Sebastian shines the brightest

September 24, 2012 1:07 pm

Sebastian shines the brightest

Sebastian Vettel claimed his second win of the Formula One season yesterday after a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix that saw Fernando Alonso maintain his championship lead.

The reigning World Champion was running a close second to Britain’s Lewis Hamilton when the unfortunate Mclaren driver suffered a gearbox failure about halfway through the two-hour race on the 23rd lap, his first mechanically induced retirement in 27 months. Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button struggled throughout the weekend with his car setup but persevered for a solid 2nd place behind the rampant Vettel, whose LED-adorned crash helmet was an amusing point of conversation all weekend. The day also brought Scotland’s Paul Di Resta his best-ever F1 result in 4th place, beating his previous best of 6th that he achieved at the same Grand Prix last year.

Vettel, Button and Alonso share the podium. Again.

Pastor Maldonado had started the race from a superb 2nd on the grid but despite a strong launch off the grid he slipped to 4th after the second corner as first Vettel, then Button passed his Williams car. The Venezuelan, who has not scored points since his Spanish GP victory back in May, looked set for a top result while battling Fernando Alonso for 5th place but his hopes ended when he was called in to a late retirement by his team as their telemetry screens warned of an impending hydraulic failure.

Alonso himself produced yet another remarkable save as he toiled from his 5thplace grid slot to claim the final podium position, maintaining his uncanny record of always being there when it matters to collect the points needed for his third world title. On a day when Hamilton, his previous main rival, failed to score, the Spaniard collected a healthy 15 points and only Vettel and Button were able to close the gap to the Championship leader.

Lewis Hamilton led until a gearbox failure forced his retirement

Nico Rosberg exploited the best his rapidly-fading Mercedes car had to offer with a fine 5th place, ahead of the out-of-sorts Lotus machines of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The Finnish 2007 World Champion has yet to triumph this season but a string of podium finishes and points in every race this season mean he is in with a shout of taking the world championship should Alonso falter.

Felipe Massa enjoyed a frantic tussle with compatriot Bruno Senna that nearly saw the two Brazilian drivers crash spectacularly, but Massa overcame the Williams driver to bag a handful of useful points in 8th place as he bids to retain his Ferrari drive next season. Behind him Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez claimed the final points on offer, while Red Bull driver Mark Webber had to settle for 11th after a lacklustre performance that has severely harmed his championship hopes.

Michael Schumacher failed to find his brake foot…with spectacular consequences

Of the other drivers, Michael Schumacher made yet another boob on the streets of Singapore as he crashed for the third year running at the circuit. Just as Perez suffered an attack by the German driver last season, this year it was Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne’s turn as the Mercedes smashed into the back of his car, eliminating both men on the spot. Schumacher later received a ten place grid penalty for the next race in Japan after his protests that a mechanical defect had caused the crash were thrown out by the race stewards. The apparent lack of racing nous displayed by the 43-year-old 7-time former Champion has added to the speculation he will call time on his F1 comeback at the end of the season, and an announcement is expected this coming Wednesday. Marussia had more to cheer about as a 12th-13th place double finish elevated them above backmarker rivals Caterham and HRT in the battle for the crucial 10th place in the constructors championship and the TV-money that goes with it.

The drivers at the front of the grid are playing for higher stakes; Alonso may have a 29-point lead over his nearest rival, but there are still 150 to play for. The 2012 Formula One World Championship is not over yet…

Anthony French

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