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GP Week : Issue 190
On sunday night in singapore sebastian Vettel demonstrated once again just why he is a triple world champion well on his way to a fourth consecutive drivers’ title. Despite a brief challenge from Nico Rosberg off the line, the Red Bull racer controlled the race from lights to flag, opening up a commanding lead over the opposition over the course of the first few laps. So great was Vettel’s lead that during his first stop he was able to pit with 27.4s in hand over the chasing pack, emerging on fresh medium tyres with the nearest car still eight seconds behind him on track. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and Vettel found his lead destroyed by future teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who brought out the Safety Car on lap 25 when he ploughed his Toro Rosso into the barriers at Turn 17. The five laps that Vettel spent following Bernd Maylander around the Marina Bay Circuit marked the only time all night that the defending world champion was not in complete control of the Singapore Grand Prix. And when racing resumed on lap 31, the young ingénue sped off into the distance, pulling out six-tenths on the second-placed Rosberg during sector one alone. At the start of lap 32, the gap at the front was already 3.2 seconds, and the race was as good as won. While the majority of the Singapore Grand Prix was rather less compelling than watching paint dry, the closing laps made up for the preceding 90 minutes of boredom, as the degrading rubber led to a series of wheel-to-wheel battles from P3 down. Jenson Button had been running in third place, and might have been able to deliver McLaren their first podium of the season, but the Briton’s tyres were falling off the cliff and there was little he could do to fend off the chasing pack. First to pass was Kimi Raikkonen, on lap 53. By the time the chequered flag fell to mark the end of the 61-lap race, Button was in seventh, having been overtaken by Mark Webber, Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, and Felipe Massa. Button was not the only driver whose tyre strategy failed to pay off on the streets of Singapore. Teammate Sergio Perez also found himself losing grip and track position in the closing stages, while Rosberg and Hamilton found that the team’s two-stop strategy did not reap the hoped-for dividends. Sauber also struggled to make a two-stop strategy work – despite running in or near the points for much of the final phase of the race, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez started to lose position on lap 53, with the German dropping three places in eight laps while his teammate went from seventh on 48 to twelfth at the flag. But the prize for worst race finish goes to the beleaguered Webber, who spent much of the evening battling with the same gearbox issues that had dogged the Australian in Monza. A classified finisher in P15, Webber was running in fourth place until the penultimate lap of the Singapore Grand Prix, when his gearbox gave up the ghost with a dramatic puff of smoke that engulfed the pit straight, leaving the Australian to watch from the sidelines as the field passed his stricken car one by one. While Vettel’s win looked effortless, the men with whom he shared a podium had fought hard for their trophies. Second-placed Fernando Alonso got an excellent start off the line, leap-frogging four rivals before they knew what had hit them. Losing positions only in the pits, the Asturian was a strong contender all evening, and a dead cert for a place on the podium. Equally impressive was Raikkonen, who overcame both a back injury and a P13 grid slot to finish the Singapore Grand Prix in third place after a characteristically dogged drive. Seb second ... well, for a few hundred metres ... 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> SINGAPORE