Classy Vettel reigns in Singapore
SEBASTIAN Vettel was again in a class of his own as he completed a double hat-trick to further strengthen his grip on claiming a fourth successive Formula One world title.
In taking the chequered flag in Singapore for the third consecutive time under the lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, it was also Vettel's third straight win this season after recently triumphing in Belgium and Italy.
With Ferrari's Fernando Alonso second, the Spaniard is now 60 points adrift, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen 98 down after he clambered into the top three with a bad back and from 13th on the grid.
As for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, he could only finish fifth behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to leave the Briton 96 points down on Vettel.
For a matter of seconds - and only for a matter of seconds - Vettel was second-best off the line as he had to give way to Rosberg going into turn one.
There would likely have been millions around the world cheering such a move, only for the joy to be short-lived and give way to groans as Rosberg's momentum forced him to cut the corner.
That allowed Vettel to sweep back into the lead, and from there he put the pedal to the metal and blazed away into a four-second lead after just two laps.
Behind the reigning three-times champion Alonso produced another of his storming starts, as he knows he has to do these days given his car's shortcomings in qualifying.
From seventh on the grid, Alonso powered past Lotus' Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber in his Red Bull and Hamilton.
Hamilton's woes off the line saw him also fall behind Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, and although he managed to gain the place back, he went beyond the track limits and was ordered to cede position.
From that point on, even through the first round of the pit stops, the race became a procession featuring precious little action.
That was until lap 25 when Daniel Ricciardo made an astonishing error as he ploughed the nose of his Toro Rosso into the barrier at turn 18.
It sparked the ninth safety car period in six grands prix around this track, and for a short while it at least suggested Vettel's cruise to the line was in danger.
A number of drivers pitted for a second time, including the likes of Alonso, Grosjean, Massa, McLaren's Jenson Button, Raikkonen and Sergio Perez in his McLaren.
That left a top four of Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton, who all opted not to pit, throwing up different strategies for the leaders over the second half of the race.
But when the safety car exited after five laps - on lap 30 - Vettel simply unleashed his dominance again and blasted away into the night.
It meant that come the end of lap 44, when his team ordered him to pit again, he had a 30-second gap over Alonso.
The cushion was enough for Vettel to pit again and emerge ahead of Alonso, and on a fresh set of tyres, and from there the win was in the bag.
Come the chequered flag he finished 32.6secs clear of Alonso, the largest winning margin this year, whilst the Spaniard was 11.2secs ahead of Rosberg.
The closing laps at least threw up some entertainment as the majority of those who had pitted under the safety car saw their tyres fall away rapidly.
That allowed Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton in particular to scythe their way through on fresher rubber.
Webber should have claimed fourth but suffered a gearbox and engine issue that forced him into retirement on the final lap.
Behind the leading quintet came Massa, Button - who was running third eight laps from home - Perez, Nico Hulkenberg in his Sauber and Adrian Sutil for Force India.
As for Sutil's team-mate, Paul Di Resta, he also ran into a barrier seven laps from home - but fortunately not resulting in a safety car - leaving him without a point now for five consecutive races.