Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2011

Vettel a point away from title after Singapore win

2011 Singapore GP reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2011

Sebastian Vettel dominated the Singapore Grand Prix to claim his ninth victory of the season.

His lights-to-flag win leaves him needing one point from the final five races to win the championship.

Jenson Button joined him on the podium but team mate Lewis Hamilton had another troubled race.

Hamilton and Massa collide

Vettel made a typically superb getaway, pulling out an instant lead and extending it by almost a second over each of the following laps.

Button easily took second place off Webber. The other McLaren of Lewis Hamilton took a look at the inside of Webber but had to back out of the move.

This allowed both Ferraris and Nico Rosberg to take the McLaren. Michael Schumacher also took advantage, wresting seventh from Hamilton as they went into turn seven.

Hamilton faced a second race staring at the back of Schumacher’s car. But this time he was able to quickly pass the Mercedes, taking advantage of Schumacher making an error at turn five and using his DRS to press home the advantage.

The next time by he picked off the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in similar fashion.

But Hamilton’s attempt to wrest fifth place of Felipe Massa ended in a collision. Hamilton was trying to tuck in behind the Ferrari at turn seven when he clipped Massa’s right rear wheel, puncturing the tyre and damaging his own front wing.

Both drivers had to pit for repairs and Hamilton was furthered delayed as the stewards swiftly delivered a drive-through penalty which eventually dropped him to 19th.

Webber had slipped to fourth at the start and he told his team his DRS wasn’t helping much in his efforts to pass Alonso. But Alonso’s tyres started to suffer and Webber pounced, squeezing past the Ferrari driver for third.

Alonso made for the pits to swap his super soft tyres for the harder compound. One by one the cars in front of him made their pit stops, bringing the Ferrari up to fourth.

In third place at this point was Paul di Resta, who had started on soft tyres. Alonso caught the Force India very quickly but spent most of a lap behind, finally bursting past when they reached the DRS zone.

By lap ten Vettel held a ten second lead. He and Button made their pit stops with no change of position between them, Vettel pulling ever further ahead.

Hamilton began his progress through the field which included making his way past the recovering Massa. This was accomplished more successfully than his previous effort, taking advantage of a mistake by the Ferrari driver to claim 12th.

Hamilton’s next target was Rubens Barrichello, who was easily dispatched for 11th.

Schumacher crashes out

Ahead of Hamilton were Rosberg, Perez and Schumacher, disputing seventh place. Rosberg ran slightly wide at the last corner and Perez took the opportunity to pass the Mercedes.

But Rosberg came past him at the first corner, the pair making contact and Perez taking to the run-off.

Schumacher moved in to capitalised and chased Perez around turn five and down to Memorial corner. The Sauber driver forced him to the outside and continued to cover the position as they headed to turn eight.

Schumacher made to pass Perez down the inside but hit the Sauber, his car rearing up in the air and landing hard before crashing nose-first into the barrier. Schumacher extracted himself without injury while Perez was able to continue.

The safety car was deployed while Schumacher’s car was recovered and most drivers took the opportunity to make their second pit stops.

The appearance of the safety car was a boon for Hamilton, who was now eighth. It had wiped out Vettel’s healthy lead, but a trio of lapped cars between him and Button allowed him to instantly restore his lead to four seconds as the race resumed.

Behind Button were Alonso and Webber, the Ferrari driver having jumped back in front of the Red Bull during the first round of pit stops. But Webber surprised Alonso with an opportunistic move at the turn ten chicane to take back third place.

Di Resta was now in fifth, partly thanks to team mate Adrian Sutil who appeared to let him past after their first pit stops.

Hamilton battles back

Sutil was now under pressure from Hamilton, who took a run at the Force India at Memorial corner, but backed out of it as they caught a backmarker. Out of the corner, he poked his nose down the inside at turn eight and found Sutil very obliging, holding the door open for Hamilton instead of slamming it shut.

Hamilton picked off two more cars in successive laps: first Rosberg, then Di Resta, elevating him to fifth place.

Webber made a third pit stop and briefly fell back behind Alonso, but gained the place back when the Ferrari driver came in. Vettel, Button and Hamilton all did likewise.

That dropped Hamilton back behind Di Resta, Rosberg, Sutil and Perez and he duly passed them all over again, one on each lap, to climb back up to fifth.

Button’s late surge

Until this point Vettel had looked completely untroubled, apart from a near-miss with Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus which was waved out alongside him as his left the pits after his final pit stop.

But now Button put on a charge, taking up to a second out of Vettel’s lead on every lap. Suddenly the gap slumped to 3.7 seconds as Vettel lost almost three seconds picking his way through a group of backmarkers.

Those same backmarkers now delayed Button in the same way they had Vettel, and the gap went back up again, seemingly sealing Vettel’s win.

But on the final lap he caught another group of cars, which he had to pick his way past very carefully. He made it through to see the chequered flag first for the ninth time this year, but Button had trimmed his lead to just 1.7 seconds.

Webber was half a minute behind in third and Alonso more than 55 seconds behind in his Ferrari. Hamilton recovered to claim fifth.

Di Resta claimed his best ever finish with sixth ahead of Rosberg and Sutil, the trio being passed by Vettel on the final tour.

Massa took ninth off Perez – the driver who has been tipped to take his place at Ferrari in 2013 – as they began what would be their last lap, before they were lapped by Vettel.

The Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello finished out of the points in 11th and 13th, sandwiching Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso.

The other Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari crashed out five laps from home.

Kamui Kobayashi ended a difficult weekend 14th following a driver-through penalty for not paying enough attention when he was being lapped.

Bruno Senna was the highest Renault in 15th place, team mate Vitaly Petrov ending the race 17th behind Heikki Kovalainen. He passed Jerome D’Ambrosio a few laps from home, the Virgin driver finishing 18th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost his front wing on the first lap but recovered to finish 20th ahead of his team mate.

Vettel’s third consecutive win means the championship title is well in his sights. A single point in Suzuka will make him champion – and he’s won there the last two years in a row.

2011 Singapore Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images