Sebastian Vettel won his second Formula 1 race of the year and sent a strong message to Fernando Alonso – he is back in the championship race and poised to make a run at a third-consecutive title.
Vettel sat third on the grid and surged into second place, passing Pastor Maldonado as the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix got underway. After that, he simply drove patiently around a circuit he calls one of the most challenging on the Formula 1 schedule.
“It’s one of the toughest races all year,” Vettel said from the top of the podium after the race. “It’s very long. We did the full two hours. The circuit is a killer. There are many bumps and there’s no room for error.”
Jenson Button, who also passed Maldonado before the first turn of the race, finished the Singapore Grand Prix second and Alonso was third. Two caution periods, on laps 33 and 39, forced officials to make the race a two-hour timed event rather than letting it go the scheduled 61 laps.
The biggest surprise of the evening, the only night event on the F1 circuit, came on lap 23 when Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire from the race. Hamilton started clean from the pole and seemed to be in control of the race when his gearbox gave out. The poor result all but puts an end to Hamilton’s hopes of challenging for the world drivers’ title.
Vettel’s fortunes of late are reminiscent of his season-closing run in 2010, when he won his first F1 championship. That year, Vettel finished second at the Singapore Grand Prix and followed that up with three wins in the final four races en route to the title. He was more dominant in 2011, his second championship season, when he won 11 of 19 races and finished second in five others. This season has been an up-and-down one for Vettel. In the 14 races to date, the two-time defending champion has managed only two wins and scored podium finishes on three other occasions. And, yet, he finds himself in second place in the championship chase and said he hopes to have a strong closing to the season.
“It’s an incredible weekend for all of us,” said Vettel. “We have a lot of races left. We just have to use the momentum and keep pushing.”
What started out looking as a bad weekend for Alonso was salvaged by the podium finish and scored valuable points in the drivers’ championship. The Ferrari driver started fifth on the race grid, but dealt with the fact his car struggled with lack of pace and was happy the two caution periods kept him in the race.
Alonso, who led the F1 drivers’ championship by 37 points going into Singapore, capitalized on yet another podium finish and added valuable points to his season-leading total. Vettel’s win vaulted him into second place overall, 29 points behind Alonso. The gap is by no means insurmountable as each race is worth a maximum of 25 points, under the Formula 1 scoring system.
The Formula 1 calendar is down to the final six races of the 2012 season. The next stop on the schedule is Suzuka, for the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 7.