Singapore GPR Race Recap: Vettel stomps to victory, Alonso & Kimi podium

Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Singapore Grand Prix, streaking off into the distance after a dash into the first turn with Nico Rosberg on the start. He never relinquished the lead, despite a Safety Car for Daniel Ricciardo and brake vibrations. Fernando Alonso took advantage of the SC, diving into the pits and making the end of the race on medium tyres for second. Kimi Raikkonen spent a good bit of time behind Jenson Button, but made his way through to finish on the podium. Though the race seemed interminably slow at times, the final ten laps were filled with scrapping as some tyres fell off the cliff and others came into themselves.

Vettel (1:42.841) won pole as dominantly as he ever has, while sitting in the garage and waiting to see if his rivals could come near him in lap times during Saturday’s qualifying sessions. Though Rosberg came close, he remained nine hundredths off Vettel’s pace and had to settle for starting alongside his compatriot on the front row. Grosjean continued Lotus’ quick pace, as demonstrated by him and his teammate all weekend, and qualified third fastest, starting next to Webber.

The Australian looked set to match or outshine Vettel’s pace on his final lap after the flag, setting quick sector times, but could not string together a lap that beat any of the aforementioned drivers. Raikkonen had dropped out in Q2 with thirteenth fastest, suggesting that back pain had contributed to poor performance. Others suggested, in turn, that his back troubles came more from a lack of paycheck from Lotus than actual physical troubles.

‘Hamilton also looked defeated after qualifying, indicating that his Mercedes had more pace, but he could not get more out of it. Even more disappointing for Ferrari, neither Massa nor Alonso could manage better than six and seventh, in that order. Button was considerably more excited, putting his McLaren into eighth starting position. Ricciardo and Gutierrez rounded out the top ten starters.

Vettel led two of the three weekend practice sessions, with only Hamilton beating him to the top of the timesheets in the first Friday practice. Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean, and Rosberg joined those two as the fastest five in the practices. Despite the narrowness of the Marina Bay street circuit, only a few bits of car came off as drivers pounded the track. No incidents caused stoppages for any of the practice or qualifying sessions.

Though Singapore often likes to toss a bit of rain at the race, there was little chance of precipitation. Everyone but Sutil started on the supersofts, with the top ten of course on those used in quali.

Race Start:
On the start, Vettel got away fairly cleanly, but Rosberg beat him into the first turn, only to run wide and cede the lead back to Vettel. Yet again, the real mover was Alonso, third into the first turn. Hamilton dropped back to fifth. At the end of the first lap, Vettel led Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Grosjean, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Hulkenberg, and Perez as the top ten. Vettel, despite the bit of action at the start, had nearly two seconds on Rosberg at the end of that first lap.

Meanwhile, Hamilton had to give his sixth position to Massa, as the Briton had run outside the bounds of the track to take to position. Vettel’s lead more than doubled to over four seconds as he attempted to run away with the race. Further back, Ricciardo had dropped five position to fourteenth on his terrible start. Raikkonen gained one, moving up to twelfth by the end of L2. The Finn looked racy, though, pushing Gutierrez for eleventh. Other than the scrap over eighteenth between van der Garde and Bottas, they were the closest men on the track. Raikkonen would make the pas and move ever closer to Perez and a points paying position.

By the end of L4, Vettel had more than six seconds on Rosberg, clearly looking to make a pit stop’s gap back to his countryman. Rosberg was fairly safe in his second from challenge by Alonso, who sat just over two seconds behind second position. Though Webber seemed keen for hard racing before the start, his engineer told him to maintain a two second gap on Alonso to keep the tyres fresh.

By the end of L7, Vettel was seven seconds ahead of Rosberg. Though the gaps remained fairly stagnant between the top four, the rest of the field was closing on Webber. Grosjean was within the DRS detection range of the Australian. Though he had the use of the DRS, it appeared that even the addition of a second zone was unable to help any of the contenders.

End L10 of 61/Pit Stops Begin:
Vettel’s lead stabilized around seven seconds by the end of L10. Rosberg had gained some time on Alonso, gaining a gap of just over three and a half seconds. Webber, Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Button, Hulkenberg, and Perez remained the top ten. On L10, Raikkonen made his first stop from thirteenth and dropped to nineteenth, into air unpolluted by Perez’s rear wing. Bianchi also pitted. Gutierrez pitted on L12, as did Vergne, Pic, and Chilton.

Meanwhile, Alonso set a new race fast lap. Hamilton had a moment, driving off the track and coming back on. He lost only time to Button behind. Massa pitted on L13, as Bianchi made his second stop in three laps. In actual on track action, Raikkonen pushed through on Bottas for fifteenth, making use of his new tyres.

On the radio, Webber informed the team that he had “trouble with the rears.” He pitted on L14, with Button and Hulkenberg following. Van der Garde and Bottas did so as well. Webber had rejoined behind Ricciardo, but his new tyres allowed him to slide right on by on the straight.

Alonso pitted on L15 from second, rejoining in sixth and right behind di Resta. His stop was a bit slower with a right front issue. He, and Webber, took on the medium tyres. On the track, Massa sat directly behind Maldonado and was looking for any way around. Alonso looked set to pass di Resta, but could not quite manage a way around.

