Vettel’s Singapore hat-trick leaves title rivals reeling

2013 Singapore Grand Prix review

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There was a brief moment when Sebastian Vettel’s progress towards his third win in a row might be in jeopardy – and it came just after the starting lights went out.

“I thought I reacted pretty well,” he said afterwards, “but was a bit lazy to get off the line”.

Meanwhile Nico Rosberg, starting alongside him, got his Mercedes moving quickly away from the dirty side of the track.

“I thought that Nico might still be there,” Vettel continued. “He was and we were side-by-side, kind of, so I had to give him room.”

“But fortunately he was braking quite deep into turn one and I was able to come back on the inside to get the position.” And that was that. Vettel neatly reversed the move and streaked off into a lead he never lost.

Alonso gets off to a flier

While Vettel stumbled at the start, Fernando Alonso made his usual flier. He’d been watching replays of previous starts at Singapore to perfect his getaway.

“The start again was very good and I was lucky to choose the right line,” said the Ferrari driver. “On turn one there is always people going on the left, people going on the right in every circuit. We’ve managed so far to choose the right one.”

Alonso gift for finding the route of least resistance through the turn one traffic gave him a solid grip on third place. That position had been occupied by Romain Grosjean, but his attempt to fend off Mark Webber was unsuccessful, the Lotus driver falling to fifth.

Behind him Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa disputed sixth. The Mercedes driver claimed the initiative but he had gone off the track completely in doing so and as lap two began he heeded his team’s warning to surrender the position.

With the entire field – bar Adrian Sutil – circulating on the super-soft tyres, and Singapore’s stop-start layout offering little opportunity for passing, the top ten held position until the pit stops began.

Despite the pain from his back Kimi Raikkonen was making progress from his 13th place. He dispensed with Paul di Resta and Esteban Gutierrez before making an early first pit stop on lap ten, the Lotus strategists eager to keep him in clear air.

Ricciardo crash summons Safety Car

In short order the front runners began to respond – Ferrari brought Massa in two laps later to keep him ahead of the Lotus. Webber was in on the next lap, followed by Alonso the next time by. To his disappointment he came out behind the Force India of Di Resta, who was running a longer first stint.

“We had to cover Webber’s early stop,” explained Pat Fry, “we knew we would have found ourselves in traffic behind Di Resta, but the pit stop window was very limited and we preferred not to take the risk.”

Five laps behind Di Resta doubled Alonso’s deficit to Rosberg from three seconds to six. On a normal day that might have been the end of his chances of taking second. But Singapore’s traditional Safety Car appearance would change that.

Vettel made his first pit stop after most of his closest rivals and emerged still in the lead, over ten seconds clear of Rosberg. But that precious margin was about to be wiped out by his future team mate.

Daniel Ricciardo had a frustrating start to the race from ninth on the grid. “My car just seemed to sit there without moving off the line,” he said.

“It was very frustrating to lose so many places right away. I think I went down five places from ninth on the grid to fourteenth. So I was on the back foot from then on, just trying to do the best I could.”

His frustrating race came to an early end on lap 24, the Toro Rosso skidding wide at turn 18, where the track vanished beneath a waterfront grandstand. “The crash was my error, trying to make up for lost ground,” he admitted afterwards.

“In the second stint, my engineer came on the radio and said ‘the pace is good, keep pushing.’ I was aware that for the pace we had, we were not doing too badly and maybe at the end I was just trying to get too much out of it and made that mistake.

“It’s a delicate corner with not much run-off and I went too deep into the apex. I then braked a bit harder, locked a wheel and went into the wall. It’s not a mistake I’m used to making.”

Ferrari split their strategies

The Safety Car was summoned and the teams scrambled to respond. Vettel’s medium compound tyres were only seven laps old, so Red Bull left him out. Mercedes did likewise with Rosberg, who was on the same rubber.

Both of Ferrari’s drivers were also on the medium tyres, but they hedged their bets. “When the Safety Car came out, we had half a lap to take a decision and, in the end we brought both drivers in, trying different strategies,” said Fry.

