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Vettel takes victory for Red Bull in Singapore, Hamilton retires


By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel won round 14 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Circuit. After a race interrupted twice by the Safety Car, Jenson Button was second for McLaren and Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, wins the Singapore GP

One minute silence before the race for the ‘Prof’, Formula One doctor Professor Sid Watkins, who died last week at the age of 84.

The prediction was that the race would be all about tyres, and the complete top ten started on the super softs. During the start Lewis Hamilton kept the lead, but Pastor Maldonado lost two places to Vettel and Button.

But Felipe Massa and Vitaly Petrov sustained some damage during the first lap and had to visit the pits for a quick repair, Massa had a flat rear tyre, while Petrov had lost his front wing. After four laps Hamilton was leading, followed by Vettel, Button, Maldonado, Fernando Alonso and Paul di Resta in the Force India was sixth.

No problems for Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, he diced with Mark Webber for position, but the Australian was smarter and took seventh place from the Frenchman. Meanwhile Hamilton and Vettel had already built up a six-second lead to the number three, Button.

Webber was the first to make a pit stop on lap 9, and changed to the harder tyre compound and rejoined in 20th place. At the same time Vettel missed the chicane which gave Button the opportunity to close in on the Red Bull driver. The Austrian team called in Vettel for the first stop as they wanted to avoid a direct confrontation, he also rejoined the race on the softs, in 12th position.

The super softs degraded very fast and Alonso and Schumacher were next to make their first stop, while Hamilton reported he had a ‘funny feeling’ in his tyres. He came in on lap 13 for a new set of softs and rejoined the race in fourth position after a fast and flawless stop.

Meanwhile Raikkonen and Vettel were battling for fifth place, but Vettel could of course on his fresh tyres easily beat the Finn and took over his fifth place. His team mate Webber was fighting for tenth place with di Resta, but the Australian could not match the speed of the Scott in the Force India and stayed in tenth place.

An embarrassing race for Massa, he had rejoined the race in 24th place after his unscheduled stop on the very first lap, and after 15 laps had only progressed to 20th spot, right behind the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa.

Certainly not embarrassing was Vettel’s pace, he was gaining on leader Hamilton, the difference was just down to one second. Further down the order Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen were fighting for tenth place, while at the same time Bruno Senna came closer and closer to Raikkonen.

But the attention soon shifted to Hamilton, who had to stop his car with a gearbox failure, of course giving the advantage to Alonso who currently is leading the championship, and with Hamilton’s retirement got the chance to extend his lead. Thus Vettel was then leading the Singapore Grand Prix, followed by Button, Maldonado, Alonso, di Resta and Webber.

Soon it was time for the second round of pit stops, Webber was first and changed to the super softs after 30 laps, which meant he had to make at least one more stop as it is impossible to race the remaining 31 laps on the super softs, he rejoined the race in 11th place. Also Maldonado and Alonso came in, Ferrari were hoping to get Alonso ahead of the Venezuelan, but the Williams crew made no mistakes and Maldonado still had Alonso in his rear-view mirrors when he exited the pit lane.

A great opportunity was presented to Alonso when Maldonado got stuck behind the numbers four and five, Nico Rosberg and Grosjean, but the Williams was very fast and although Alonso tried as hard as he could, he could not pass him. But the yellow flags came out and the Safety Car came on track as Narain Kartikeyan had crashed and his stricken HRT had to be towed away.

All drivers used the opportunity to blast into the pit lane for a stop, Alonso was the main beneficiary of Karthikeyan’s crash, as Maldonado made another stop and lost his third place to the Ferrari driver, and the Williams driver was then tenth. It didn’t matter, as his crew called him in as they had discovered a hydraulic problem and sadly the race was over for Maldonado.

After six full laps the Safety Car disappeared into the pits, and the race was on again. All eyes were on Vettel and Button, but although Button almost ran into the back of the Red Bull because Vettel suddenly braked very hard, the German remained in first position. Webber tried his best to pass Hulkenberg and after a few breath-taking moments the Australian finally overtook him.

But it was Schumacher who made a huge mistake again, the same mistake he made last year at the Singapore circuit, this time he crashed hard into the back of the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, and with 21 laps to go the Safety Car came out again.

Again an opportunity for several drivers to make their third and final pit stop, while Button reported on the radio he was not at all happy with Vettel’s move at the restart during the previous Safety Car period, and asked his team to notify FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting.

No tricks from Vettel when the Safety Car went in again, but this time Massa and Senna were fighting for ninth place, but Senna closed the door very hard and Massa nearly crashed into the Williams, but nevertheless took ninth place from his compatriot.

Next target was Daniel Ricciardo, and again after a few hair-raising moments Massa passed the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso. Meanwhile Jenson Button had apparently decided to launch an attack on Vettel as he slowly started to reel in the Red Bull car.

But with two Safety Car periods it became clear the two-hour race limit would be reached before completing the original 61 laps the race should have lasted, and all eyes were on Vettel and Button again with still ten minutes to go. Red Bull had of course seen the danger, and Vettel upped his pace a bit to keep the 2009 World Champion behind him.

Second place for Jenson Button, McLaren

Another painful moment for Williams as Senna lost drive and had to park his car and was out of the race. But this time there were no alternator issues for Vettel, and he won the Singapore Grand Prix, the second victory of the season for the young German, Button was second and Alonso was third.

Vettel dedicated his win to Professor Sid Watkins, “I would like to dedicate it to one very special man Mr. Sid Watkins who passed away. He will be remembered for sure, I think he’s one of the biggest reasons that we can go out on a circuit like this and enjoy ourselves and be reasonably safe because he pushed the boundaries in terms of safety for all of us, so very big ‘thank you’.”

“It’s nice to be back on the podium – and, if I finish every remaining race in the top one or two, that’ll be perfect,” said second-place man Button, and he added, “During the first stint, I even thought I had a chance of winning because I was able to go longer than the cars around me. But then they didn’t seem to struggle much on the harder tyre, so the advantage swung away from me.”

And Alonso was glad to have finished in third place, “It was the best I could hope for as we were not very competitive this weekend in terms of pace. It was a very positive weekend. We only lost points to one of our major contenders which is good considering we are not quick enough.”

With his victory Vettel is now back in the hunt for the 2012 title, as he is now second with 165 points while Alonso was able to extend his lead and is still leading the Drivers’ Championship with 194 points, 29 points ahead of Vettel.

Raikkonen is still third with 149 points, and Hamilton due to his retirement is now in fourth place with 142 points, Webber (133) is fifth and Button (119) sixth. The next race, the Japanese Grand Prix, is in two weeks on October 7 at the Suzuka circuit.

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