Sebastian Vettel prospered from Lewis Hamilton’s mechanical failure, to record his second victory of the season.
Sun 23.09.12, 12:12AM
The Red Bull Racing driver led over the line from Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. As a result Vettel rises from fourth in the Drivers’ Championship standings to second place. Kimi Räikkönen remains third after finishing the Singapore Grand Prix in sixth position.
“It’s one of the toughest races of the year to be honest,” Vettel said afterwards. “It’s very long; the full two hours. There’s no space for mistakes and the race just seems to go on forever. I had a good start, which got us into second and in the hunt and the pace was there. Obviously we benefited from Lewis’ failure. After that I think we generally we had very, very strong pace. I’m just incredibly happy and proud because this is a such a tough race.”
Vettel rose from third to second at the start, getting past the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. He and leader Hamilton pulled away from the field and looked evenly matched on pace. With no change through the first round of pitstops, they developed a good lead on third-placed Jenson Button but Hamilton was forced to pull over on lap 22 with a suspected gearbox failure.
“It's heartbreaking not to have finished the race,” said Hamilton afterwards. “We definitely had the pace to win this weekend. In fact, before I retired, I was cruising; just managing the gap back to Seb. Then I started to experience difficulty with the gearshift, then I lost third gear, and then the gearbox kept dropping into neutral.”
Despite the setback, Hamilton vowed to continue his battle for the Drivers’ Championship. “The good thing we can take away from this weekend is that we have extremely good pace,” he said. “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 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.”
Vettel’s comfortable lead vanished when Narain Karthikeyan crashed out under the Bay Grandstand on lap 31, and the safety car was deployed. It left the track at the end of lap 37 but was out again only two laps later when Michael Schumacher ploughed into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. Schumacher was later handed a 10-place grid penalty for his next race.
But it was the final drama for Vettel. Once the pace car peeled off track last year’s Singapore winner settled into a solid rhythm and slowly built up a comfortable six-second lead over Button. He duly took the chequered flag for his second win of the year.
Alonso retained his lead in the Drivers’ Championship and despite that lead being cut from 37 to 29 points, professed himself pleased with the result from an event where Ferrari did not appear strong. “I think it’s a very positive weekend; a very good weekend,” he said. “Of the four or five contenders, we lost points to one, but against the other three we increased our advantage, so obviously, as I said, when we are not quick enough to win more points against three of our opponents, I think it’s positive.”
Behind the leaders, Paul di Resta took a career-best fourth for Force India, Nico Rosberg was fifth for Mercedes, ahead of the Lotus team of Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean. Felipe Massa recovered to eighth after a disastrous first lap saw him pitting and emerging last. Daniel Ricciardo was ninth for Toro Rosso, making up for the last-lap mechanical failure in Italy which denied him a point, and tenth was Sergio Pérez, who gained the place several hours after the race when Mark Webber was demoted for an illegal overtaking move on Pérez’s team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.