Vettel Victorious in Singapore
By: James Musoke on September 23, 2012 | 10:10 A.M. EST
Sebastian Vettel claimed his second victory of the season on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)
Defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his second victory of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix, benefiting from the retirement of pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, who suffered from a gearbox failure on the 22nd lap.
The German had dominated practice sessions earlier in the week, only to be outclassed by the speedy McLaren in qualifying and ended up starting the race in third behind Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Nevertheless, the defending champion was able to squeeze past Maldonado at the start and keep pace with the McLaren until Lap 22 when Hamilton suddenly lost his ability to change gears and was subsequently forced to park the car. Vettel now assumed the lead of the longest race of the season, and managed to weather two safety car appearances to earn back-to-back victories at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
“I think it’s one of the toughest races of the year to be honest,” Vettel said. “It’s very long; the full two hours. The circuit is a killer. There are so many bumps, there’s no space for mistakes and the race just seems to go on forever. Obviously we benefited from Lewis’ failure. A couple of laps before that he lost some oil and then after that I think we generally we had very, very strong pace all weekend. I had a good start, which got us into second and in the hunt. The pace was there so... I’m just incredibly happy and proud because this is such a tough race.”
Hamilton had commanded the race from the start, undertaking a well-calculated pit stop on the 12th lap to stay ahead of Vettel, who had pitted a one lap earlier. The Brit seemed to be pulling away from the Red Bull with consistency until the fateful moment when the reliability of the car hindered the 2008 champion from a very encouraging start.
“It’s heart-breaking not to have finished the race today,” Hamilton said. “We definitely had the pace to win this weekend. In fact, before I retired, I was cruising; just managing the gap back to Seb (Vettel). Then I started to experience difficulty with the gearshift, then I lost third gear, and then the ’box kept dropping into neutral. Obviously, I was disappointed, but the good thing we can take away from this weekend is that we have extremely good pace. As a result, I think we can really attack in the next few races. It’s going to be hard to close the gap to guys like Fernando (Alonso) and Sebastian, especially when they keep finishing race after race, 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.”
Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button finished in second place, ahead of championship leader Fernando Alonso who claimed the final podium position.
Force India’s Paul di Resta earned an excellent fourth-place finish, a career high for the young Scotsman, who started the race in sixth place. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg took fifth, ahead of the two Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, who finished in sixth and seventh place, respectively.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa drove a fantastic race from last on the grid to finish eighth, leading home Daniel Ricciardo of Torro Rosso and Red Bull's Mark Webber who took the final point.
Two on-track incidents occurred during the race, bringing out the safety car on the 33rd and 38th lap. HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan hit the barriers in the section under the grandstand, damaging his front-right wheel and spreading some debris on the track. The safety car lead the procession for five laps, leading the drivers off once again on the 38th lap until Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher ran into the back of Torro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne, destroying both cars and forcing both drivers to call it a day.
“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,” Schumacher said. “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. We have to find out what has happened. Up until then, I think it would have been possible to get some points this evening.”
Schumacher has been handed a 10-place grid penalty for the incident, and will lose 10 starting places for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Hamilton was not the only driver to suffer from reliability problems, as both Williams’ cars were also forced into early retirement. Pastor Maldonado, who qualified in second place, was forced back into the garage on the 37th lap due to hydraulic problems, while teammate Bruno Senna reported a loss or power and climbed out of his Williams as the race came to a close.
“Both drivers drove extremely well today and at one stage we were looking at a good double points finish,” said Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer. “Unfortunately we suffered two failures that forced us to retire the cars. This is an extremely disappointing end to a promising weekend.”
Ferrari’s Alonso maintains his championship lead with 194 points, with Vettel edging closer with 165 points. Raikkonen stays in third, while Hamilton drops to fourth place with 142 points.
The Formula One Championship returns in two weeks for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.