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Aussies In Trouble As Vettel Romps Home

ROUND 13 – Singapore, 22 September 2013

1st: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 1hr 59m 13.132s (av. race speed 155.425 km/h)
2nd: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) gap: 32.627s
3rd: Kimi Raïkkönen (Lotus Renault) gap: 43.920s

Fastest Lap: Vettel 1:48.574 = 167.940 km/h on lap 46

Pole Position: Vettel 1:42.841 = 177.302 km/h

World Championship: Vettel 247 points • Alonso 187 • Hamilton 151

AUSSIES IN TROUBLE AS VETTEL ROMPS HOME

Sebastian Vettel has claimed his third and most commanding victory at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The 26-year-old Red Bull Renault star eclipsed Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari by over half a minute as he earned his seventh victory of 2013 and the 33rd of his stellar career. Vettel, on pole for the 41st time, almost had to give best to Nico Rosberg’s fast-starting Mercedes but regained command when his compatriot slithered wide through the first two turns. After that he simply walked away to head home Alonso and Lotus Renault’s Kimi Raikkonen.

”The car was incredible,” said Vettel after what looked like an easy win. “I said to the team, this doesn’t just happen like that, by accident or by luck, there’s hard work behind it and I appreciate it – it’s just a pleasure to drive it around this crazy track!” Vettel two-stopped on laps 17 and 44 and even the Safety Car’s intervention just before half-distance could not check his progress.

It came when Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Toro Rosso on entry to the infamous Turn 18 and slid into the wall on the outside, bending its right wheel backwards and eliminating Ricciardo on the spot. “It’s a delicate corner with not much run-off and I went too deep into the apex,” said a contrite Ricciardo. “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.”

On a bad night for the Australians Mark Webber looked set for a podium when his Red Bull found superb pace in the closing stages of the race. Ominously he was told to short-shift on all gears as he hunted down Raikkonen with only three laps remaining, then the rear of the car erupted in flames as he parked it on an escape road. Webber then incurred the wrath of the FIA stewards when he thumbed a lift with Alonso on the slow-down lap, disregarding marshals’ instructions to go on to the track and hop on the back of the Ferrari. He was let off with a reprimand after his first no-score since Shanghai.

“Yeah, it’s annoying but someone’s had a tougher day than me somewhere and that’s the way it goes,” said Webber. “I was having to short shift, but then, unlike Monza, we started to lose a lot of power. We were just trying to get home at that point but then on the last lap we caught fire.”

Alonso’s fifth Singapore podium was built on a foundation of desperation. It was made possible by a blindingly fast start which catapulted the two-time Singapore winner from seventh to third by the end of the opening lap. “It was a fantastic start,” Alonso agreed. “We didn’t have the pace so we knew we had to invent something! That was the first possibility; the other was a different strategy that paid off with a second place that tastes like a victory for us.” Despite that feeling, the result leaves Alonso 60 points adrift of Vettel with just six races remaining.

Vettel apart, perhaps the real star of the evening was Alonso’s 2014 teammate Raïkkönen. His weekend began with the revelation that his decision to rejoin Ferrari had been prompted by Lotus’s failure to pay his salary. He then endured a pain-racked Saturday as a back injury sustained in testing in France more than a decade ago flared up, as it regularly does. Starting 13th, Raïkkönen calmly worked his way through the field, picking off Jenson Button’s McLaren with a trademark round-the-outside move at Turn 14 that was one of the few racing highlights of the evening. “Maybe it looked more tricky than it was,” said Raikkonen. “Not an easy one, but we managed to get past…”

Raikkonen’s current teammate Romain Grosjean also had to swallow bitter disappointment. Plagued by mechanical problems on Friday, the Frenchman performed superbly to qualify third on the grid. His strong early pace counted for nothing when he had to retire in the pits with a loss of engine air pressure.

Webber’s demise left Mercedes duo Rosberg and a curiously lacklustre Lewis Hamilton in clear air to come home fourth and fifth ahead of the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Rosberg was left to rue a decision not to pit when the race was neutralised. “The safety car was unfortunate timing for us and perhaps it wasn’t the best decision to stay out but, at the time, we weren’t sure if our tyres would be able to last the distance,” he said. “I then had some rubber trapped in my front wing after the safety car period which cost me quite a lot of performance for some laps and had an impact on my race because the tyres suffered more than would be normal.”

McLaren’s Button and Sergio Perez were next, with the Englishman running a strong third before the tyres began to suffer in the closing laps. “We thought we might have a chance of a podium, but in the end we didn’t have the pace to keep us ahead of the closing cars. It was good fun trying though, and we have to take risks if we want to get podium finishes this year.” For Perez too it was a challenging weekend as his thoughts lay with his countrymen and the devastation caused by Mexico’s tropical storm – he wore a black armband this weekend in sympathy with the dead and homeless.

Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Adrian Sutil took the final two points-paying positions. Sutil’s teammate Paul di Resta was on course for a decent points haul from a lowly grid position when he too lost control and smacked the car’s front wing against the wall at Turn 7 on lap 55. “Costly,” said team owner Vijay Mallya tersely as Force india lost valuable ground to McLaren in the fight for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship. Red Bull lead that one too by a comfortable 103 points from Ferrari.

Next race: round 14, Korea, October 6 It’s F1’s fourth visit to Yeongam. The bad news for the other 21 is that Vettel has won there for the last two seasons as well… Catch all the Korean GP news right here!

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