Rosberg, Grosjean, and Hamilton pitted on L16, as Mercedes stacked the drivers. Stuck behind di Resta, Alonso had begun to fall into Webber’s clutches. Fighting over eleventh, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, and Perez all spent time scrapping. Though they were tightly packed, especially as Gutierrez caught the others up. Perez had a look up the inside of Hulkenberg, pushing the latter wide and outside the white lines. Somehow they managed to continue without incident. Maldonado pitted on L17,

Vettel stopped on L18 with a 36s lead. He rejoined still in the lead after a 2.8s stop, on a new set of the medium tyres. After most drives stopped, Vettel led Rosberg, di Resta (the only man yet to stop), Alonso, Webber, Grosjean, Hamilton, Massa, Button, and Raikkonen as the top ten. Hulkenberg, Perez, Gutierrez, Vergne, Sutil, Ricciardo, Maldonado, van der Garde, Chilton, and Bianchi completed the running order.

Though Alonso remained behind di Resta, just four tenths back at the end of L18, he still had two seconds gap back to Webber. Despite the shove from Perez, race direction informed Sauber than Hulkenberg had to return the position. He did so, though his radio message indicated his displeasure and surprise.

On the radio, Hamilton informed Mercedes that “these tyres are terrible.” Di Resta made his first stop on L21, dropping down to thirteenth. He stayed on the soft tyres. With forty laps remaining, Vettel had a nine second gap on Rosberg, with another eight back to Alonso. Though Webber was just one and a half seconds behind Alonso, he was more worried by Grosjean and Hamilton coming from behind. They were able to close to about a second apart, but no further. Hamilton needed a reminder to drink.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L24 of 61)/Safety Car Deployed (L25 of 61):
Vergne and Bottas pitted on L24, just before Ricicardo went headfirst into the wall at T18. He locked the left front and could not make the turn. Alonso and Grosjean dove into the pits, as did Massa, Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, and much of the rest of the field. Vettel, Rosberg, Webber, Hamilton, di Resta, van der Garde, and Picdid not stop on the first lap of the SC.

Raikkonen had a terrible stop, as Lotus had to hold his release until Hulkenberg went by in pit lane. Behind the SC, Vettel led Rosberg, Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Grosjean, di Resta, Massa, Button, and Raikkonen as the top ten. Perez, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Gutierrez, Sutil, Maldonado, Bottas, and der Garde, Pic, Chilton, and Bianchi rounded out the running order.

On the radio, Hulkenberg took the SC period to complain about his position return to Perez. The SC lasted an extra lap or two as the lapped cars were allowed through to leave the racing up to those squabbling over position.

Restart (L30 of 61)/ Halfway (End L31 of 61):
On the restart, Vettel got away much more cleanly than he did on the race start. The restart was clean, with no one quite able to make use of it and pass the man ahead. By the end of L31, Vettel’s lead was back up over three seconds. Webber was close behind Rosberg, with the marbles building up like mad off line. From second through thirteenth, there was less than a second between each driver.

Vettel’s race engineer encouraged his to use his tyres to build the gap. He did so, gaining more than two seconds on the next lap. Meanwhile, Hamilton asked Mercedes to keep an eye of his tyre pressures, particularly the front right, as he thought he’d run over debris. Mercedes said his tyres were fine.

Grosjean pitted, as Lotus informed him he had a “problem with air consumption” in the engine. Though the Frenchman rejoined “no!” he pitted. Unfortunately, to add the air, they had to open a hatch. His stop dropped him to last from sixth, though still on the lead lap.

As Webber caught up Rosberg, those behind him remained in touch. Only 6.2 seconds covered Webber back to Hulkenberg, third to eleventh. Despite the train of cars, no one seemed quite able to find his way past the driver ahead. At Marussia, Bianchi received a message to pass Chilton, who also had been told to let his teammate by. In other radio news, Mercedes told Rosberg he had rubber debris stuck on the front wing.

Grosjean’s engine issue forced him out of the race, as he retired on L39. At the front end, Vettel continued on with his pushing strategy, receiving positive feedback form the team. He had more than twenty seconds on Rosberg with twenty-two laps to go, though the race could possible run against the two hour time limit. Vergne pitted for the third time on L39.

20 Laps Remaining (41 of 61):
Webber pitted for his second stop on L41, with Sutil following him into pit lane. On the radio, Hamilton got some encouragement to “push, push,” as it was “all happening now.” Vettel had just over twenty-two seconds on Rosberg as Rosberg received the call to pit as well. Maldonado also pitted, for his third stop on that lap, as did Chilton. Webber’s stop got him back out in front of Rosberg, essentially giving the Australian second.

Though Hamilton sat in second, Alonso was directly behind his former teammate. Both were nearly twenty-nine seconds behind Vettel. Di Resta and Massa pitted on L43, for their second and third stops, respectively, as did Bottas and van der Garde. Di Resta barely managed to maintain his position ahead of Massa by quick work from Force India.

