Red Bull were back to winning ways as Sebastian Vettel ended his nine-race winless streak with a fortuitous victory at the Singapore Grand Prix. Pole sitter and race leader Lewis Hamilton retired after 22 laps with a gearbox failure on his McLaren, handing over the race on a platter to Vettel who was running second behind him. Jenson Button rescued some points for McLaren with a second place finish and Fernando Alonso finished third, maintaining his lead atop the drivers’ championship.
Force India’s Paul Di Resta finished fourth ahead of the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in fifth, the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in sixth and seventh, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in eighth, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo in ninth and Red Bull’s Mark Webber in tenth. The race was ended two laps early on the two-hour time limit as two safety car periods meant the entire 61 laps could not be completed
The result means Alonso now has a 29 point lead in the championship standings over Vettel in second place with Kimi Raikkonen a further 16 points behind. Hamilton slips to fourth, trailing Alonso by 52 points with six races remaining.
It was plain sailing for pole sitter Hamilton after a trouble-free start despite itchy-finger Pastor Maldonado starting beside him and a fourth consecutive race win for McLaren seemed all but certain, that is until the gearbox on his car let go after 22 laps, thereby ending his race and severely denting his championship chances. Whether it will sour the relationship between driver and team remains to be seen.
By the time Hamilton had his failure, Vettel and Button had passed Maldonado and were trying hard to catch up with the leader without either making serious inroads into the lead. Alonso was holding fort in fifth place and managing his tyres very well in what would turn out to be an attritional and incident packed race. There were two safety car periods – the first time on lap 34 after Narain Karthikeyan lost control of his HRT and rammed into the barriers under the bridge, and no sooner had it exited and racing resumed it was back out again on lap 39 after Michael Schumacher rammed into the back of Jean Eric Vergne as the brakes seemed to fail on his Mercedes.
Though the race seemed processional at times, the high tyre wear coupled with the tight driving line around the street track led to several interesting incidents throughout the evening. Notable among them were Felipe Massa’s determined drive from back of the field to finish eight, enjoying a hairy moment after clashing with the Williams of Bruno Senna. Both the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were in the thick of the action in a ding-dong battle with Nick Hulkenberg, from which neither emerged unscathed – Hulkenberg suffering a puncture and the Saubers suffering front wing damage. Williams had a forgettable race evening as failed hydraulics ended Maldonado’s race early on and Senna retiring with likely brake problems later on.
The next race is at Suzuka in Japan in two weeks time and McLaren and Red Bull will be looking to further eat into Alonso’s lead atop the standings whilst the wily Spaniard will look to eke out more positive results and maybe a win or two!