McLaren and Williams, two of the great marquees of modern Formula 1, yet two names not often said in the same breath over the past few years. Qualifying for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix bracketed the two perfectly, however, Lewis Hamilton taking poll for McLaren while Pastor Maldonado drove his Williams to P2. Hamilton’s run was consistent with his recent performances, including both poll and the victory at the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago. Maldonado’s stood out a little bit more, but the Venezuelan did finish 11th at Monza after having started in P22, having obviously found some speed in his machine. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) took third on the Singapore grid, with championship leader Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) starting in P5, Jenson Button (McLaren) P4, and Paul di Resta turning in a great run for Force India to line up sixth on the grid.
Singapore is the Formula 1 season’s only night event, with both qualifying and race taking place after dark. The high-intensity lights cast the cars, and the event as a whole, in almost surrealistically vivid relief.
Vettel took P2 from Maldonado at the start, with Button moving to P3 as Maldonado slipped to fourth. By Lap 10 Hamilton had stretched his lead to 2.7 sec, with Vettel coming into the pits one lap later. Alonso came in for his first tire change Lap 12. Hamilton reported a “funny feeling” from his tires, perhaps having stayed out one lap too long. He came in to change on Lap 13. Hamilton came out in P4, with Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Vettel immediately behind. Vettel took P5 from Raikkonen later in the lap. Maldonado pitted on Lap 14, with Button making his first stop one lap later.
Button rejoined the race in P3, leaving the Top 4 unchanged with Hamilton and Vettel in front and Maldonado behind. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) ran in fifth but had yet to pit. Maldonado’s late braking to pass Hulkenberg on track generated clouds of brake dust and some concern regarding the continued health of his stopping gear. By Lap 18 Alonso had retaken P5.
Hamilton’s transmission failed on Lap 23, dropping him from the race and putting the 2011 race winner, Vettel, in the lead, just one week after his own mechanical DNF. Di Resta moved up to P5 on Hamilton’s retirement. Vettel’s lead over Button on Lap 26 was 3.4 sec. Maldonado outpitted Alonso on Lap 30. Alonso giving full chase on Lap 33, with Maldonado once again engaged in maniac braking to keep him at bay.
A safety car came out later in the lap following a Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) crash, with all the race leaders coming in on Lap 34. Vettel, Button, Alonso, di Resta, and Hulkenberg comprised the Top 5. Maldonado retired with a hydraulic problem while still under safety car on Lap 36. Mark Webber (Red Bull) took P5 from Hulkenberg on Lap 39, the first green lap after the car. Before the lap was done, however, Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) took out Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), and the safety car returned. When the race resumed, Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) was in P5.
By Lap 49 of 61 Vettel’s lead on Button stood at 1.7 sec. On Lap 50 it had become apparent that the race would be called at its 2-hr time limit. With 4 min left, the gap stood at 6.1 sec and was 8.3 sec when the final lap was called. Vettel pulled away yet further for the win, with Button, Alonso, di Resta, and Rosberg completing the Top 5. Vettel’s victory moved him into second in the season standing, 29 points behind Alonso.
Honorable mention should also go to Timo Glock, who guided his typically back-of-the-pack Marussia ride to P12.
Driver standings - Top 10
194 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
165 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
149 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
142 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
132 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
119 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
93 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
82 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
66 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
51 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
297 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
261 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
245 - Ferrari - Alonso, Massa
231 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
136 - Mercedes – Rosberg ,Michael Schumacher
101 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
75 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
54 - Williams-Renault – Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna
14 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: 2012 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX – Suzuka, Oct. 5-7, 2012