Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull won yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix to go second in the Formula One drivers’ standings and revive his challenge for a third straight title.
Jenson Button of McLaren came second, almost 9 seconds behind, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third in the floodlit night race on the Marina Bay street circuit. Alonso’s lead in the drivers’ event is reduced to 29 points from 37.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, second in the standings before the race, was leading when he had to pull out on lap 23 after a gearbox failure. It was Vettel’s second straight victory in the race, only his second this season and the 23rd of his career.
“This has been one of toughest races of the year, to be honest,” Vettel, 25, told reporters. “There are so many bumps, there’s no room for mistakes and it just seems to go on forever. I’m incredibly happy.”
Vettel, whose last win was in Bahrain in April, added that “it’s a tough championship but we are still in it. We’re looking forward to the next few races and the goal is to beat Fernando.”
Hamilton had taken pole position, seeking his third win in four races and a fourth straight victory for McLaren.
He had a good start, while Pastor Maldonado of Williams lost ground from second place on the grid. Hamilton led early on from Vettel, Button, Maldonado and Alonso. After a round of early pit stops the pattern was the same when Hamilton withdrew, banging his steering wheel in frustration as the car drew to a halt.
Germany’s Vettel, who’d started third on the grid, took over the lead. He was followed by Button, and they were among those pitting when the safety car came out after Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT crashed on lap 33.
Hardly had racing resumed when seven-time series champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes crashed into the back of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. That sent both cars out of the race and brought the safety car on again.
Vettel maintained his grip on the race as the safety car exited, followed by Button, Alonso, Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
By lap 52 Vettel had extended his lead over Button to 3 seconds and continued to stretch his advantage. The race, due to last 61 laps, only completed 59 by the two-hour time limit.
Di Resta finished fourth, followed by Rosberg, Lotus duo Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. Then came Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished 10th but dropped to 11th because of a 20-second penalty, Sergio Perez of Sauber taking the last point. Maldonado pulled out with a hydraulic problem.
Stewards investigated a near-miss incident between Vettel and Button during the first safety-car phase but didn't impose any penalty on the German over his maneuver.
“There’s a lot of races left, first of all we have to make sure we finish,” Vettel said. “I think the pace was there. Even if we are not quick enough to win, then it’s good enough to collect a lot of points.”
Alonso leads the drivers’ standings on 194 points, ahead of Vettel (165), who moves up from fourth. Then comes Raikkonen (149), Hamilton (142), Webber (132) and Button (119).
“It’s a fantastic result in terms of points,” Alonso said. “It’s a positive weekend. Of the four, five contenders, we lost points to one and with the others we increased our advantage.”
Hamilton said he was “gutted” when his car stopped.
“I was cruising, I was managing the gap and could have pushed more, I had the pace. Today would have been an easy win,” he said.
Red Bull leads the constructors’ event on 297, with McLaren on 261 and Ferrari on 245.
Also at the weekend, the Singapore government announced it extended its contract to host a Formula One race for five more years until 2017, providing a continued boost to the economy from visitor arrivals and tourism receipts.
The next event, the 15th in a 20-race season, is the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Oct. 7.