As Formula 1’s only night race on the calendar it really is quite spectacular to watch ¬– and with the safety car having featured in every one of the five races that have been held at the Marina Bay circuit so far, there was a high possibility that we’d be seeing it in today’s race as well.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was on pole once again, with his nearest rival Lewis Hamilton back in fifth. Vettel was hoping for a clean getaway so he could lead from start to finish – but all the fans watching were surely hoping for something a little different this time out.
As the lights went out, second place Rosberg launched himself down to the first corner, successfully making his way past Vettel – much to the delight of the spectators. But he made a mistake and went wide in the next corner, allowing Vettel to take back the place – and start to scamper away with the lead once again.
Alonso got a brilliant start, moving up four places to third on the opening lap, which was great news for the Spaniard. With team mate Massa in front of him on the grid, and vowing that he wouldn’t be helping Alonso for the remainder of the season, Fernando knew he had to clear Felipe as soon as he possibly could – and he did.
Sadly it wasn’t such a great start for Lewis Hamilton. He’d dropped down to seventh by the second lap. He’d passed Massa early on, but had gone off the track in the process, so was instructed to give the position back. And his lacklustre start would signal a pretty non-descript race for the Brit, who’s now publicly declared himself out of the championship race.
As Vettel ran off with the lead, with Rosberg trailing seven or so seconds behind, the other Red Bull was having issues. Webber was running behind Alonso back in fourth, and had been instructed to hang two seconds behind to avoid the dirty air. This led to a train forming behind Webber, and gave Alonso the buffer he needed to stay out ahead in third place.
The first pit stop came on lap 12, when Raikkonen came in for a fresh set of rubber. It seemed as though the cars were having troubles with the tyres graining already, and it soon became clear that this would be a three-stop race if there weren’t any safety cars.
Back out on the track, Alonso was setting fastest laps and stretching out his lead over Webber ahead of his own pit stop. And he needed it. When he finally stopped on lap 15, he came back out behind Di Resta, who hadn’t yet stopped. And he was to remain stuck behind him until the Scot finally pitted on lap 21, releasing Alonso to race once again.
The leader pitted on lap 18, retaining the lead of the race with ease, so big was the gap he’d pulled out over the rest of the field.
There may not have been much of a battle out front, but luckily, there was some great racing going on behind. Hulkenberg, Perez and Maldonado were battling to better their positions, with them racing three abreast on the track at one point.
Hulkenberg left the track during the fight, but appeared to have already been ahead before he ran wide. However, just a few laps later he was told by his engineer that he had to give the place back. It was a punishment that angered Hulkenberg at the time – and he was still fuming about it over the radio several laps later.
Disaster struck on lap 25 when Ricciardo locked up into a corner and put his Toro Rosso into the barriers. It signalled the end of his race, and the safety car was deployed while they cleared his car from the track. But you could almost hear a sign of relief from everyone watching, who knew that this was exactly what we needed to spice the race up a bit.
Most of the teams took the opportunity to scamper into the pits for a tyre change –except the Red Bulls and Mercedes that is, who opted to stay out and run on their tyres until their next allotted pit stop window.
The safety car was bad news for Vettel, who’d had a huge lead over his rivals before it was deployed. But as the field bunched up behind him during the five-lap safety car period, his lead was cut to nothing – and he knew he had to get a good restart if he was to stay out front.
Nobody really doubted that Vettel could do it – and sure enough, he’d already pulled out a two second gap by the end of the first lap of the restart. From that point on, it was clear to everyone watching that nobody would be able to catch him now.
On lap 34, Grosjean received a call from his team to go into the pits as there was a problem with his engine. You could sense the disappointment as he duly headed in to his box for what would be a much longer stop than anticipated, during which an engineer had to open up the side of his car to top up the air in his engine.
The final round of pit stops kicked off on lap 41 when Rosberg came in. Not only did he need new tyres, but he also had some debris stuck in the front of his car which needed to be cleared out. This made his stop about six-tenths of a second slower that it should have been, and put him behind Webber once the final pit stops had played out.
By this point, Vettel was almost thirty seconds in the lead, which allowed him to come in for his final stop and still come back out in the lead.
Meanwhile, Webber and the Mercedes were now down in eighth, ninth and tenth after their stops, with none of them entirely sure if the cars in front of them were due to stop again. But as the end of the race loomed large, and the cars in front showed no signs of boxing, all three realised that they’d have to pass them on track if they stood any chance of getting on the podium.
Further forward, there was an epic battle shaping up between Raikkonen in fourth and Button in third. Neither of them had to stop again, and both were desperate for a place on the podium.
But sadly for Button the McLarens just couldn’t make their tyres last to the end of the race. Raikkonen overtook him on lap 55, and both Button and team mate Perez would spend the remainder of the race going backwards due to their poor tyre performance.
With just five laps to go, Di Resta put his car in the wall, prompting fears that we could see the second safety car of the race. Luckily the stewards managed to clear his car under waved yellows, meaning the cars were free to race to the chequered flag.
Webber had his eye on the podium, and was making up places at a rapid pace – with both of the Mercedes close behind him. But with just a few laps to go he was told there was a problem with his engine, and to start short-shifting again, as he had during the last race in Monza.
The final lap got underway, and it became clear that Webber’s problem was terminal as he was overtaken by both the Mercedes – and later had to pull off the track as his engine caught fire.
Vettel crossed the line first as the chequered flag dropped, taking his third win in Singapore – with Alonso in second and Raikkonen storming to third from a 13th place start.
But with the fans booing Vettel on the podium once again, the question remains – is there anything F1 can do to make the sport more exciting for the rest of the season? By Sarah Ellis
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2. Alonso Ferrari
3. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
4. Rosberg Mercedes
5. Hamilton Mercedes
6. Massa Ferrari
7. Button McLaren-Mercedes
8. Perez McLaren-Mercedes
9. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes
11. Maldonado Williams-Renault
12. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari
13. Bottas Williams-Renault
14. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15. Webber Red Bull-Renault
16. van der Garde Caterham-Renault
17. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth
18. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth
19. Pic Caterham-Renault
DNF Di Resta Force India-Mercedes
DNF Grosjean Lotus-Renault
DNF Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari