• Singapore Grand Prix

Vettel wins in Singapore after Hamilton retires

ESPN Staff
September 23, 2012

Sebastian Vettel won a gruelling Singapore Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton's championship hopes took a bitter blow when he retired from the lead on lap 23.

Hamilton led from the start, but after a series of frantic radio messages to his team he retired with a gearbox problem and handed the lead to Vettel. The Red Bull driver then had Jenson Button in his mirrors for the remaining 36 laps, but despite two safety cars, he managed to win with relative ease. Championship leader Fernando Alonso took a comfortable third place after staying out of trouble and easing clear of fourth-place Paul di Resta in the closing stages.

The race hit its two hour limit, with the lap count two short of the full 61 when the chequered flag fell, but with accidents, contact and some ragged driving further down the field, none of the drivers would have felt short changed. The first safety car period, brought about when Narain Karthikeyan made a clumsy mistake at turn 18 and parked his car in the stadium tunnel, was well timed with the second pit stops of Vettel and Button and the pair made their stops in tandem.

However, the caution period did not help Pastor Maldonado, who had been running third after Hamilton's retirement, as he had made his second stop a few laps earlier and then felt compelled to stop again under the safety car to ensure he had enough grip to last him to the end of the race. In the end his efforts proved futile and what looked like a redeeming drive for the Venezuelan ended with a hydraulic issue.

Just ahead of the restart, Button came perilously close to Vettel's rear wing as the Red Bull driver appeared to bolt at the end of the lap but then slowed up. The McLaren avoided contact and then resumed its position in second, but Button made his feelings known over the radio. The incident was investigated after the race but no action was taken.

On the next racing lap Michael Schumacher ploughed into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne at turn 14 and caused another safety car. It appeared as though Schumacher simply made a mistake and locked up behind the Toro Rosso driver, whose attention was focused on finding a way past the Sauber ahead. After reviewing the incident the stewards slapped Schumacher with a 10-place grid penalty for the next race in Japan.

Once the debris had been cleared the race restarted and ran to its conclusion. The top three held their positions, with di Resta putting in a career-best performance to finish fourth and just four seconds shy of Alonso. Nico Rosberg came through to finish fifth after a relatively quiet race, while Lotus shuffled Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Romain Grosjean in sixth and seventh to try to boost the Finn's ailing championship hopes.

Felipe Massa finished a strong eighth after a puncture on the first lap dropped him 16 seconds behind the back of the field. After the second safety car he made use of some fresh tyres to bundle his way past Bruno Senna at the Anderson Bridge in one of the boldest and bravest overtaking moves of the season. Senna left Massa no space over the narrow bridge and forced the Ferrari into a slide, but Massa gathered his slewing car together to take the position and then chased down Daniel Ricciardo for eighth.

Ricciardo went on to finish ninth ahead of Sergio Perez, who took tenth place after the race when Mark Webber was penalised for passing Kamui Kobayashi off the track earlier in the race. Webber, who was out of position due to some bad luck with the timing of the safety car earlier in the race, is now 63 points off Alonso in the standings and appears to be out of the title race.

His team-mate Vettel has closed his gap to Alonso to 29 points, with Raikkonen third in the championship 45 points off the lead and Hamilton 52 points shy.

Of significance at the other end of the standings, Timo Glock finished 12th, moving Marussia up to tenth place in the constructors' standings.

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