Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit is one grand prix I really look forward to because it takes place at night. Under miles of lighting illuminated the streets of Singapore like a fluorescent band, the cars are quite literally seen in another light – bright, vibrant and stark in contrast.
Practice here saw the all too familiar duel between Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton vs the Red Bulls, which predictably continued into Saturday’s qualifying.
Hamilton was the first to top the tables with a 1m 44.196s. McLaren had reason to feel more confident than usual with drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez sandwiching Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the top 5. Because the Red Bulls were thinking about their tyres, they gave up the challenge with Webber sixth and Vettel seventh, respectively.
Ferrari fans breathed a sigh of relief as Massa put in a late lap bumping himself to 13th from 18th, meaning he’dmade Q2. Drivers failing to make the cut were Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, Caterham’s Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. Marussias were close behind with Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.
Mercedes looked comfortable in Q2 whilst Red Bull remained in the pits until the last four minutes. As soon Vettel and Webber put in an appearance, they both improved their previous laps by a whole second as Vettel notched up second behind Rosberg. Esteban Gutierrez beat Nico Hulkenberg to put his Sauber in seventh spot – this knocked the German out of Q1 contention, leaving him 11th ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Toro Rosso. Disappointing news for the Flying Finn Raikkonen and the trapped nerve in his back, as he could only manage 13th for Lotus. Others to fail Q1 were Perez, Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas.
In Q3 Vettel and his crew looked a little nervous as the German elected not to put in a second run. Nico Rosberg came close to the pole time of 1m 42.841s with a 1m 42.932s. Webber’s second effort also missed out on a 1m 43.152s. In the end, Hamilton only looked good enough for forth until Romain Grosjean managed to put his Lotus in third, knocking the Mercedes down into fifth.
Massa out-classed his teammate yet again by taking sixth, one place ahead of Alonso. Button put his McLaren into eighth, Daniel Ricciardo took ninth, and Esteban Gutierrez took tenth as he stayed in the pits, opting to save a set of tyres.
As the cars flashed away under the brilliant lighting, it was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg who shone the brightest – he threw his Mercedes down the inside of Vettel and snatched lead. Vettel had none of it and jumped on an opportunity given to him as Rosberg ran wide. Fernando Alonso showed his starting ability by jumping up four places into third by the second corner.
Vettel managed to maintain his lead from racy Rosberg and pulled out a big 1.9-second lead. As Alonso caught Rosberg, Hamilton passed Felipe Massa for sixth. The Mercedes driver is then told by his team give the place back, suggesting he gained an unfair advantage somewhere.
After giving the place back, he immediately tried to take it back again but Massa defended well and maintained his position.
Despite pumping painkillers into him before the race, Raikkonen took 10th place of Esteban Gutierrez by cruising around the outside at Turn Seven.
Raikkonen was the first to pit and came in for a set of super-softs. With a lead of 26 seconds, Vettel finally pitted and chose the harder tyre, rejoining comfortably in the lead.
By lap 20, with most of the stops out of the way, Nico Rosberg trailed Sebastian Vettel by nine seconds, but held an eight-second lead over Fernando Alonso. Behind the Spaniard, the racing was far closer, with Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton separated by only three seconds.
On Lap 25 everyone piled into the pits, taking advantage of the Safety Car period due to Ricciardo under-steering into a wall. Alonso put on medium compounds whilst Massa opted for super-softs. Drivers happy to stay out were Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton.
On Lap 32 Vettel’s engineers told him he could use his tyres to open up his lead – not what everyone else wants to hear! A few fast laps and the German found 3.2 seconds over Nico Rosberg. Mark Webber was third, with Lewis Hamilton fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth.
A few laps on and bad news for Grosjean – he found himself in the pits for an excruciating amount of time as the team remedied a fuel consumption issue. This is heart-wrenching as he didn’t need to stop again and stood a chance of winning the race. It only took another 4 laps for Grosjean to have to stop again, this time being wheeled backwards into the garage – game over for the lotus.
On Lap 42 Rosberg pitted from second to rejoin in 13th behind Webber, who managed to undercut him having pitted two laps previous. Rosberg’s engineer told him he needs to push for the last 20 laps, to which Rosberg replied: “Why do I need to push? I don’t want to push more than I have to round here.” The reply: “Er, you need to push because you’re a racing driver, Nico. That’s what you do.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton had made it to the back of his teammate, Rosberg seeing nothing but silver in his mirrors. Hamilton looked faster so it was just a question of what the team wanted them to do about it.
Esteban Gutierrez was backing up the field, with Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton all catching him. Webber used DRS to get past into seventh, and Rosberg also snuck through soon after, with Hamilton eventually getting past too. The Mexican lost three places in five corners.
Button looked good defending his position from Kimi in third – it would be good to see the Brit up on the podium this season.
Sebastian Vettel made his final stop from the lead and rejoined comfortably ahead of second-placed Fernando Alonso who has yet to stop. With 16 laps to go, the big question was whether the Spaniard was going to make it to the end without stopping again.
Championship chaser, Alonso started lapping very strongly and was over a second quicker than Button, Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Could Alonso make it up on to the podium?
McLaren’s hopes of a first podium finished laps later as Kimi Raikkonen stormed around the outside of Button. Button squeezed the Finn as much as is allowed, but Raikkonen snatched third.
More bad luck for Paul Di Resta – he crashed into the barriers at Turn Seven, adding another DNF to his collection. As this happened, Mark Webber passed Jenson Button for fourth.
Despite a promising qualifying and start, the McLarens now looked tired with Button in fifth and Sergio Perez further back.
The Lord Of Bad Luck, Webber was told by his engineer to short-shift. He was then warned to keep the revs low, and as a result lost massive time.
Webber then came on the radio: “I’ve lost power.”
Felipe Massa passed the dying Red Bull who then had to pull over into retirement.
As Vettel passed the finish line, a brilliant firework display followed him down finishing straight – what a way to celebrate his seventh victory this season.
Second-placed Alonso stopped on the slow down lap to give stranded Webber a lift on his Ferrari – great sportsmanship and great scenes. However, the latest news reveals Webber faces a 10-place grid penalty for the next race for taking a ride on the Ferrari – can this man’s luck get any worse?
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
- Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
- Jenson Button (McLaren)
- Sergio Perez (McLaren)
- Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)
- Adrian Sutil (Force India)
Sebastian Vettel is ostensibly unstoppable, but take minute and cast your mind back to last season when the German overcame a 42-point deficit to Fernando Alonso to win the title – so why can’t Alonso do the same this season?
Until Korea, the Spaniard can only keep grabbing those second places and hoping for some change in performance or mistakes from Vettel.