Sebastian Vettel was in a league of his own around the streets of Singapore, claiming a commanding win and taking another step towards the title.
After a two-corner fight with Nico Rosberg for the lead, it was all Vettel as the triple World Champion dominated proceedings.His rivals were given a brief glimmer of hope when on Lap 25 Daniel Ricciardo's accident brought out the Safety Car and bunched up the field. It didn't last long.
Fernando Alonso, after a brilliant race start, managed to nurse a set of tyres for 35 laps, and similarly Kimi Raikkonen recovered from 13th place on the opening lap to score an unexpected podium position that was helped by Mark Webber's fiery exit.
The light on the special metallic paint of the Red Bull glinted brightly as Sebastian Vettel led the grid off on the parade lap at Marina Bay. Despite earlier worries there might be rain, it was dry with the ambient temperature at 29C and the track at 31C.
Grid: 1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.Grosjean, 4.Webber, 5.Hamilton, 6.Massa, 7.Alonso, 8.Button, 9.Ricciardo, 10.Gutierrez, 11.Hulkenberg, 12.Vergne, 13.Raikkonen, 14.Perez, 15.Sutil, 16.Bottas, 17.DiResta, 18.Maldonado, 19.Pic, 20.Van der Garde, 21.Bianchi, 22.Chilton.
As the red lights went out Rosberg managed to get ahead of Vettel on the short run to Turn 1, but ran wide allowing the Red Bull driver to take the place back by Turn 2. Mark Webber challenged Romain Grosjean starting from P3, but it was Fernando Alonso's audacious sweep around the outside that gave him third place from seventh on the grid. He just about kept two wheels on the circuit. Massa and Hamilton battled it out wheel to wheel, with the Ferrari driver gaining the place, then losing it as Hamilton made a brave early pass up the inside. However Lewis had cut the first chicane and was told to give Massa the position back.
Positions at the end of Lap 1: 1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.Alonso, 4.Grosjean, 5.Webber, 6.Massa, 7.Hamilton, 8.Button, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Gutierrez, 11.Perez, 12.DiResta, 13.Raikkonen, 14.Ricciardo, 15.Vergne.
Vettel had opened up a 1.9 second gap at the end of the opening lap and was gone. With Alonso close on his heels, Rosberg now had to look backwards in his mirrors to make sure he wasn't vulnerable to Fernando in the DRS zones after Lap 2.
Further back both Toro Rossos had gone in reverse off the grid with Ricciardo losing five places att he start and Vergne three places. Biggest winner alongside Alonso was Paul Di Resta who'd put the poor qualifying of Saturday behind him in a single lap and was through to P12, while team-mate Adrian Sutil (on Mediums while the rest of the grid were on SuperSofts) languished in P17.
Thus the race settled down into a groove around the difficult-to-pass circuit.
At the front Sebastian Vettel was proving his much-predicted dominance - at the end of the first lap the gap was 1.9 seconds, at the end of the second it was 4.1, by Lap 3 it was 5.6 seconds, and by Lap 4 it was 6.2 seconds, at which point his engineer got on the radio and told him not to take too much life out of his tyres as any advantage he built up would be nullified by a Safety Car. In every race at Singapore over five years there has been a Safety Car. He stabilised his advantage at around seven seconds.
At the same time as Vettel was opening the gap to second place, Nico Rosberg managed to edge clear of Fernando Alonso, and Mark Webber was advised by his engineer to drop back to two seconds behind Alonso in order to preserve his SuperSoft tyres.
Kimi Raikkonen, who had benefited from a session with the Red Bull chiropractor before the race, had made up places in the early laps and eased his way past Esteban Gutierrez on Lap 5 to take P11. At the end of Lap 10 he was the first one into the pits for his first tyre stop. This kicked off a series of stops for the front-runners - Massa on Lap 12; Webber, Button and Hulkenberg on Lap 13; Alonso and Perez on Lap 14; Rosberg, Grosjean, Hamilton and Ricciardo on Lap 15.
This left Sebastian Vettel with an enormous lead of 36 seconds on Lap 16 - more than enough to take a stop and come out in the lead.
Positons at the end of Lap 16: 1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.DiResta (not stopped), 4.Alonso, 5.Webber, 6.Grosjean, 7.Hamilton, 8.Massa, 9.Button, 10.Raikkonen, 11.Hulkenberg, 12.Perez, 13.Gutierrez.
