So if Jenson Button can win every remaining race, and somehow arrange for Vettel to finish all of them outside the points — perhaps by having Hamilton crash him out — he can take his second World Driver’s Championship. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much how the race played out: Button was the only driver with a hope of catching Vettel, and to his credit he made a pretty good effort. Vettel’s margin of victory, after running into traffic on laps 59 and 61, was just under two seconds — but he’s been managing his late-race pace very well of late, so it’s hard for the rest of us to tell whether he could have opened the lead to five or six seconds (or more) in the last ten laps if he’d needed to.
As with the championship, the race in Singapore was pretty dull in P1, with Vettel taking a commanding lead off the start and after the safety car, but with plenty of action further down the order. Webber impressed me with a pair of real (that is, non-DRS) passes on Alonso, and at the back Kovalainen managed to hang with the struggling Renaults (as did Trulli while his gearbox lasted). The Force Indias did very well, both finishing in the points and sparring on reasonably even terms with the Mercedes cars.
Hamilton, as usual this season, was a source of great drama and excitement. He tried to pick of Webber off the start but had to back out before T1, slipping to eighth on the first lap before fighting back on the opening laps. He passed Rosberg and Schumi with surprisingly interesting DRS activations, then clipped Massa’s right rear corner with his front wing while fighting for fifth. Massa pitted for a tire change and complained about how it fucked over his race strategy; Hamilton inexplicably spent a full lap six seconds off the pace with half a front wing, pitted for a new nose, then took a drive-through penalty and rejoined the race in 19th. He’d end up fighting his way back to fifth before the end of the race — making a successful pass on Massa along the way.
Singapore was full of surprises in terms of team pace. Ferrari have usually been good on the soft and super-soft Pirellis, but this time out they munched their tires faster than any of the other front-running teams, with obvious consequences to their race pace (though as usual Alonso was faster than he really ought to have been). Renault was miserably off the pace, to the point where Petrov was jousting with the Virgins and HRTs; Sauber and Toro Rosso were on pace with Williams, which is a bit slower than they probably ought to be. On the other hand, Force India got everything they could out of the car, which looked plenty quick and easy on its tires. So, for that matter, did the McLaren — clearly faster than the Ferrari in every way that mattered, and back on its mid-season competitiveness with the RB7 on Sunday if not Saturday. In Vettel’s hands, though, the Red Bull has been fast everywhere since the summer break, even on circuits (like Monza and Singapore) where the team has struggled in the past.
Now we go to Japan, where Vettel’s dominated for the past two years in what were arguably slower cars relative to the opposition.