Singapore: Sebastian Vettel shone in Formula One’s night race for the second successive season, but for Lewis Hamilton the lights may have gone out on his championship chances.
Vettel capitalised on Hamilton’s retirement with a gearbox problem on lap 23 when comfortably leading the Singapore Grand Prix to take the chequered flag. This latest win for the reigning world champion ends Vettel’s longest winless run of nine races since joining Red Bull in 2009.
As team principal Christian Horner pointed out to Vettel after crossing the line: “Well done, you’re back in the championship again.”
The 24-year-old now trails Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by 29 points, the Spaniard claiming the 81st podium of his career — only Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost have more — by finishing third behind McLaren’s Jenson Button.
For Hamilton, his recent rollercoaster run now leaves him 52 points behind Alonso, and with his last five races reading — retired, first, retired, first, retired. Just when Hamilton garners belief he has a chance of the title, he finds his hopes cruelly snatched away.
Behind the trio, Force India’s Paul di Resta grabbed a career-high fourth, followed by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus, the Finn now 45 points adrift in the title race.
Teammate Romain Grosjean was seventh, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso and Red Bull’s Mark Webber, surely out of the title running now as he is 61 points down.
Following his 23rd career win, an ecstatic Vettel said: “This is one of the toughest races all year, two hours, the circuit is a killer and the race seems to go on forever. “Obviously we benefited from Lewis’ retirement, the pace was there, so I’m incredibly happy and proud.
“I’d like to dedicate it to a very special man, Sid Watkins (former race doctor and FIA medical delegate who recently passed away), a big thank you to him.”
Button said: “That was a pretty tough two hours for us. It’s a good second place. We all want to win, but you can’t win them all. For us as a team another failure is not great for us.”
Alonso, who continues to hang on to the lead as his rivals trip over themselves, said: “This is one of the best tracks to drive, it was a fun race again.”