Sebastian Vettel continued on his winning ways in Singapore and even a safety car was unable to dent his impervious advantage over a field that looked second rate. A fightback from title contenders Alonso and Raikkonen made for spectacular viewing but would be too late to stop Vettel from extending his advantage.
Adrian Sutil was the only man to start on mediums, in the hope of sticking with the leaders before he could use the advantage of the super softs in the second stint. A brilliant start from Rosberg saw him hang Vettel out to dry at turn one, but as the chicane did it’s work the inside eventually became Seb’s, who duly returned the favour to hold the lead. Behind the leading pair, Lewis cut the continued at the straight and was required to return a place to Felipe Massa.
Alonso was the big winner, moving from seventh to third with a fast-starting Webber behind. Paul di Resta also jumped four places at the start and was being closed on by the Lotus of Raikkonen (who was still suffering from a pinched nerve in practice).
Hamilton, who had now returned the place to Massa was engaged in a fightback, but his advances were well and truly thwarted by a resolute Massa through Raffles Boulevard. Up front, Rosberg was taking small bites out of Vettel’s lead (now in the region of 7 seconds) through light brake application and dexterous throttle use. The strategy appeared to be working with Rosberg three-tenths quicker than the lead Red Bull in sector two.
Behind, Webber had now dropped behind Alonso in conservative mode, but in the process began to frustrate Romain Grosjean who had begun to go purple in sector one. It wasn’t long before Romain pitted for some clean air. Valterri Bottas was experiencing a facsmile of Grosjean’s situation having been facing Giedo van der Garde’s gearbox since the opening lap.
Just as Grosjean pitted, Alonso and Webber decided to go purple – with Alonso setting the fastest lap of the race so far in the process and closing on Rosberg. Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa pitted for mediums (no doubt as atester for Fernando), along with Jen-Eric Vergne and Charles Pic.
Webber pitted soon after (struggling with rear-end grip) only to emerge behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Tor Rosso. Realising who still signs his cheques, Daniel made little effort to resist his compatriot. As they exchanged pleasantries, Alonso pitted for mediums, rejoining in sixth behind the yet to stop Paul di Resta. Grosjean soon followed, pitting in third and leaving on super softs in sixth.
Down the order in 11th to 13th, Maldonado, Hulkenberg and Perez were pushing the boundaries of the Marina Bay circuit as they made their own arrangements.
Lap 18 and di Resta was now third and was still yet to stop and was now being hounded by Alonso and Webber. While this ensued, Vettel pitted for mediums and rejoined in the lead.
Back in 11th and 12th, a furious Hulkenberg begrudgingly handed back position to Perez as they were closed down by Raikkonen. Di Resta finally pitted from third, thereby releasing Alonso, who was clear of Webber – now under threat from a flying Romain Grosjean. Behind him, Hamilton was struggling for pace and unhappy with rear balance but still within one second of the Lotus. Grosjean was unable to make an impression on the Rd Bull’s dirty air, but all this was about to change when Daniel Ricciardo ploughed into the wall at infamous turn 17. Safety car was out. Alonso and Grosjean immdiatly seized on the opportunity while Webber stayed out to take over third.
The safety car now gave Rosberg a second bite at the cherry and it would be interesting to see if Vettel had tken too much out of his rubber setting such a furious early pace. It was to be a lobg safety duration to allow Bianchi and Chilton to overtake the saftey car and resume at the rear. Chilton had completed one less stop then Bianchi as consequently lead the Frenchman, whil Giedo van der Garde pitted from an oustanding 15th place.
As the safety car came in it was Vettel who got the jump on Rosberg, netting himself a 1.6 second gap which became 2.2 seconds by the end of the first lap. In fourth, Hamilton was complaining of debris (possibly from Ricciardo) as Mercedes carefully monitored his front right.
A disaster for Grosjean as an air-pressure failure forced him in for a top up of air which took around 40 seconds. His promising qualifying was now laid to waste as he rejoined dead last. Webber meanwhile was crawling over the rear of Rosberg, who had now bottled up the field – less than ten seconds now covering 2nd to 14th positions.
A slip up from Gutierrez on the marbles allowed Sutil to steal 13th, bumore importantly the Mexican was miraculously fortunate to avoid the wall of death and continue. Di Resta was now a superb sixth as Grosjean pitted his Lotus terminally.
Webber now pitted from third position and Hamilton was duly instructed by his team to push while the Australian was stationary. Lewis meanwhile was concerned whether he could make the end on his tyres. Webber rejoined in 13th with Rosberg right behind. They would both be praying they could keep pace before the leading opposition stopped. Oddly, Rosberg seemed slightly bemused by Mercedes instructing him to push – a debrief over his job description might have been required if his tyres weren’t in question.
Ridiculously, Vettel now enjoyed a 27 second gap over Hamilton and effectively a pitstop in hand.
Hamilton pitted and rejoined in fourth – the Webber experiment had succeeded in jumping Rosberg but would it work in defence against Hamilton?
Secret squirrel Jenson Button was now up to a spectacular third having flown under the radar all evening. The Briton now enjoyed a four second gap over Raikkonen but both men would undoubtedly need to stop again.
A pit-stop from Hamilton wasn’t good enough to hold off Webber and Rosberg and rejoined in 10th. Rosberg however was setting quicker sectors than Webber as the trio scythed through the field, hunting down the podium.
At the front, Vettel had pulled out another second on Alonso on the last lap to lead by 11.1 seconds. Raikkonen meanwhile was fast closing on a struggling Button who was dealing with a rear-end attempting to impersonate Fred Astaire. Pinched nerve or not, Raikkonen had to maximise his opportunity for a pass now as a fresh-rubbered Webber was now only 2 seconds behind.
Up front, Rocky was informing Vettel of brake vibrations; a new concern in a string of common issues that begin to plague Vettel towards the end of a race but somehow never seem to affect his pace. Team-mate Webber menwhile scythed down the inside of Hulkenberg for for sixth and set out after Perez who was defending vigorously.
Raikkonen timed his run on Button to perfection, making an oportunistic run around the outside of turn 14, flattening the car and out-dragging Button to take third. However the game changed yet again, with di Resta in the wall at turn 7.
Webber had now passed Perez and wasted no time in making short work of the now struggling Button – who was losing places hand-over-fist. However like in Monza, Webber was asked to short-shift – the old gearbox issue rearing it’s ugly head. Hamilton was now growing more and more frustrated by being held up by Rosberg.
Whilsst nursing his gearbox, Webber was now losing pace and being closed in on by Rosberg to the tune of a second a lap. It didn’t take long for Nico to out drag the struggling Red Bull and in the process leave a gap for Lewis to do the same on the proceeding corner – relegating Webber to sixth with a smoking gearbox to boot. He was to retire soon after.
It was a case of damage control for Alonso to finish second and a superb third for an ailing Raikkonen; serving to illustrate the Finn’s brilliance under fire. Alonso returned Webber’s assist back to the pits a few years back by giving him a piggy back to the pits, but the galantry would be cold comfort with Vettel stealing a march on what would undoubtedly be a fourth consecutive world championship.
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