Hamilton disaster hands Vettel Singapore win

Sebastian Vettel has claimed a comfortable Singapore Grand Prix win, ahead of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Lewis Hamilton was set to take the win, but a gearbox failure left him out of the running. Two safety cars in close succession bunched up the field halfway through the race, which led to some excellent racing after a dull first half. Here is what happened:

At the start, Hamilton retained his lead, while Vettel and Button demoted Maldonado to 4th. Further back, there was embarassment for Caterham, as Heikki Kovalainen clashed with teammate Vitaly Petrov, forcing Petrov to pit for a new front wing. Felipe Massa suffered a puncture before the end of the lap.

A huge amount of drivers cut the first two corners, causing a mass investigation by the stewards. Replays showed that Webber, Rosberg, Senna and Ricciardo all may have gained an advantage.

The Mercedes drivers, starting 9th and 10th, were instructed to cool their tyres, causing a train of cars to form behind them. Despite the advantage of DRS, Kimi Raikkonen in 11th was unable to pass them before the pit stops.

Mark Webber surprised many, by pitting prematurely on lap 9, despite having no drop-off in lap times. The rest of the field ignored this move, and the Red Bull was relegated to 19th place.

By lap 10, tyre degradation became the main issue, as Sebastian Vettel began losing a second to Hamilton in front, and 2 seconds to Button behind. Unsurprisingly, he swiftly pitted, taking on the prime tyres like his teammate. He emerged in 12th, and wasted no time in getting past Sergio Perez.

Up front, Hamilton reported something felt wrong with his right-rear tyre, and pitted on lap 12. Now only two places behind, Vettel made another pass, this time on Kimi Raikkonen. After staying out a few laps more, Button eventually pitted, and came out well behind the battling duo.

Nico Hulkenberg was one of the few who decided to start on the prime tyre. He had made his way up to 6th, but was ordered to allow teammate Paul di Resta past, who was on a fresher set of tyres. Nico, along with Sergio Perez, both pitted on lap 19.

The race was soon turned on its head, after Lewis Hamilton suddenly suffered a gearbox failure on lap 24. Vettel eased into the lead, noticing a plume of smoke coming out of the McLaren. Lewis was forced to retire, delivering a crushing blow to his championship hopes.

With Vettel now leading, teammate Webber was struggling in 6th, failing to make an impression on the race. Again, he was the first to take on a new set of tyres.

Both Maldonado and Alonso pitted on lap 30, with Pastor just keeping a slender lead over the Ferrari. Interestingly, the Williams took on the super-soft tyres, while Alonso was on the softs.

The two began to battle it out, running side-by-side through some corners, but their fun was cut short after a crash by Narain Karthikeyan. The safety car was deployed, causing all the frontrunners to pit, and cutting the gap between Vettel and Button. The Force Indias ended up 4th and 5th, with Hulkenberg having only stopped once.

While still under safety car conditions, a disaster loomed for Williams, as Maldonado suffered a hydraulics problem, and was forced to retire.

On the restart, the frontrunners all held their positions, while Sergio Perez lost two positions. Mark Webber pulled an impressive move on Nico Hulkenberg, but his fun was cut short, as the safety car was called out again. Similarly to last year, Michael Schumacher had a complete brain fade, slamming into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, taking both cars out on the spot.

Webber, Perez and Hulkenberg all took the opportunity to stop again. Vitaly Petrov’s race was completely ruined at his pit stop, stopping at the end of the pit lane and being pushed back to his pit box.

At the second restart, Grosjean shut the door on his own teammate at turn 1, nearly causing an embarassing crash. Felipe Massa put an incredibly brave move on Bruno Senna, nearly spinning, but just about taking the position. Only a few laps later, he was easily past Daniel Ricciardo for 8th place.

After their close call, the Lotus team intervened in the Grosjean-Raikkonen battle, instructing Romain not to hold his teammate up. Sergio Perez attempted a move on Hulkenberg for 13th, but clipped his front wing off the Force India. Mark Webber put a move on Kamui Kobayashi, who then immediately clashed with Hulkenberg like his teammate, giving Nico a puncture and taking off a second Sauber front wing.

As the race hit the two-hour limit, Mark Webber made a late dash to take 10th from Bruno Senna, but was unable to take 9th from Daniel Ricciardo.

Up front, Button was unable to match Vettel’s pace, so the Red Bull cruised to only his second win of the season. Fernando Alonso took a comfortable 3rd, while Paul di Resta took an excellent 4th place. Nico Rosberg was quiet in 5th, while Felipe Massa climbed all the way up the grid to take 8th.

Vettel now leaps up to second in the championship, but Alonso’s lead continues to grow over his rivals.

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