The phenomenon called Vettel rolled through Singapore once more as Red Bull Renault’s star German driver claimed his third and most commanding victory at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Vettel, 26, won the 61-lap race by a margin of 32.627 seconds from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with Lotus Renault’s Kimi Raikkonen a brilliant third after a weekend of physical pain from an old back injury. It was Alonso’s fifth Singapore podium but Raikkonen’s first.
Starting from pole position, Vettel almost lost out at the start to Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes but after edging alongside and past the Red Bull Rosberg could not coax his car through Turns 1 and 2 without yielding to Vettel once more. A withering burst of pace in the early stages was the other key to Vettel’s seventh victory of 2013 and the 33rd of his Formula 1 career, putting him one ahead of Alonso and into fourth on the list of all-time Grand Prix winners.
”The car was incredible,” said Vettel after what looked like an easy win. “I said to the team, this doesn’t just happen like that, by accident or by luck, there’s hard work behind it and I appreciate it – it’s just a pleasure to drive it around this crazy track!”
Not even a Safety Car intervention just before half-distance could halt Vettel’s progress. It came when Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso hit the wall on the outside of Turn 18 and expired. When the Safety Car went in after the 30th lap. Vettel again streaked away to assume command of the race once more. Alonso’s fifth Singapore podium was made possible by a blindingly fast start which catapulted the two-time Singapore winner from seventh to third by the end of the opening lap. “It was a fantastic start,” Alonso agreed. “We didn’t have the pace so we knew we had to invent something! That was the first possibility; the other was a different strategy that paid off with a second place that tastes like a victory for us.” Despite that feeling, the result leaves Alonso 60 points adrift of Vettel with just six races remaining.
One of the real stars of the evening was Raikkonen. The 33-year-old Finn almost didn’t take to the track on Saturday because of pain from a back injury sustained 12 years ago in testing in France. But he came through from 13th on the grid to claim his first Singapore podium.
“I think I had pretty OK speed and could overtake a few people,” said the laconic Finn, One of those moves was a spectacular round-the-outside move at Turn 14 to deal with the McLaren Mercedes of Jenson Button.
“Maybe it looked more tricky than it was,” said Raikkonen. “Not an easy one, but we managed to get past…”
The evening was also a tale of teams and their two cars. Raikkonen’s teammate Romain Grosjean, third on the grid, had strong early pace but retired later in the pits with a loss of engine air pressure, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber was flying in the late stages with a podium in sight but succumbed to a gearbox problem that saw the car stop in flames two laps from the finish. That left Mercedes duo Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in clear air to come home fourth and fifth ahead of the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. McLaren’s Button and Sergio Perez were next with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Adrian Sutil taking the final two points-paying positions.
Adding another of the drivers’ favourite ‘trophies’ to his weekend, Vettel also set the race’s fastest lap of 1 minute 48.574 on lap 46, an average speed of 167.940 kilometres per hour.