F1: Vettel disappears into distance in title race

Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull, right, passes the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg on lap one. Picture: Tim Chong/Reuters
Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull, right, passes the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg on lap one. Picture: Tim Chong/Reuters
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Sebastian Vettel was again in a class of his own as he completed a double hat-trick to further improve his chances of claiming a fourth successive Formula One world title.

He took the chequered flag in Singapore for the third consecutive time under the lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit and it was also Vettel’s third straight win this season after triumphing in Belgium and Italy.

With Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso second, the Spaniard is now 60 points adrift in the title race, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen 98 down after he clambered into the top three with a bad back and from 13th on the grid.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton could only finish fifth behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to leave the Briton 96 points down on Vettel.

For a matter of seconds at the start, Vettel was second best as he had to give way to Rosberg going into turn one. But Rosberg’s momentum forced him to cut the corner and 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.

From seventh on the grid, Alonso powered past Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber in his Red Bull and Hamilton.

The race became a procession featuring precious little action until lap 25 when Daniel Ricciardo ploughed the nose of his Toro Rosso into the barrier at turn 18. That brought out the safety car and, for a short while, it at least suggested Vettel’s cruise to the line was in danger.

The top four of Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton, 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 and blasted away into the night.

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 emerge ahead and, on a fresh set of tyres, the win was in the bag.

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 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.

Sutil’s team-mate, Scot Paul Di Resta, ran into a barrier seven laps from home, leaving him without a point now for five consecutive races.

Vettel said: “The start was quite hairy, I kept the inside clear but Nico went in too deep [into turn one]. I was able to get the place back, which was crucial because we had good pace, but then we had the safety car.

“After that again we had the pace, and the car was incredible.”

Despite his increasing gap, Vettel added: “I’m not really looking at the championship too much, just enjoying the moment.”

Alonso added: “This is a fantastic podium, a second place that feels like a win.

“Red Bull were too fast all weekend, so we have to congratulate them for a fantastic weekend, and next we have to do better.”

Raikkonen conceded his back issue did not affect him too much in the race, simply stating he and the team “did the best we could” under the circumstances.