Sebastian Vettel took an untroubled victory in the Singapore Grand Prix. The night race was looking to be almost completely uneventful until Daniel Ricciardo crashed, bringing out the Safety Car.
Mark Webber worked incredibly hard to try and take third in his final Singapore GP, but ended the race hitching a ride back to the pits on Alonso's airbox, his Renault engine expiring on the final lap. For this he received a reprimand - his third of the year - and for that reason a ten spot grid penalty at the next race.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
As is customary, the Red Bulls featured prominently in the sessions, with Lewis Hamilton offering some resistance early on, but Vettel leading FP2 and FP3.
Mark Webber suffered contact with the wall in one session while Kimi Raikkonen had an unfortunate mishap in his Lotus. His seat was not correctly secured to the monocoque, causing a flaring of a back injury from his 2001 testing crash at Magny Cours.
Wags in the paddock suggested in might be a form of revenge given Raikkonen's impending departure to Ferrari.
The last minutes of qualifying were thrilling as Vettel stepped out of the car and waited for his rivals to finish their last laps. Webber came close, but was bumped to fourth by Rosberg and Grosjean.
Daniel Ricciardo continued his great form, nabbing ninth in the night session.
The lights were on at the Marina Bay circuit, the race starting under a clear night sky.
Rosberg sensationally challenged Vettel into the first corner but the Mercedes driver got it wrong allowing the Red Bull ahead.
Alonso jumped past Massa, Webber and Grosjean, the latter holding Webber for a few corners. Hamilton's first lap was slightly chaotic as he went off the road while avoiding Webber's right rear but got past Massa in the process.
Hamilton was told to hand the place back to Massa but maintained the pressure.
Raikkonen passed di Resta on lap two, his back pain eased after a night of rest, drawing up behind Gutierrez's Sauber.
Vettel built a commanding lead, stretching to almost six seconds from Rosberg in the space of three laps.
Ricciardo had a terrible start, slipping to fourteenth from ninth.
Raikkonen grabbed eleventh from Gutierrez, capitalising on the Sauber driver being distracted by a lock-up from Perez in front. The Finn went around the outside at turn six, coming perilously close to leaving the track.
Raikkonen pitted for the first time on lap 11, indicating a possible three stop for the Finn and getting him out from behind Perez. He went back out on the red-banded super-softs.
Gutierrez was next in, hoping to get back in touch with Raikkonen and Massa pitted at the end of lap 13, from sixth position.
Webber pitted on lap 14, complaining of rear tyre wear. He was followed in by Button and Hulkenberg, Webber returning to the track on the medium tyre.
Alonso pitted on lap 15, also choosing the mediums and had to endure coming out behind di Resta's Force India.
Rosberg was called in the following lap, as was Grosjean and Hamilton. The Mercedes driver came off best, jumping Massa.
The train of Maldonado, Hulkenberg and Perez almost became a wreck as an enthusiastic Perez pushed Hulkenberg off the road. Hulkenberg was eventually rewarded by the stewards who told Hulkenberg, bizarrely, to hand back the place.
Vettel pitted on lap 18. Alonso and Webber were hoping di Resta would do the same - the Force India was running incredibly long and was in third place.
Daniel Ricciardo breathed some life in to the race by crashing on lap 25. The Australian locked the front left tyre and he slid into the barriers, tearing off the wing and a wheel. This triggered a safety car and a mass of pit stops.
"The crash was my error, trying to make up for lost ground. It's a delicate corner with not much run-off and I went too deep into the apex. I then braked a bit harder, locked a wheel and went into the wall. It's not a mistake I'm used to making. I will learn from this," Ricciardo said.
One of the stoppers was Alonso who came out fifth, promoting Webber to third.
The field droned around for several laps as the rule requiring lapped cars to unlap themselves allowed the Marussias through. The safety car finally returned to the pits at the end of lap 30.
Vettel backed the pack right up behind him then jumped away on the restart, despite Rosberg's best efforts to stay with him. By the end of lap 31, the gap was already three seconds.
