It was with an air of anticipation that the Formula One World moved to Singapore for the fourth time racing in the night. Through a series of complicated and convoluted calculations, Sebastien Vettel has the chance to win the world championship today, six races before the end.
And Vettel started as he meant to go on. Pole position in Saturday’s qualifying was followed by a storming start to the Grand Prix, leaving everyone (especially his team-mate) standing. For Mark Webber it was the same old story. Another poor launch saw both Button and the fast-starting Alonso make their way through. It also caused an early charge from Lewis Hamilton to be blocked. As he became stuck behind the Australian, Hamilton lost momentum and ended up in a disappointing eighth place after the first lap.
With Vettel commanding the field with a lead over 5 seconds after just two laps, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton who was really fired up for this weekend. After easily dispatching Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, the Brit lined-up Felipe Massa in his cross-hares. There’s no doubt the McLaren was working well – Hamilton eased up on the Ferrari driver and drew up side-by-side in the DRS zone.
But this was where the charge was to halt. Around the tight turn seven, Hamilton turned too close to Massa and the pair collided – Hamilton losing his front wing and Massa stuck with a punctured tyre. This later resulted in Hamilton being given a drive-through penalty and dropping the Brit to 19th place.
I feel I have to state this every race and it is a shame. Lewis Hamilton is a fantastic racer, he is probably the most entertaining one out there, but he seems to make reckless, needless mistakes which can ruin a race. It’s telling that this incident was a near carbon-copy of the crash that knocked Hamilton out last year. There’s always a risk in opportunistic racing, but Hamilton always seems to be on the wrong end of it.
It doesn’t help that a few times this season, it’s been against Felipe Massa that these incidents have occurred and it seems the Singapore heat did get to Felipe a little who ‘congratulated’ Lewis for his drive after the race… But of course Lewis bounces back and did so today with a dedicated comeback drive.
Back to the race. There’s no doubt that Singapore, despite the stunning sights of the cars under the lights, can be a little bit of a procession. Luckily the 2011 regulations did help to ease this. It was enjoyable to see several moves up and down the field. Mark Webber was certainly on form finding an crafty way past Fernando Alonso not once, but twice!
But despite the increased action in comparison to previous years, it was still a welcome sight to see the safety car bunch things up on lap 29. What wasn’t nice to see was Michael Schumacher’s rather scary crash that cause the race suspension. The German mis-timed a move up the inside of Sergio Perez and ended up flying into a barrier, literally!
The safety car helped keep some action coming up to the end of the race (things had got a bit stale before hand), but I do think it’s a shame that Jenson Button wasn’t able to have a go at the leader Vettel at the restsart. Four backmarkers stood between him and the race leader. Personally I see no reason why, in a safety car period, lapped cars shouldn’t be able to pass around the track and unlap themselves. This way we get a clearer and potentially more exciting restart without Jarno Trulli getting in everyone’s way – isn’t this what Bernie ‘DRS’ Ecclestone wants? Sort it out… please!
The second part of the race saw most positions remain status-quo. Hamilton was the main mover after working his way up to fifth position, twice! The tyre degredation clearly affected the teams heavily here with all top-runners pitting three times. However, some mid team drivers gambled and only pitted twice helping the likes of di Resta, Rosberg and Sutil into 6th, 7th and 8th (another solid performance from rookie di Resta)
The closing laps of the race gave us one final push from Jenson Button. The Brit had sat in second place for the whole race protecting his tyres, but now it was time to throw caution to the wind and go after Vettel. It was a valiant drive from Button, the gap was clearly tumbling and with backmarkers, Vettel was forced to push a little to ensure his lead.
But in the end it was little more than an annoyance for Vettel who finished yet another supreme drive from start to finish. This man is unbelievably dominant and thoroughly deserves this World Championship, regardless of how annoying that finger is.
But despite all the hype, the championship is still not Vettel’s yet. That’s right, Sebastien Vettel has got only five races left to make… one point! That means that Jenson Button has to win every single other race this year with Vettel failing to score a single point… hmmm
As David Coulthard said ‘It’ll take some doing…’