Rosberg pushed back against instructions to push, wondering why he needed to push when he also needed to conserve tyres. Hamilton made his second stop, leaving Alonso to second, thirty seconds behind Vettel with eighteen laps to go. Hamilton lost position to Webber and Rosberg, but not di Resta. Hamilton, like teammate Rosberg, overshot the marks in the Mercedes garage.

Vettel made his second stop as he began L44. He rejoined still in the lead, but with Alonso in sight. The argument via radio continued for Rosberg and Mercedes, as the driver refused to believe that he needed to do anything other than save his tyres. On the Red Bull radio, Rocky told Vettel that he needed only to save his tyres and nurse the car home, looking out for a Safety Car. He had nearly five seconds on Alonso after his out lap. Button was another five and a half seconds behind Alonso, with Raikkone, Perez, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, Webber, Rosberg, and Hamilton the top ten with sixteen laps to go.

Tyre strategy reigned supreme as teams and drivers desperately attempted to determine both their best strategy and the strategy of those around them. Neither Vettel nor Alonso needed to stop for regulation tyre change, not did Button or Raikkonen. Perez rounded out the top five, looking safe enough to go without stopping. Vettel, though, needed another reminder to look after the brakes.

Mercedes continued to encourage its drivers to push, telling both Rosberg and Hamilton that they needed to get around Webber in eighth. As Webber caught Gurtierrez, so did Rosberg and Hamilton catch Webber. Webber had a look on the Mexican, but it only allowed the Mercedes drivers to close.

Webber passed Gutierrez, using the DRS to close, and streaked off after Hulkenberg. Rosberg made his pass a couple of turns later, leaving Hamilton still behind Gutierrez. Hamilton pushed by on the straight, dropping from seventh to tenth in one lap. Di Resta was the next to pass Gutierrez, taking a point, then Massa also passed him with eleven laps left in the complete race distance.

10 Laps Remaining of 61:
Vettel had more than thirteen seconds on Alonso, who had eleven on Button, though their tyres were quite capable of losing their grip at any given moment. Raikkonen remained just a few tenths behind Button, looking for a podium. Vettel was not safe with just ten laps to go, as Red Bull informed him that his brake vibrations were increasing. Things looked a bit better for Webber, who had caught up the six seconds to Hulkenberg in just two laps. He was exhorted to push, hearing that the podium was just eight seconds ahead.

Webber began pushing Hulkenberg, looking to set off after Perez ahead. Both were catching Raikkonen, who remained directly behind Button. He had gained a train behind him. Raikkonen could not pass Button, but Webber did get by Hulkenberg for sixth. That put Webber just behind Perez, with the two Mercedes drivers right there as well.

Raikkonen finally got through on Button, who left him little room on the outside as they exited T17. That move put Raikkonen on the podium. Behind them, the scrap continued. As Hulkenberg looked to keep the Mercedes drivers behind, even as he indicated his tyres were dead, di Resta made his own move. Instead, he went nose first into the barrier. Though the yellows waved, he seemed able to back it out of the barrier. The marshals got he car moved very quickly, but Webber had already gotten around Button.

Vettel, Alonso, and Raikkonen looked safe enough with five laps to go, but Webber was charging. More importantly, the train of Perez, Rosberg, Hamilton, and Massa were continuing their scrap. Hamilton had a look at Rosberg, only to have his teammate make the move on Perez. That left Hamilton to go at Perez, but Massa was directly behind him.

Rosberg had caught up to Button, passing the other McLaren as he had Perez. As Webber heard a demand to short shift, the scrap continued. Hamilton had managed to pass Perez, as the McLarens seemed to lose their grip. That moved Massa up, as the Brazilian took advantage. Webber next heard that he needed to nurse the car home. He had just over eight seconds on Rosberg, but the Mercedes driver was lapping four seconds quicker with two laps to go.

Webber’s Red Bull could not manage to maintain position, as Rosberg and Hamilton slid on by him. Massa passed as well. Webber pulled off to the side with some flames from his failing engine at T7. In the end, Vettel took the flag with fireworks. Alonso maintained his second and Raikkonen third. The scrap over the final points continued, leaving the McLarens still in the points. Webber had to get a ride back from Alonso, who zoomed along with the Australian’s foot in his cockpit.

Final Positions, 2013 Grand Prix of Singapore:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull 2
2. Fernando AlonsoFerrari32.62
3. Kimi RaikkonenLotus43.92
4. Nico RosbergMercedes51.12
5. Lewis HamiltonMercedes53.12
6. Felipe MassaFerrari63.83
7. Jenson ButtonMcLaren83.32
8. Sergio PerezMcLaren83.82
9. Nico HulkenbergSauber84.22
10. Adrian SutilForce India84.63
11. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams88.43
12. Esteban GutierrezSauber97.82
13. Valtteri BottasWilliams 3
14. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso 3
15. Mark Webber (STOP)Red Bull1 Lap2
16. Giedo van der GardeCaterham1 Lap3
17. Max ChiltonMarussia1 Lap3
18. Jules BianchiMarussia1 Lap4
19. Charles PicCaterham1 Lap3
 Paul di RestaForce India7 Laps2
 Romain GrosjeanLotusLaps4
 Daniel RicciardoToro RossoLaps1
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