Hamilton was another winner from the safety car, finding himself fourth in front of Alonso.
On lap 34, Grosjean pitted to refill the pneumatic system for the Renault engine. He was an unhappy man inside his helmet, remonstrating with his team as he sat stationary for well over thirty seconds. He was later retired to save the engine.
By lap 36, Vettel had not only re-established his lead, but extended it by a further second. A partial explanation for Rosberg's inability to stay with him came from the Mercedes pitwall, who radioed Rosberg to tell him he had rubber build up on his front wing, causing tyre-destroying understeer.
Mark Webber pitted on lap 41 to take his second stop and the medium tyre. Rosberg pitted the following lap, leaving Lewis Hamilton in clear air to take off after Vettel.
Rosberg lost his place to Webber after overshooting his marks meaning precious seconds were lost in his stop. Additional time was taken to try and clear the rubber from the front wing.
di Resta and Massa pitted together on lap 43, the Scot getting out in front of the Brazilian.
Vettel pitted a lap later, with a thirty second lead and was able to rejoin without losing the lead.
Webber was in eighth, while Button was third, Raikkonen fourth and Perez fifth. Webber was catching Gutierrez at a rate of two seconds per lap, but had his work cut out if he was to regain third place.
Webber took the Sauber at turn seven with the aid of DRS. Rosberg got by a few corners later and Hamilton a few laps later again. Vettel had again built a huge lead, seven seconds.
Gutierrez next fell victim to di Resta and Massa on lap 50, his tyres now 25 laps old.
The battle for third became heated on lap 52 as Raikkonen started to attack Jenson Button's McLaren.
On lap 53, Webber found himself behind Hulkenberg, having bridged an eight second gap. Webber took Hulkenberg next time around in a brave move at turn seven, setting him up behind Sergio Perez in fifth.
Lap 55 and 56 saw big changes. Raikkonen took third with an incredible move around the outside at turn fourteen. Webber took Perez just as di Resta nosed his car into the barriers.
Webber soon took Button, all the while the Mercedes pair slip-streaming Webber around the track. Hamilton was keen to get by his teammate and mounted new attacks every couple of corners. Rosberg got by Perez but Hamilton had Massa right on his tail, distracting him.
Hamilton got by Perez on lap 58, but it was touch and go. Once past, Hamilton was able to shake the Ferrari of Massa.
Webber had five laps to cover a six second gap to Raikkonen's Lotus, but he was radioed to short-shift, as his water pressure fell. This let the Mercedes pair get right back on his failing race car. Rosberg and Hamilton passed on lap 60 as the RB9 slowed.
Webber radioed to say he was in trouble, with Massa another five seconds behind him. His race had fallen apart in the space of three laps, dropping further and further before his engine ignited.
"I think I did pretty much everything I could today. We had pace in the car when we needed, we managed the tyres and made a very good undercut on Nico, I was really happy with that lap.
Then six laps from the end, the guys were getting worried about the car. So, yeah, it's annoying but someone's had a tougher day than me somewhere and that's the way it goes," Webber said.
Vettel crossed the line, with fireworks to greet him, his third Singapore win. Fernando Alonso pulled off an impressive second place courtesy of a risk strategy, while Kimi Raikkonen, from thirteenth on the grid to third.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the Korean Grand Prix.
2013 Singapore F1 Results
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1h59m13.132s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +32.627s
- Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault +43.920s
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +51.155s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +53.159s
- Felipe Massa - Ferrari +1m03.877s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes +1m23.354s
- Sergio Perez - McLaren-Mercedes +1m23.820s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari +1m24.2261s
- Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes +1m24.668s
- Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault +1m28.479s
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari +1m37.894s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Renault +1m45.161s
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1m53.512
- Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault +1 lap
- Giedo van der Garde - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- Chales Pic - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Paul di Resta - Force India-Mercedes +6 laps
- Grosjean - Lotus-Renault 38
- Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari 24