Vettel finally came in for his pit-stop at the end of Lap 17 and when he rejoined he found he was 8.0 seconds clear of Rosberg. The first round of stops had shuffled the order with Hamilton getting in front of Massa, Webber getting the jump on Grosjean and Raikkonen getting the better of Hulkenberg. The only card left to be re-inserted in the pack was Paul DiResta whose lap times only started falling off on Lap 19. He came in on Lap 20 and rejoined in P13. Although the Scot was now behind where he got to on the opening lap, he had gone almost ten laps longer than some of the cars around him and would come back into contention when they pitted again.
There was little happening up and down the length of the field at this stage of the race and team radio transmissions - such as Kimi Raikkonen reporting to engineer Mark Slade about a problem on his Lotus - were played into the TV feed. The Lotus telemetry boys couldn't see anything, although Raikkonen had been experiencing problems with his steering wheel paddles.
On Lap 25 the race changed, though, as the Singapore GP lived up to its one-Safety-Car-per-race reputation. Daniel Rcciardo had understeered his Toro Rosso straight into the wall at Turn 18 in an accident that looked almost like it was a pre-arranged crash test.
"Maybe at the end I was just trying to get too much out of it and made that mistake," admitted the Western Australian. "It's a delicate corner with not much run-off and I went too deep into the apex. I then braked a bit harder, locked a wheel and went into the wall. It's not a mistake I'm used to making. I will learn from this."
Out came the Safety Car and for the rest of the field it was decision time. While the front four: Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton carried on, almost all the cars behind them - with the exception of DiResta - pitted. In came Alonso, Grosjean, Massa, Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez and Sutil. Such was the traffic jam in the pitlane that both Button and Raikkonen were delayed by the sheer weight of cars making their stops.
So as they trailed around behind the Safety Car the positions on Lap 30 were: 1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.Webber, 4.Hamilton, 5.Alonso, 6.Grosjean, 7.DiResta, 8.Massa, 9.Button, 10.Raikkonen, 11.Perez, 12.Hulkenberg, 13.Vergne, 14.Gutierrez.
There were fears that, like 2012, the race would be stopped short of the full race distance, as on the hour mark we had only completed 28 of the 61 laps. The big time delay was not clearing away Ricciardo's car but allowing the lapped cars to overtake and get back into line. We were racing again on Lap 31 - just as Vettel became No.4 in the all-time lap leaders of F1, passing Nigel Mansell's total and now closing in on Schumacher Prost and Senna.
Vettel showed his immense ability around Marina Bay by completing Lap 31 in 1:51.775 while Rosberg could only manage a 1:53.965. He had opened up a 3.2 second gap on the first lap and then stretched it out to 5.5, 8.3, 9.9, 11.9 and 14.3! Vettel's sheer speed was compounded by Rosberg having trouble with his radio, but more importantly, he had rubber marbles jammed into the slot gaps of his front wing, robbing him of downforce. Thus while the World Champion escaped up the road like a scalded cat, Rosberg developed an immense train.
On Lap 34 Romain Grosjean had to detach himself from the train and return to the pits to have a pneumatic problem on his car looked at. The engine's valve closure system had to be rebooted by refilling with Nitorogen and the Frenchman had to wait an age while this was done. Because the Safety Car had closed the entire field up he rejoined in 21st and last place.
Meanwhile second place Rosberg's train - all with DRS and all unable to deploy DRS effectively because of the tight confines of the track - showed no sign of going away. On Lap 34 there was under a second between each car from Mark Webber in 3rd down to Adrian Sutil in 14th. By Lap 39 it had hardly diminished with 3rd to 13th covered by 10 seconds behind Rosberg.
Now it was a strategy question of who could last till the end of the race and who would need to make one final stop. Mark Webber provided the first answer by coming in at the end of Lap 40 along with Adrian Sutil. Mercedes told Lewis to "push, push, it's all starting to happen now!"
On Lap 41 Nico Rosberg pitted from second place to have the rubber cleaned out of his slots. On Lap 42 DiResta and Massa pitted for their final time. Mark Webber's earlier stop had sprung an advantage, the Red Bull was now in front of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton then pitted and rejoined behind the Webber vs Rosberg battle. With Hamilton out of the way, Vettel now had a thirty-second gap he could use to pit and still come out in front of Fernando Alonso. Which he did.
