claim the final point in tenth.
Giedo van der Garde got the better of his team mate and both Marussias to finish as best of the “new” teams in sixteenth position.
Vettel’s win means he now moves a full sixty points clear of nearest challenger, Fernando Alonso, as he edges ever close to his fourth consecutive title.
The fourteenth round of this year’s championship takes place on the Yeongam circuit in South Korea in a fortnight’s time.