Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Another Day at the Races? Not in Singapore ; Mundane Start Gives Way to Overheated Chaos as Vettel Wins Grand Prix

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Another Day at the Races? Not in Singapore ; Mundane Start Gives Way to Overheated Chaos as Vettel Wins Grand Prix

Article excerpt

When Lewis Hamilton dropped out of the Singapore Grand Prix with a gearbox problem, Sebastian Vettel shot past and took a lead he never relinquished.

Formula One holds races on street circuits because they are beautiful to look at, and they bring the fans closer to the cars and to the cities through which they race. Unfortunately, the narrow confines also make passing nearly impossible, and the races are often processional.

It is those same confines, however, that just as often lead to accidents and other problems that shake up the grid like a deck of cards. And after a calm, processional start to the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, that is exactly what happened as the race turned from the predictable into the fantastic.

For the first 23 laps, it looked as if Lewis Hamilton, who started in pole position in his McLaren Mercedes, would put everyone, including his fellow drivers, to sleep as he controlled the race. Then, a third of the way through the 61-lap race, Hamilton's car slowed down and he drove off the track and abandoned the race.

The man who had been chasing him from the start, Sebastian Vettel, who won the same race last year from pole, shot past and took the lead. Despite several accidents and two slowdown periods for cleaning up the track, he never relinquished it, taking his second victory in a row in Singapore, the 23rd of his career and his second this season.

"A very long two hours. It's a killer, and the race seemed to go on forever," said Vettel, referring not only to the difficult track, but to the heat -- 29 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit) -- and the 68 percent humidity.

"Working in these conditions it is very hot, and in the garage it is 10 degrees or more higher," he added. "Not a very good office to work in."

Three of the four previous races here were won from pole position. Only Fernando Alonso won from farther back -- in 2008, when his teammate staged a crash to help him win -- and this time Alonso finished in third place after starting in fifth. Jenson Button finished second in his McLaren.

Alonso remains in the lead of the series with 194 points, and Vettel has moved from fourth in the standings to second with 165. Hamilton, who started the race second in the series, dropped to fourth with 142 points, and Kimi Raikkonen of the Lotus team finished sixth and is in third position with 149 points.

For that first third of the race it looked like another boring procession. Pastor Maldonado had started in second in his Williams, but was passed at the first corner at the start of the race by Vettel and Button. After that it was like a freeze-frame image of the grid, with Hamilton controlling things perfectly until Lap 23, when he suddenly received a message on his radio from his engineer.

"We have a gearbox failure, Lewis. Please park somewhere safe," said his engineer over the radio. …

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