Massa was also brought in, but he was put on the super-soft tyres. Unluckily for him he emerged behind Di Resta, who had put a fresh set of the same compound on just five laps earlier.

The Safety Car period dragged on far longer than it needed to while race control went through the rigmarole of letting the lapped drivers unlap themselves. In the meantime Vettel’s race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin reminded him to stay close to the racing line, avoiding the treacherous build-up of marbles.

But when the race restarted on lap 31 the tyre pick-up played into Vettel’s hands. Some of it became lodged in Rosberg’s front wing, causing severe understeer.

With Rosberg holding the rest of the field at bay, Vettel scorched ahead at a breathtaking rate. He had restored his former lead within four laps, and had more than doubled it after another five. A dozen laps after the Safety Car withdrew Vettel had the half-minute advantage he needed to make his final pit stop without losing the lead.

Like Vettel, Webber and the Mercedes drivers also had to make a second pit stop after the Safety Car came in. That played into the hands of Alonso and Raikkonen who made their final pits stops while the field was neutralised.

“I’m not sure we could have done what Fernando and Kimi did by staying out on that set of tyres for so long,” said Hamilton afterwards. But at the time Mercedes suspected Alonso wouldn’t got the distance and would be forced to make another stop.

By lap 45 Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton had made their final stops and were having to pick their way past drivers who were trying to make it to the end on a single stop. Gutierrez was passed by all three in a single lap, but Webber got himself some breathing space by temporarily getting Nico Hulkenberg between him and the Mercedes.

The McLaren drivers were next to fall. Jenson Button had been holding on to a podium position until it was taken off him by Raikkonen in a superb move on the outside of turn 14.

“We’ve got to take those sorts of risks if we’re going to get a podium this year,” Button reflected after the race. “We expected to spend most of the race on the [super-soft] tyre, so we’d set the car up for that. The [medium] tyre didn’t work so well for me, and having to hold Kimi off for so long destroyed my rear tyres and made things very tricky.”

Webber denied by last-lap failure

Shortly after Webber passed Button the Red Bull driver began receiving ominous but familiar messages about his gearbox on the radio. Simon Rennie urged him to short-shift, telling him “this is about getting the car to the finish now, we need low revs”.

The other Red Bull of Vettel had a brake vibration but as he faced no threat from behind it was easily managed: “I could definitely feel it,” he said. “It was building up towards the end of the race. Fortunately we were in the lead and we had a new set of super-softs which we saved yesterday, so I could afford to take it a bit easy.”

Ferrari had been anxious that Alonso might suffer a repeat of Canada 2012-style degradation at the end of the race. But although his pace was slower than the Mercedes he had plenty of time in hand. What he did not need was a Safety Car interruption – and he was fortunate to escape one.

Di Resta was still keeping Massa behind him when he went off into a barrier at turn seven. “I took the corner the same way as I had done the previous lap,” said a bemused Di Resta afterwards, “and the car went straight on and wouldn’t stop.” The Singapore marshals sprang into action and the Force India was recovered with no further interruption to the action.

On the penultimate lap Webber backed off so much that both Mercedes drove past him. But it was to no avail. “We could see with 12 laps to go that we began to lose water pressure,” team principal Christian Horner explained. “The water then effectively ran out at which point it is only a matter of time until the engine overheats.”

Cruelly for Webber, the car expired on the last lap. While one Red Bull coasted to a halt with flames coming from the back, the other was being saluted by fireworks as it triumphantly crossed the finishing line.

Adding insult to injury, after his retirement Webber collected a reprimand for walking onto the track to get a lift back to the pits from Alonso without getting the marshal’s permission – a reprimand which has earned him a penalty for the next race.

Sutil salvages a point

Di Resta’s late retirement promoted Hulkenberg to ninth place and Sutil to the final point. Pastor Maldonado had a strong end to the race, passing Gutierrez but missing out on the points.

Webber’s charred Red Bull was classified 15th behind Bottas and Vergne. Charles Pic tried to make it to the end of the race after pitting during the Safety Car period but had to pit with six laps to go and ended up the last running car.

Giedo van der Garde therefore took 16th for Caterham. Max Chilton was next, finishing ahead of his team mate despite being told to let him past at one stage, Jules Bianchi having had to pit for a replacement steering wheel to fix a gear change problem early in the race.

