Vettel wins as Hamilton retires in Singapore
23 September 2012 – Sebastian Vettel has won for the second time in 2012, taking the chequered flag in Singapore on Sunday. Lewis Hamilton, who led from the start, retired with a broken gearbox on the 23rd lap. This left Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to complete the podium as Paul di Resta registered his best ever F1 result in fourth.
Heading into the fifth Formula 1 night race, the entire community took time to remember Professor Sid Watkins with one minute of silence before the race. On-track, Hamilton’s target from pole position was to stay ahead of Pastor Maldonado on the run to the first corner. Championship leader Alonso started in fifth place as Bruno Senna was demoted to 22nd.
It was a clean start, despite Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg being forced across the Sheares run-off area following a four-abreast car duel on the run to the first corner. Further back, Vitaly Petrov tapped team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and was forced to pit for a new front wing. Also in early was Felipe Massa, but with the help of two Safety Cars the Brazilian was able to storm back through the field to an eventual eighth place.
Almost two fifths of the way through the infamously long race, Hamilton led Vettel by two seconds, with Button third after Maldonado had dropped to fourth at the second corner. Vettel had already begun to spot oil from Hamilton’s car and, sure enough, the McLaren’s gearbox failed under braking for Turn 1. As Hamilton parked at Turn 5 but remained remarkably calm back in the garage, he held the unenviable statistic of – having won races this year in Canada, Hungary and Italy – always retiring from the following Grand Prix.
The race, which became the first dry F1 event to go to the time limit since the 1991 season-opener in Phoenix, was broken up by two Safety Car periods. The first came on Lap 33 after Narain Karthikeyan wiped off his HRT’s right-front wheel at Turn 18. The second was immediately after the restart, as Michael Schumacher was unable to stop and flew over the back of Jean-Éric Vergne at Turn 14. The crash removed the French Toro Rosso driver from a points-paying position, but team-mate Daniel Ricciardo still finished ninth. It was during these Safety Car periods that a number of pit-stops took place.
A big loser from the Safety Cars was Maldonado, who had been pushing on for a third pit-stop when he was forced to come in early. This proved to have no major bearing on the race, as he pulled into the pit lane with a hydraulics problem. Williams’ miserable night was compounded by a retirement for Senna on the last lap, promoting Timo Glock into 12th position which allows Marussia to leapfrog Caterham for a top ten Constructors’ Championship finish.
The midfield became explosive; not only did Massa narrowly avoid the wall when passing a wayward Senna, but Webber was unable to overhaul fellow Australian Ricciardo. Incidentally, the Red Bull driver remains under investigation for a pass on Kamui Kobayashi. Further back, both Saubers broke their front wings and – like Kamui Kobayashi - Nico Hülkenberg had to make a late-race pit-stop, for a rear puncture.
As di Resta picked up his best ever F1 finish, just as he had done in Marina Bay 12 months ago, Nico Rosberg made the top five in the sole-finishing Mercedes. Kimi Räikkönen’s weekend of damage limitation ended in sixth place as Lotus instructed Romain Grosjean to let the Finn past. Massa, Ricciardo and Webber rounded out the points positions.
Vettel’s victory is his second in succession in Singapore but first since the Bahrain Grand Prix in April. He now equals Nélson Piquet for 23 career victories, moving into the all-time top ten. Racking up his 81st podium finish, Alonso moves ahead of Ayrton Senna for third place overall; he now leads the championship from Vettel by 29 points. For constructors’ honours, Red Bull has extended its advantage over McLaren to a margin of 37.
Formula 1 continues with the Japanese Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time