Vettel wins in Singapore but it's Marina Bay hell for Hamilton after break down
14:50 GMT, 23 September 2012
Sebastian Vettel shone in Formula One's night race for the second successive season, but for Lewis Hamilton the lights may have gone out on his championship chances.
Vettel capitalised on Hamilton's retirement with a gearbox problem on lap 23 when comfortably leading the Singapore Grand Prix to take the chequered flag.
This latest win for the reigning world champion ends Vettel's longest winless run of nine races since joining Red Bull in 2009.
Retirement: Lewis Hamilton is forced to quit the race after his car malfunctioned
Break down: Hamilton appears upset after abandoning the race
As team principal Christian Horner
pointed out to Vettel after crossing the line: 'Well done, you're back
in the championship again.'
The 24-year-old now trails Ferrari's
Fernando Alonso by 29 points, the Spaniard claiming the 81st podium of
his career – only Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost have more – by
finishing third behind McLaren's Jenson Button.
Podium people: Sebastian Vettel (centre), Jenson Button (left) and Fernando Alonso (right)
Wet look: Button showers Vettel with champagne
For Hamilton, his recent rollercoaster run now leaves him 52 points behind Alonso, and with his last five races reading – retired, first, retired, first, retired.
Just when Hamilton garners belief he has a chance of the title, he finds his hopes cruelly snatched away.
In Germany, Hamilton retired 11 laps from home with puncture damage, albeit after an unhappy start when he was forced into an early pit stop after running over debris from a lap-one incident.
On song: Vettel was in good form
Away they go: Hamilton started in pole position
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2. Jenson Button (McLaren)
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4. Paul Di Resta (Force India)
5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
8. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
9. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
10. Mark Webber (Red Bull)
A superb victory in Hungary followed
before the summer break, after which his Belgian Grand Prix ended at the
first corner as he was one of four cars involved in a major pile-up.
The 27-year-old bounced back a
fortnight ago with his win in Italy, and back-to-back triumphs appeared
on the cards when he grabbed his 24th career pole on Saturday.
The threat at the start for Hamilton
was from Williams' Pastor Maldonado alongside him on the front row of
the grid given the Venezuelan's penchant for poor judgment and errors
this season which has resulted in many penalties.
But when the five red lights
disappeared Hamilton's getaway was as sweet as he could have dreamed of,
instead leaving Maldonado to deal with Vettel and Button.
From the perspective of both men they
quickly managed to blast their way past Maldonado through the opening
corners, dropping the 27-year-old to fourth ahead of Alonso who was
unable to follow suit.
Leading comfortably from Vettel,
however, Hamilton's gearbox gave way on lap 23, the Briton grinding to a
halt down an escape road.
Keeing up: Alonso still has a 29 point lead
There was a clear shake of the head from Hamilton and a moment when he put his head in his hands.
That promoted Vettel into the lead
ahead of Button and Maldonado, but the latter was also forced into
retirement during the first of the two safety car sessions that followed
in quick succession.
Narain Karthikeyan sparked the
opener, maintaining Singapore's 100% record for safety cars over its
five-year run, sliding his HRT into a wall on entry into Anderson Bridge
from which there was no recovery.
The safety car pitted after running
for five laps, but not for a moment of drama as Button nearly ran into
the back of Vettel at one point shortly before the restart.
Crunch: Michael Schumacher crashes into Jean-Eric Vergne
However, it was not long before
safety car driver Bernd Maylander was back on track as for the second
successive year at this track, Schumacher ran into the back of a rival.
On this occasion the seven-time
champion was late on to the brakes of his Mercedes, hurtling into the
rear of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso.
After clambering from their cars Schumacher and Vergne embraced one another rather than engaging in any finger pointing.
Although both cars had slid down an
escape road, there was enough debris on track to force the safety car
quickly back into play.
Strong race: Button performed well to finish second
But once it disappeared, for the
leaders the rest of the race was fairly routine, with Vettel finishing
8.9secs clear of Button, with Alonso grinding out another podium.
Behind the trio, Force India's Paul
Di Resta grabbed a career-high fourth, followed by Mercedes' Nico
Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus, the Finn now 45 points adrift
in the title race.
Team-mate Romain Grosjean was seventh,
followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso
and Red Bull's Mark Webber, surely out of the title running now as he is
61 points down.
Scenic: Many look forward to the Singapore race for its interesting views
Following his 23rd career win, an ecstatic Vettel said: 'This is one of the toughest races all year, two hours, the circuit is a killer and the race seems to go on forever.
'Obviously we benefited from Lewis' retirement, the pace was there, so I'm incredibly happy and proud.
'I'd like to dedicate it to a very special man, Sid Watkins (former race doctor and FIA medical delegate who recently passed away), a big thank you to him.'
Star power: Katy Perry was present and correct
Button said: 'That was a pretty tough two hours for us. It's a good second place. We all want to win, but you can't win them all.
'For us as a team another failure is not great for us.'
Alonso, who continues to hang on to the lead as his rivals trip over themselves, said: 'This is one of the best tracks to drive, it was a fun race again.'
This way: Grid girls line up before the start
Ready to go: Vettel at the start of the race