Vettel’s Singapore hat-trick

For the third race in a row Vettel won and Alonso was second, both having done peerless jobs with their machinery.

The same was true of Raikkonen, whose dogged recovery drive to third was all the more impressive given his back trouble. For Lotus it soothed the blow of losing Grosjean to an engine problem in the second half of the race.

Vettel’s third consecutive Singapore Grand Prix victory makes his progress to a fourth drivers’ championship in a row ever more likely. His rivals will surely now believe their best chances of beating him any time soon will be to throw all their efforts into next year’s car.

2013 Singapore Grand Prix

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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Vettel’s Singapore hat-trick leaves title rivals reeling”

  1. Di Resta better stop looking for better drives in the barriers, he won’t find any contracts in there…..

    1. Risk management, Hero to Zero, motor racing can be cruel, especially on street circuits, he had been looking good untill the odds caught up with him.

    2. I don’t know whether the incident was his fault or not, but his form is worrying nonetheless. He should be more concerned about his own seat more than other teams’ right now.

    3. 3 retirements in three races…

      1. It’s even worse than that, it’s 4. He retired a few laps from the end in Hungary with hydraulic problems I think it was. Four retirements in four races is worrying. Admittedly two weren’t his fault, but the other two were pretty basic driving errors.

  2. Another nail in the coffin of sportsmanship. Salute Fernando.

    1. @hohum Alonso parked his car on the racing line and was reprimanded for it. His reprimand had nothing to do with the fact he picked Webber up, it was because he created a safety hazard for cars behind him who were coming around a blind corner. The issue was safety, not sportsmanship.

      1. Does the concept of the “racing line” really apply on the slowing down lap? All drivers go off-line to pick up rubber and increase the weight of their car. If anything the racing line is where cars are least likely to be once the race has finished.

        Not saying that Alonso wasn’t deserving of his reprimand, but I don’t see why stopping on the racing line on the slowing down lap is worse than stopping anywhere else.

        1. It wasn’t quite the line but the fact that he stopped right at the corner exit – had he pulled over and went off the track it wouldn’t have been an issue.

        2. take a look at this video: the whole looks quite dangerous:

          I liked it but the reprimand was deserved, shame it turned into a 10 place penalty.

    2. @Hohum Baseless comment

  3. Supposedly it was Vettel’s physiotherapist who got Kimi fit enough to drive today. See? Sportsmanship isn’t dead.

    1. Really? Haven´t hear this one before… can you tell us more?

      1. It was stated on the TV broadcast of the race, that’s all I have.

        1. Sorry to question you… British broadcast?

          1. NBC broadcast

    2. Good friends help one another.

      Vettel – Raikkonen

      Alonso – Webber

      It’s good to see the relationship despite on track rivals.

    3. I understood it was a Finn who works for McLaren @jonsan

  4. Championship is already over.
    Everybody is gonna Focus on 2014 now.

  5. Well what can you say? I think Vettel’s performance this weekend was just about perfect. This is a guy who has got everything dialled in to a tee, and if this isnt his peak, one wonders what that would be like. Red Bull and Vettel have the perfect symbiotic relationship. They have given him the car, environment and support he needs to go out and drive the car at 2 seconds-a-lap quicker than the next car. Maybe the boo-boys reckon he doesnt deserve his success, that he is lucky…I say, you make your own luck.

    As far as the championship is concerned, its over. Fernando and team are better off regrouping, and parhaps start working on their fortunes for next year. The only consolation I take is that Michael Schmacher only managed to win the Championship in his 5th year with Ferrari (ok 99 was his for the taking), so lets hope next year is the year for Fernando!

    1. Agreed. There’s little point discussing the Championship now. Vettel has won seven races already this year, while Alonso has only won two. The only cars that look like consistently threatening him are the Mercedes, and both drivers are way too far back points wise. Looking a lot like 2011, when Vettel won eleven races. I could easily see him winning four races out of the last six to match that. But hats off to him and RBR, it’s not exciting to watch but it’s truly awe inspiring.

