Round 14 - Singapore 21-23 September 2012
Venue: Marina Bay
Circuit Length: 5.073 Km
Lap Record: 1:45.599 = 172.740 km/h - K. Raikkonen (Ferrari) 2008
Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1:46.362 = 171.704 km/h
1st: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault), 2hr 00m 26.144s
2nd: Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes), 8.959s behind
3rd: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 15.227s behind
Fastest Lap: Nico Hülkenberg (Sahara Force India), 1:51.033 = 164.480 km/h on lap 52
SEB SCENTS TITLE AFTER SECOND SUCCESS: SINGAPORE IN 10 QUICK BITES
Sebastian Vettel snatched his second successive Singapore victory for Red Bull Renault – and now the 25-year-old German is on the scent of an even greater prize. The 25 points for his second race win of 2012 propelled Vettel past Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen into second place in the Drivers’ World Championship. Still leading is Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari finished third in Singapore. Both men are striving for their third titles, Alonso holding the upper hand by 29 points with six races to go.
Singapore has always pushed F1’s two-hour limit very hard and the fifth night race at Marina Bay finally got there. The race was reduced from 61 to 59 laps following two Safety Car interventions – maintaining this race’s 100% record in that regard. The first came when Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT hit the wall at Turn 18; the second was for a potentially far more serious incident when Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes ploughed into the back of Jean Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso at Turn 14.
“It was obviously a very unfortunate ending to my race this evening when I ran into the car of Vergne who accepted my apology straight afterwards,” said Schumacher, who contributed to a similar incident with Sergio Perez in the 2011 Singapore race. “I am not totally sure why it happened like this; I was braking but the deceleration was not as strong as it usually would be, and I could not avoid running into the car in front of me.” The stewards took a dim view and have imposed a 10-place grid penalty on Schumacher for the next race at Suzuka.
“The circuit is a killer,” observed Vettel. “There’s so many bumps, there’s no space for mistakes and the race just seems to go on forever.” Vettel dedicated his 23rd career victory to Professor Sid Watkins, the much-loved and respected surgeon whose tireless work for F1 safety benefited so many drivers and who passed away two weeks ago. “I think he is one of the biggest reasons we can go out on a circuit like this and enjoy ourselves and be reasonably safe,” added Vettel, who was not born when ‘The Prof’ embarked on his safety crusade in the late 70s.
Alonso was delighted with his damage limitation in a car he described as “not very competitive” all weekend. “Starting in fifth was OK,” he said, “then the start was so-so. The safety car arrived in the worst moment for us because we have stopped and changed tyres five laps before so we didn’t have the pit stop for free. So with all these difficulties arriving third is for sure a fantastic result in terms of points.” It was the fourth time in five years that Alonso had stood on the Singapore podium.
Between Vettel and Alonso on that podium was Jenson Button in the only surviving McLaren Mercedes. That’s because pole-winner and early leader Lewis Hamilton was forced into retirement when all he could find was a box of neutrals on lap 23. “It’s heart-breaking not to have finished the race today,” said Hamilton. “We definitely had the pace to win this weekend. But I’ll never give up. There are six more races, and I need to go and win all six. I’ll fight until the end.” Could it be the kind of heartbreak that helps Hamilton decide his destination for 2013?
Paul di Resta took a career-best fourth place for Sahara Force India, whose other driver Nico Hülkenberg set the fastest lap of the race but finished out of the points in 14th. “Fourth place is a great team result and my best day in Formula One so far,” said Di Resta, tipped as one of the candidates to replace Schumacher should Michael call it quits a second time. “This result is just what we needed for our fight in the championship and I want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to the boys in the garage who put in a huge effort, as always.”
Behind the Scot was Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen scored his first Singapore points in the Lotus in sixth place. That was one better than teammate Romain Grosjean, driving a low-key race on his return from Monza suspension. Behind Grosjean came Felipe Massa, whose determination to cling on to his Ferrari seat was underlined by the steel he showed in passing fellow-Brazilian Bruno Senna’s Williams Renault as they crossed Anderson Bridge on lap 43.
Ninth place not only earned Dan Ricciardo two points for the third time this season, it also won him bragging rights in Australia. The man behind his Toro Rosso was Mark Webber, who endured a frustrating night in the second Red Bull and saw his strategy compromised by the two Safety Cars. “I am really happy with ninth place and I enjoyed having a fight with Mark towards the end, even if I could not hold off Massa just before that,” said a delighted Ricciardo. “In the closing stages, I didn’t look in the mirrors too much, but I just focussed on maintaining my lap times all the way to the flag.” Webber’s misery was compounded when he was given a drive-through penalty after the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, converted into a 20-second time penalty that dropped him to 11th and out of the points.
It was another disappointing day for Williams: front row starter Pastor Maldonado kept Alonso behind him throughout the first half of the race but suffered when he switched to Pirelli’s Supersoft tyres and came in for a second stop just four laps later. The Venezuelan eventually retired with hydraulic failure after 36 laps. Teammate Bruno Senna, who had a ragged time in practice and qualifying, also retired with a loss of power – just 20 seconds before the two-hour limit was reached – but was still 18th of the 19 classified finishers.