• Singapore Grand Prix - The Final Stint

Seb's starring role

Laurence Edmondson and Chris Medland
September 23, 2012

A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix

The stars aligned for Sebastian Vettel in Singapore © Getty Images
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Vettel back to the front
With all the talk surrounding Hamilton's future, there hasn't been as much scrutiny on the championship battle. When attentions have turned to the standings, most of the focus has centred around Alonso, or Hamilton, or Kimi Raikkonen's chances of taking the title without winning a race all season. But Vettel is the reigning champion and is bidding to become only the third driver in history to win three titles in a row after Juan Manuel Fangio and Schumacher. His win this weekend (having been an outrageous 7/1 with the bookies on Wednesday) reminded everyone of his and Red Bull's threat as he won by a greater margin than he managed during his dominant 2011 season. It may only be his second victory of the year, but if Vettel's alternator hadn't failed in Valencia he would be leading the standings by three points at present, and if it hadn't failed again in Monza he would be 11 points clear of Alonso. His flashing helmet featuring the star signs of his family hinted that Vettel felt he was due some luck, and things went his way as Hamilton retired. Write him off again at your peril.

Lewis' lack of luck
For the first 22 laps of the Singapore Grand Prix it looked like the championship title race was just starting to tilt in Lewis Hamilton's favour. He arrived at the circuit on Thursday with his focus set on making it back-to-back wins after Monza and when it came to qualifying nobody had an answer for him. In his hands, the McLaren MP4-27 is the fastest car on the grid at the moment, but with Hamilton it's never that simple. Around lap 19 the team saw the temperatures and pressures rise in his gearbox and on lap 21 he lost third gear before all seven went missing at the start of lap 23. Considering the blow to his title chances - Hamilton is now 52 points off Alonso - he took the disappointment well, vowing to go out and win the remaining six races. On paper McLaren and Hamilton appear to have the relative pace to do that, but actually achieving it seems unlikely. Asked whether this result would have an effect on contract negotiations with Hamilton, team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "I've got to say Lewis has been incredibly strong. I've spoken to Lewis first hand and I've got to say he's in a very focused frame of mind and came round and thanked everyone in the team for their efforts this weekend. It's a much stronger-minded Lewis than we've seen before. He's very focused and knows there are 150 points available that we are going to work hard to collect as many as we can." One thing's for sure, if he does do it he won't be so keen to leave for Mercedes at the end of the year.

Webber fading
It was a disappointing race for Webber, who was caught out by one of the safety car periods and saw his 10th place become 11th when he was retrospectively penalised for gaining an advantage by going off track overtaking Kamui Kobayashi. It appears that Webber's championship hopes are disappearing quickly, and his odd press conference after only qualifying eighth would seem to confirm that. Webber seems tired of this season; when asked if the track temperature could have affected his pace (there was a 1 degree difference between Q2 and Q3) he said "I'm sure we'll have 8,000 engineers psychoanalysing the one degree..." When it was put to him the car appears to react differently to changes in temperature he puffed out his cheeks and said "They make a female look low maintenance these days mate", while perhaps the most telling response came to a question about starting alongside Romain Grosjean: "Yeah he's OK, he knows I've got a good right hook I think so he'll stay away I think. He better put his sneakers on if he hits me..."

Today's result is a second scoreless race in a row, and in the last five grands prix Webber has only amassed 16 points - nine less than his team-mate achieved in Singapore alone. His demeanour is one of a man who has all but admitted defeat in this year's championship, in stark contrast to the likes of Jenson Button who maintains his positive outlook despite being 75 points behind Fernando Alonso.

The Story of the Weekend

© Sutton Images
  • Shock Pastor Maldonado - Qualifying looked set for an exciting battle between Hamilton and Vettel for pole, but Maldonado delivered a stunning lap to muscle his way on to the front row, before cruelly seeing a good result taken out of his hands through no fault of his own
  • Shocker Michael Schumacher - A man who has started 300 grands prix really should have learned how to judge braking after a safety car period, but his error in to turn 14 that took out Jean-Eric Vergne was rookie at best
  • Best overtake Felipe Massa - There was a fair bit of luck, added to some bravery, when Massa got a run at Senna over the Anderson Bridge. Unaware of the Ferrari, Senna squeezed him against the wall but Massa caught the tankslapper and managed to park his car on the apex of turn 13 ahead of the Williams to complete the move
  • Best lap Pastor Maldonado - He had many impressive in the race - especially early on - but his lap to secure his second front-row start of the season came out of nowhere and was right on the limit
  • Worst lap Kamui Kobayashi - A case of worst luck here. Trying to defend from Mark Webber on lap 50, Kobayashi was illegally overtaken in turn seven which left him out of position and Hulkenberg dived through in to turn eight - breaking the Sauber's front wing
  • Drive of the day Paul di Resta - Described as "definitely my best day in Formula One", di Resta finally converted a strong starting position in to fourth place with enough pace to keep Fernando Alonso honest right to the chequered flag, ensuring the Mercedes' and Lotuses behind him were never a threat

Schumacher's rookie error
Michael Schumacher's last two visits to Singapore have ended in the rear of another car. This time round it was Jean-Eric Vergne on the receiving end as Schumacher completely misjudged his braking for turn 14 and mounted the rear of the Toro Rosso. Talking to the TV crews in the paddock Schumacher initially suspected there was something wrong with the car, but he later admitted his mistake in the stewards' room and made a second apology to Vergne in the Mercedes press release. The incident will raise the inevitable questions about Schumacher's age and eyesight, but in reality the incident came after a safety car period when brakes and tyres can be operating under temperature. He was correctly punished with a ten-place grid penalty by the stewards, with his penalty upped from a five-place grid drop because of his previous history rear-ending Bruno Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix. Meanwhile, F1 rookie Vergne showed maturity beyond his years by saying: "There is no sense in being angry about it, because these things happen in racing and even the most experienced driver on the grid can make mistakes! He said sorry and that's the end of it"

Marussia's momentous 12th
It's not often a 12th place is seen as such a significant result, but Timo Glock could have delivered Marussia's greatest finish in its three years in Formula One so far (under different guises). It's a better finish than either Caterham or HRT has managed this season and sees Marussia sitting in 10th place in the constructors' championship. The potential financial rewards for the smaller teams to finish in the top ten of the standings are huge - though just how significant as part of the new Concorde Agreement remains to be seen - and with neither Caterham nor HRT bettering 13th place last season either, Glock's self-proclaimed "fantastic result" could have a much longer lasting impact on Marussia than a good Sunday night in Singapore.

Five more years
News that the Singapore Grand Prix would remain on the calendar for another five years was warmly received in the paddock on Saturday evening. The race's reputation as a jewel in F1's crown has firmly set since the inaugural race in 2008 and the novelty factor of driving at night remains fresh. The fact that other night races have not flooded onto the F1 calendar since has no doubt helped in that respect, and the organisers will be hoping their race will hold on to its USP over the next five years. But there's no denying that Sunday's race lacked overtaking, even if Narain Karthikeyan and Michael Schumacher played a part in keeping it interesting. Kimi Raikkonen was typically blunt on the issue: "It was a boring race. You can be quite a bit faster and you cannot get past so it's not very exciting for us or the people watching." Even race winner Sebastian Vettel was not without the odd grumble over the weekend, with his focus on the turn 10 'Singapore Sling' chicane: "In terms of safety, yeah, I think that's one of the worst corners we have on the calendar, because you've got these big kerbs and big bumps. It's a bit tricky to find a better solution right now with the space we have, but I think that's something we need to work on."