      I’m too hoping that Alonso’s fifth season is where he finally beats his arch rival. Vettel in the role of Hakkinen, and Alonso as Schumacher in a season as exciting as 2000 would be the perfect antidote to the non-existent championship battle we have now!

    2. Was it a Grand Chelem?

      1. @abnash – pole, led entire race and fastest lap. Grand Chelem is French for Grand Slam.

        1. Not sure. Nico was briefly ahead of Seb, coming into turn 1.

      2. I’m not quite sure, you have to lead ALL the race or just finish every lap first?

        Nico was inches ahead of Seb coming into turn 1, so maybe it was not a Grand Chelem after all. Please illustrate me.

        1. He led every lap, i.e. he was leading at the end of every lap.

    3. well said @jaymenon10 – that was one of the most sublime performances I’ve seen in F1 for a very long time. Apart from Vettel’s slightly tardy getaway that was about as good as it gets.

      As you see if this is not Vettel’s peak – and that’s not saying too much at 26 yrs of age – then I can;t wait to see this supreme sportsman evolve to new heights. Shaping up in quite a tidy fashion to be the greatest F1 has ever seen (IMHO he is there already but the stats have yet to catch up.)

  6. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    23rd September 2013, 1:44

    Fernando’s start was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Even for him, that was seriously impressive.

    1. W (@yesyesyesandyesagain)
      23rd September 2013, 7:11

      His start caught me totally by surprise. I was focused on the front and all of a sudden I saw the Ferrari in third and thought, “Now how the hell did he manage that trick!?”

      Impressive stuff.

    2. I was so focused on the battle for the lead, when I saw there was a Ferrari in third I thought it was Massa!

  7. Vettel was phenomenal. Respect for that Grand Slam, hard enough to get one of those, or even to win a single Grand Prix, never mind 3 Grand Slams at 26 years old.

    1. @mcmerctn Agreed. To put things in perspective, Senna had 4, and Schumacher had 5. The overall record is Jim Clark with 8.

      And Vettel has something like 200 GPs to go yet.

      1. Schumacher would probably have had more had virtually all of his wins come during the era of in-race refuelling, which caused the lead to change hands a bit more during a race.

        1. “NOT come.” Sigh.

      2. senna 4 in what…4 years in a top manufacturer,u can’t count (1984-1987)-(1992-1994) while the other 5 grand slams in 11-12 years in top manufacturer!!! now big difference ;)eyy, 4 in 4 and 5 in 11

        1. Then again, those 4 years in a top car, he had a time advantage that put Ferrari’s dominance to shame. With the gaps between cars in the old days, it was much easier to stay ahead for every lap. Today’s no-refueling makes topping it off with a fastest lap even harder.

  8. If the safety car period hadn’t lasted so long, perhaps Alonso would have had more trouble keeping his tyres alive until the end. Perhaps if Mercedes had known that the race wouldn’t restart until lap 31, they would have brought their drivers in as well. I think it’s clear that at least Hamilton would have made it easy. He was still setting competitive sector times when he came in for his final stop.

    What made matters worse for Mercedes was that everyone else bar DiResta came in as well, so Alonso basically got a pit stop for the price of allowing Hamilton in front of him, temporarily. If there had been five or so slower drivers in front of Alonso after his pit stop, the Mercedes drivers might have caught up with him yet.

    1. I am not quite sure what you are trying to say here (lots of ifs and buts)… If you are trying to imply that Alonso and Ferrari were lucky then I say they made their own luck… They took a calculated risk on a strategy that could’ve backfired.. in the end their decision turned out to be the right one…

  9. It’s not only the 60-points lead, it’s the authority and dominance of Vettel. Those “pushing” laps after the SC were nothing less than spectacular. That level of pushing, that consistency and lack of errors, in this track of all, was phenomenal to see.

    There is hope for Alonso, based on Webber’s failure which could hint reliability issues for the Red Bull, and in the way the Ferrari manage its tires. The Red Bull wouldn’t have lasted that long with a set of tires.

    There again, it would be very difficult to stop Vettel from winning the (very well deserved) WDC.

