Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing profited immensely by McLaren’s mechanical woes to take the win for the second straight year in the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.
The two-time defending world champion was running second, one-and-a-half seconds behind pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren when the McLaren’s gearbox went away on lap 23. Vettel was three seconds ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button when Hamilton retired, and nine seconds ahead at the finish.
The win, and Hamilton’s retirement, put the Red Bull driver back into the title chase. Vettel went from third with 140 points to second with 165, 29 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonzo who finished third, a ten-point gain. Hamilton fell to fourth, scoring no points on the day.
The 25-year-old German driver told Formula1.com that he didn’t know how much the win would ultimately matter in the points race, “but for sure it was great to bag 25 points. It’s been a good day for us.
“At the end of the first stint I could not keep up the speed and had to pit for new tires, which wasn’t exactly the plan. In the end the decision was correct as I felt much more comfortable on the harder compound and could get closer to Lewis.
“He then ran into trouble and had to stop so it is hard to say what would have happened had he stayed in the race. But speed-wise I would say that in the second stint something would have been possible. In the end it was not necessary to try anything. I must say that it was a really good weekend.”
A pair of accidents brought out the safety car twice, shortened the race by two laps (race duration was 61 laps or two hours.) This let—or forced—most drivers to complete the race on two sets of tires. Vettel is a master at saving his tires; so is Jenson Button, but on Singapore’s slow-speed corners in the high heat, Vettel did better.
Vettel, accustomed to being at the front of the field in every race, had had only a single win prior to Singapore. “It has taken long enough to get my second victory of the season, so yes, I am happy and very satisfied after a good weekend,” he said. “I am very much looking forward to the next few races.”
Lewis Hamilton also tried to sound optimistic, though perhaps it took more effort. “It’s heart-breaking not to have finished the race today,” he said in a team press statement.
“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].
“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 [Vettel], 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.”
Fernando Alonso told Formula1.com, he didn’t care how it worked out so long as he stayed ahead in his search for his third drivers’ title. “In Monza is was Lewis winning the race and Sebastian retired. Here it’s Sebastian winning, Lewis retiring, so for me it’s okay if they keep doing it like this.”
Formula One’s next race will be the Japanese Grand Prix on October 7.
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