Race - resurgent Vettel wins action-packed Singapore round 23 Sep 2012
Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel jumped into stronger contention for the world championship after scoring a comfortable victory in Singapore over McLarens Jenson Button and Ferraris Fernando Alonso on Sunday.
Once Lewis Hamiltons leading McLaren had quit after 22 laps with a gearbox fault, Vettel had no trouble in keeping Buttons sister MP4-27 at bay as the Englishman struggled with balance on the soft Pirelli tyre. Meanwhile, Alonso found his Ferrari lacking the pace to do anything about either of them.
Indeed, the Spaniard was a little fortunate that besides Hamilton, a challenging Pastor Maldonado retired his Williams with hydraulic problems after 38 laps, and saw his points tally rise to 194. He lost ground to Vettel, who now has 165 points, but extended his advantage over fellow contenders Hamilton, Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bulls Mark Webber.
With Hamilton out of the way, Vettel and his Red Bull were unchallenged as, further back, several incidents of mayhem interrupted the flow of what became a 59 rather than 61-lap race as the two-hour limit was reached.
The first safety car was deployed on the 33rd lap when Narain Karthikeyan tapped a wall in his HRT. There was a lengthy delay while this was retrieved, and no sooner had racing resumed on the 39th lap then Mercedes Michael Schumacher rammed the back of the 10th-placed Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, resulting in retirement for both and a second safety-car deployment. Schumacher was subsequently handed a 10-place grid penalty for the next round in Japan for causing the collision.
The second safety car period, prompted by the German, lasted until the 42nd lap, whereupon Vettel simply took up where he left off. Button pushed hard for a while and reduced the gap to 1.5s, but in the latter stages Vettel opened it back up and was 8.9s ahead by the finish, with Alonso another 6.2s down.
An career-best fourth place went to Paul di Resta, who was forceful all afternoon in his Force India and under no threat from Nico Rosberg, who drove an unobtrusive race for Mercedes to keep the Lotuses of Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean at bay as Felipe Massa fought his way up from a first-lap puncture to take a strong eighth for Ferrari.
Toro Rosso scored points despite the Vergne disappointment, courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo, who held off the attacking Red Bull of Webber all the way to the flag after the Australian had gambled on a third pit stop under the second safety car.
Sergio Perez was a disappointed 11th for Sauber, who had seen other driver Kamui Kobayashi pushed back after contact with Webber, which is currently under investigation by the stewards. Kobayashi also had an incident with Force Indias Nico Hulkenberg who followed Webber through but caught his left-rear tyre on the Saubers right front wing endplate.
Kobayashi and Hulkenberg both made further pit stops as a result, but the Japanese driver recovered to chase Timo Glock across the line. The German delighted Marussia with this massively-important 12th place - the team's best F1 result to date - which has big implications in their fight with Caterham and HRT, especially as he had been fortunate to escape damage after clobbering a wall earlier on.
Glocks team mate Charles Pic also ran strongly, but was overtaken by Hulkenberg and Heikki Kovalainens Caterham right at the end. The Frenchman also has a 20-second time penalty to factor in after his red flag overtaking indiscretion on Saturday.
Pedro de la Rosa was 17th for HRT after Bruno Senna stopped on the 58th lap. The Brazilian had had an adventurous race which saw him set fastest lap at one stage, battle for points and clash with Massa. Vitaly Petrov was also in the wars, and the final finisher for Caterham. He was delayed by the loss of his front wing on the opening lap and then a problem in his final pit stop which necessitated him being pushed back to his garage before his CT-01 could be restarted.
Vettel dedicated his victory to the late Professor Sid Watkins who died last week, and for whom there was a minutes silence on the grid prior to the start. As well as bringing him back into contention for the title, the Germans win extends Red Bulls lead in the constructors standings to 37 with the Milton-Keynes team on 298 to McLarens 261. Ferrari are third with 245 to Lotuss 231 and Mercedes distant 136.
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