    1. That’s it; previously, I did attribute Vettel’s dominance to the car more than anything else, but the more you watch him, the more you see that’s just pure driving skill and talent coming through.

      People can say what they will about Newey and his designs, but it takes a hell of a driver to string together such consistency over 4 seasons (5 if you count 2009 when Red Bull became a front-runner) and break records constantly.

      While watching Vettel win is typically pretty boring (gets the lead in first lap and just takes it from there) the battles throughout the field are at least fun to watch. I’m hoping next season will bring closer battles for the Drivers’ championship. Any ill will I feel towards Vettel (and I feel that it’s the same for many of those that ‘boo’ him, however misplaced it may be) is coming from the fact that there isn’t an exciting battle for 1st in the drivers’ championship. I just wish another team could provide a competitive car to their former champtions to challenge him.

  10. Phenomenal drive yesterday by ALO, VET and RAI. VET’s stint after the SC was breath taking. But also ALO and RAI impressed me immensely, they could make the 36 lap stint work while others couldn’t and dropped back.
    It wasn’t the most exciting race but a great demonstration of driving skills by the best in the sport.

  11. I read Fernando spoke to Red Bull about a job in July & was sent away. Wonder how the golden boy Vettel could compete against Fernando in the same car?

  12. Thanks Keith, the detailed post-race reviews this year have been truly enjoyable reads.

    I believe James Allen tweeted about it, but we had been having an unseasonably wet September (raining just about every day since the beginning), but there wasn’t a drop of rain when F1 was in town. One of these years we’ll get a wet one..

    Even just from the few seconds watching the cars race past from Turn 7 to 8 (I was at Stamford Grandstand), it was clear Vettel was on a different level than anyone else on raceday. His exit at Turn 7 was almost always perfect, while everyone else had a few wobbly moments here and there either running wide or not using the full kerb.

    I was rooting so hard for Rosberg to get Vettel at the start (side-note: I support Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg) and was yelling my head off when he did for that couple of seconds, but there were plenty of Vettel supporters around me who were pleased with his taking back the lead. With the kind of form he was in, I’m thinking he would probably have passed Rosberg later on quickly, but that’s something we’ll never know now I guess. Sitting in the crowd, I also thought him passing Raikkonen at Hungary this year was a sure thing, but he didn’t manage it in the end.

    Most of us were understandably getting a little restless before the safety car as it was rather uneventful, which is unfortunate for the general Singaporean public at home as well. One of the long term aims is to build the sport here, connect better and make more fans out of Singaporeans. It’s not ideal when the beginning is dull and many switch off, as has been the case the past 2-3 years. The last 15 laps this year were great, but I don’t know how many viewers at home stayed for them..

    DRS seemed even less effective this year compared to last year, probably a little too ineffective I think. I hate the highway style passes as much as the next man, but it was frustrating to see clearly quicker cars getting bottled up like Alonso/Di Resta, Webber/several (I think Webber would have been much quicker in clean air) and even Bottas/van der Garde. It was a little too effective in 2011, if you can recall Hamilton scything through the field, so it’s a delicate balance. All things considered, I like it this way more than in 2011, but it might be hard to win new fans over.

    Everyone greatly enjoyed the fights at the end and Kimi’s pass on Button at Turn 14 got the loudest cheers. We had Di Resta crashing and Webber stopping at our stand, so those last few laps were fun to watch. Couldn’t see much of the fireworks where we were seated, no huge loss and like some have noted, there was still racing going on near us. Watching Webber getting on to Alonso’s taxi was the best live moment by far in the few races I’ve been to.

    I really, really missed living timings and radio messages though (no fan vision this year), we had to rely on the commentators to tell us the times and what was being said. From twitter, I think there were a few notable ones which I’ve not seen mentioned much in race reports, particularly some from Hamilton, Rosberg, Grosjean and Hulkenberg. What was that about Rosberg saying he didn’t need to push and Hamilton thinking that he was 3rd at the finish?

  13. couldnt be bothered watching it as alonso wasnt going to win and pastor was going to somewhat further back, dont think I missed too much
    was at monza, the race there was pretty dull, good job theres more things to see and do there over the space of a long weekend

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