So on Lap 44 the positions were: 1.Vettel, 2.Alonso, 3.Button, 4.Raikkonen, 5.Perez, 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Gutierrez, 9.Webber, 9.Rosberg, 10.Hamilton, 11.DiResta, 12.Massa, 13.Vergne.
Although everyone bar Massa and Vergne had stopped two times - the cars who had pitted under the Safety Car, from Alonso in 2nd place to Gutierrez in 7th place, were going to be marginal on tyres and if they were going to make a three-stop strategy work, they needed to pit soon. As the subsequent laps unfolded it became clear that all six were trying to go to the end on that set of tyres.
Vettel - barring a mechanical issue, was home and dry at the front. It was now a question of studying the timing charts to see whose tyres were going to fall off the cliff and if the pack of cars led by Mark Webber - i.e. Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton, DiResta, Massa could get past the pack of Safety Car Stoppers led by Alonso - i.e. Alonso, Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Helkenberg, Gutierrez.
Webber caught and passéd Gutierrez on Lap 49 and both Mercedes scrambled through on the same lap. Next down the road was Hulkenberg - and on Lap 51 Webber made up nearly four seconds on the Sauber driver. By Lap 54 he was through. Hulkenberg wondered if it was actually worth fighting with them as it was only going to make his failing tyres worse.
However Alonso in P2 looked to be keeping his lap times up, but the longer it took Kimi Raikkonen to get past Jenson Button, the more likely that Webber and the two Mercedes were going to catch him. Finally Raikkonen went round the outside of Button in the tricky (and no run-off) Turn 14. It was a brave move, but gave him the podium position. In the time it took Webber to pass Button, Kimi got clear.
What complicated the chase was Paul DiResta driving straight on into the barriers and throwing away a potential 6th place bringing out the yellow flags. The following Felipe Massa gladly accepted the position and while Nico Rosberg struggled to pass Sergio Perez, the Ferrari driver closed right up on Lewis Hamilton who had been perched on Rosberg's gearbox for some time. Massa even got alongside the Mercedes driver on lap 57 - Hamilton resisted.
Thankfully Rosberg relieved the pressure by getting past Perez, followed by Hamilton and then Massa. This trio soon passed Jenson Button who was by this stage a sitting duck. On lap 59 he was six seconds a lap slower than Massa.
All the time that the late-stoppers were catching the Safety Car stoppers Mark Webber had been nursing a water pressure problem in his engine - which was gradually running out. His team first asked him to start short shifting, and then in the closing two laps it ran out of coolant and started to massively overheat.
Rosberg eased past the struggling Red Bull on Lap 60 of 61 to take P4 and Hamilton came through for P5. Then on the final lap Webber lost power and cruised to a stop, his engine on fire. While he parked up his Red Bull, fireworks were going off for Vettel's dominant win with Alonso hanging on for P2 and Raikkonen not challenged in P3.
Massa came through for P6 behind the two Mercedes - the position Di Resta would have had - while Jenson Button managed to stave off team-mate Perez, Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil who crossed the line nose to tail for P7, 8, 9 and 10.
As ever it had been a race that had been decided by the timing of the Safety Car - neither Mercedes driver thought they could have made it to the end had they pitted with Alonso and Raikkonen, but for Vettel it didn't matter. Mark Webber hitched a lift back to the pits on Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and duly got a reprimand from the stewards as a footnote to what had been a thrilling end to another memorable Singapore Grand Prix.
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:59:13.132
02 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +32.6
03 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus +43.9
04 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +51.1
05 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +53.1
06 Felipe Massa Ferrari +63.8
07 Jenson Button McLaren +83.3
08 Sergio Perez McLaren +83.8
09 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +84.2
10 Adrian Sutil Force India +84.6
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams +88.4
12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +97.8
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams +
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +
15 Giedo van der Garde Caterham +1 lap
16 Max Chilton Marussia +1 lap
17 Jules Bianchi Marussia +1 lap
18 Charles Pic Caterham +1 lap
19 Mark Webber Red Bull +1 lap
20 Paul di Resta Force India +7 laps
R Romain Grosjean Lotus +24 laps
R Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso +38 laps
Singapore Race Day In Pictures
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