The start to the race wasn’t a great one and till the middle of the race, it was a bit on the downside but the SC’s brought some charm to racing and suddenly we were seeing drivers getting aggressive for places. With Hamilton’s retirement, it was a clear road for Vettel to take his only second win of the season with Button ending in P2 & Alonso once again on podium with P3. SFI’s Di Resta finished a career best P4 & Hulkenberg ended P14. Karthikeyan suffered a DNF which brought the SC.
Detailed review of the weekend, here:
Practice Sessions, FP1:
Not very surprisingly, the track was damp due to rain before the session. But that didn’t affect the teams running as they did many laps in the improving track. Vettel stamped his authority topping the times in daylight session of Singapore. Hamilton ended P2, very close to Vettel while Button completed the top 3. SFI enjoyed a good outing as Hulkenberg ended P7 & Di Resta at P8. The sector times were looking good as well as Hulkenberg topped the speed trap. Karthikeyan was once again replaced by Ma, perhaps it is contractual off from Narain.
I was watching this session live on TV, the track looked spectacular. The session was all dry and an important one because it was the first session under lights. Vettel continued his top form and finished P1 with Button at P2 & Alonso P3. SFI continued their impressive form as Di Resta ended P6 & Hulkenberg P7 who once again topped in speed trap. And once again, they were good in the sector times. Both were happy with the performances and hoped that it will continue into Friday. Karthikeyan was back and looked good straightaway as he almost matched his teammate, ended P24. The HRT car was suffering from overheating a bit.
A daylight session, will say it looked a bit odd on TV. But things were intense in the session as the team went on with the soft & super soft tyres run. And Vettel made it 3 in a row with ending at P1, Hamilton ended at P2 while Alonso P3. FI were clearly looking the best of the rest as Hulkenberg ended P4 & Di Resta P7, pretty impressive sector times and well in place to qualify well. Karthikeyan improved a lot as well ending P22 beating Glock & Pedro.
The practice session gave us the indication that it was all between Vettel & Hamilton for pole battle. Ferrari, Lotus were bit off the pace while Force India looked very quick and good to get both drivers in Q3. Karthikeyan even after missing FP1, was looking good to beat Pedro for second time. The car had upgrades which they said was working well.
Lights were on for the qualifying session and the first session was underway with usual suspects to bow out along with one mid-field driver. And it happened that way, Caterham, Marussia & HRT bowed out along with them, Kobayashi missed out. Grosjean ended P1, Di Resta P2 & Kimi P3. Both the SFI car made it safely in Q2. Karthikeyan was super in the HRT as he beat his teammate Pedro for the second consecutive time.
This was an intense session as we had some 12-13 cars eyeing for the top 10 positions. Apart from the likes of Vettel, Hanilton, Button everyone used super soft tyres. Hamilton ended P1, Webber P2 & Grosjean P3 in the session. Di Resta made it safely to Q3 but it was unfortunate that Hulk missed out and ended Q3, just fell short by 0.032s. He was a bit disappointed post the session, the car had the pace. He said that he just didn’t get a good lap and thus fell short.
Everybody went out straight to the track apart from Alonso & the Mercedes duo. McLaren & Vettel had already saved a tyre and so they could have gambled a bit. I am happy to see SFI going for two runs, going for aggressive strategy. Hamilton in the end got the pole though he couldn’t get a clear lap, still managed to set an amazing time. Vettel faltered as Maldonado took P2 pushing Vettel to P3. Di Resta ended a superb P6 having done his best lap when mattered. The Mercedes duo didn’t run at all.
The qualifying battle for pole was known and Hamilton richly deserved it. Only surprising factor was Maldonado in there, he was quick all weekend but on the give time he was spot on. I was very happy with SFI as Di Resta made the most of the pace. It was unfortunate for Hulkenberg but the pace was such that it was certain he could finish in points. Karthikeyan has improved his qualifying pace and that’s good for the Indian as he looks to cement his 2013 seat.
Lights were on for the action to begin, a spectacle & a treat for the viewers at home and at the GP with the amazing lights. The front row was unusual as Maldonado was alongside Hamilton, some eyebrows was raised for a clean start. I for one predicted that it will be a clean start and that what happened. Hamilton took the early lead with Maldonado being pushed down by Button & Vettel. Di Resta stayed where he was but Hulkenberg lost a place to Kimi. Karthikeyan made a steady start getting ahead of the Caterham but lost a place to his teammate Pedro.
It all went silent until Hamilton’s retirement & the first SC. On lap 22, Hamilton car stopped due to gearbox failure which gave Vettel the lead. Behind them everything remained the same as it started as Hulkenberg, Perez making some grounds using the soft tyres. Webber was struggling while Massa was charging up the field with a superb move over Senna. The second SC disrupted the proceedings and slowed down the things but teams were quite aggressive post the SC period.
Di Resta after making a steady start was always behind the car of Alonso, a bit far but pace wise at similar level. Though the SC didn’t disrupt his strategy but he lost a place to Alonso in the pit stop. He was lapping on similar pace to that of Alonso and better to that of people behind him, giving him a considerable amount of gap from P5. Hulkenberg was having a wild ride as he battled with Kimi & Schumi at the start and then with Webber & the Sauber duo. The SC threw his strategy back as he lost all the momentum. And a late tangle with Perez & Kamui, forced him to go for a 3rd pit stop.
By the end Vettel had pushed enough to create a considerable amount of gap to Button and win comfortably. His second win of the season taking him a bit closer to Alonso’s tally. Button ended P2 far off from Alonso who completed yet another podium finish. Di Resta was superb in the last stint as he finished P4, could have challenged Alonso but didn’t have the extra pace but still well deserved P4, his career best finish. Hulkenberg could have scored easily but SC disruptions and tangle with Suaber driver pushed him back. Only boon was that he got his fastest lap of the race and second one for the team. Karthikeyan unfortunately suffered a DNF who brought out the first SC. He went over the marbles and the braked didn’t work as he hit the barrier. He looked good in qualifying but luck didn’t go with him in the race.
The championship battle is still open Alonso leading from Vettel & Kimi. While Red Bull looks firm in CC but McLaren is pushing them hard. SFI has gained lot of points as they have crossed their 2011 points tally which is significant for a small team. They now sit 26 points behind Sauber, a gettable points but it will go down the wire. Both Di Resta & Hulkenberg also have crossed their 2011 & 2010 points which is good for them. Next up is Suzuka in two weeks time, another driver favourite track and loved by most. till then have a safe time.