Unstoppable Vettel shines brightest under Singapore lights
Published 23/09/2013 | 05:00
Singapore's stunning street circuit sparkled beneath a million megawatts. David Beckham and Tom Jones provided a bit of additional star quality. No one, however, shone brighter than Sebastian Vettel did.
Red Bull's runaway championship leader extended his advantage still further in the title race with a demonstration of such control and power that his rivals may as well give up now. Vettel's winning margin – over 32 seconds from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso – would have been greater still but for a safety car mid-race that bunched the field.
Such was the German's dominance – he was pulling away from his rivals at two seconds per lap at times – it was bound to raise the hoary old question: is it Vettel's brilliance or is it the car he is driving?
There is no question that Adrian Newey's RB9 is utterly superior to the rest. As Jenson Button said afterwards: "I take nothing away from Sebastian but he is not one and a half seconds better than Fernando."
He is not. But then Vettel can only do his best with the equipment he is given. And the fact is that, conspiracy theories aside, his team-mate Mark Webber has the same equipment. Vettel more consistently maximises the car's potential, making virtually no errors in the process.
He certainly didn't make any yesterday. After a pre-race feeding frenzy as snappers scrambled to get a shot of Beckham on the grid, the race got off to a clean start.
Vettel's only real threat – other than mechanical failure – was from Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. The German, so close to taking pole on Saturday after Vettel misjudged his speed advantage and quit proceedings early, had promised to be aggressive off the start line, in the knowledge that Vettel had a lot more to lose than he did.
Rosberg was as good as his word, squeezing ahead of the triple champion by the first corner, only to out-brake himself, allowing Vettel to cut back inside him at Turn 2.
The pair briefly went wheel-to-wheel but Vettel held the inside line into Turn 3 and forged ahead.
From then on the result was never in doubt, Vettel only relinquishing his lead to the safety car for a few laps in the middle of the race after Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo – his team-mate next year – shunted into the barriers at Turn 18.
That safety car period did spice things up behind Vettel, though, as teams had to decide whether to pit immediately and try to make the end of the race on one set of tyres, or hold on and pit later for fresh rubber.
Alonso, who had made a typically brilliant start from seventh on the grid to claim third place within a couple of corners, opted for the former, as did Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and the two McLarens of Button and Sergio Perez.
Vettel, Webber and the two Mercedes drivers, Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, opted to stay out.
This made for an exciting conclusion to the race as the cars on fresh rubber hunted down those who had pitted during the safety car period.
Alonso and Raikkonen, who drove brilliantly having started 13th, held on to complete the podium, although Webber might well have caught the Finn had he not suffered water pressure failure.
The Australian's engine caught fire on the last lap, leading to one of the biggest controversies of the day; Webber flagging down Alonso on the warm-down lap to hitch a lift back to the pits.
It initially looked like a nice bit of camaraderie, Webber having done the same for Alonso in Germany in 2011, and there was widespread indignation when both drivers were slapped with reprimands.
However, television replays later showed that Webber had run out onto the track to hail down Alonso, who stopped on a blind corner as Webber straddled his cockpit, forcing both Mercedes cars to swerve around his stationary Ferrari.
Reprimands were fully deserved in this instance, even if Webber's meant a 10-place grid penalty for Korea next week as a result of it being his third reprimand of the season.
But back to Vettel, to whom the day belonged.
This was his seventh win of the season, the 33rd of his career, and completed a Singapore hat-trick after his victories here in 2011 and 2012.
The youngest triple world champion in history will soon become the youngest quadruple champion, probably by India or Abu Dhabi.
Is his dominance killing the sport - as Michael Schumacher's did in the early part of this century? (© Daily Telgraph, London)