Vettel on brink of F1 title after Singapore win

 

Sebastian Vettel produced another faultless drive in a near-perfect season to move within one point of becoming the youngest driver in Formula One history to claim back-to-back world titles.

In taking the chequered flag by 1.7secs from Jenson Button in his McLaren in today's Singapore Grand Prix, Vettel holds a 124-point lead over the Briton, with just 125 available from the final five races.

It means the championship champagne will have to be put on ice for another fortnight until the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka where the 24-year-old has won on the last two occasions.

In claiming his ninth victory of a thoroughly dominant season, only one man has won more races in a single campaign -Michael Schumacher who chalked up 11 in 2002 and a record 13 in 2004.

Behind the leading duo Mark Webber was third in his Red Bull, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fourth.

Both men are now out of the championship reckoning, along with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton who finished a distant fifth, 67.7secs down following more controversy.

Far too often this season Hamilton's accidents have been a talking point, and so it will prove again after this race in the wake of another collision with Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian yesterday suggested Hamilton "didn't use his mind again" after their minor skirmish in qualifying when the Briton frustratedly barged his way past the crawling Ferrari.

Massa's remark carried weight bearing in mind Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty at the Monaco Grand Prix for crashing into his rival.

So when Hamilton came up behind Massa on lap 12, after the latter had managed to stay ahead in the first round of pit stops as they had come in together, the inevitable happened.

From a failed pass, Hamilton attempted to duck in behind Massa at one of the corners, only to turn the left corner of his front wing in on the right-rear tyre of the Ferrari.

In causing a puncture, it came as no surprise when the stewards announced an investigation into the matter, and even less of a shock when they handed him a drive-through penalty, his fifth of the year.

After 15 laps Hamilton had dropped to 19th having pitted three times - once for tyres, once for a new front wing, and once for serving the penalty.

Ahead of him, Vettel again served as a shining example of how to execute the perfect race, keeping his cool even when he saw a 19 -second lead evaporate courtesy of Schumacher's smash on lap 30.

At that stage Vettel had victory in the bag, only for Schumacher to plough into the back of Sauber's Sergio Perez as he ran too close behind the Mexican.

Unlike Webber's crash into the rear of Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus in the European Grand Prix in Valencia last season when the Australian did a full somersault, Schumacher narrowly avoided also flipping.

Instead, the 42-year-old came down with force on all four wheels before smashing nose first into a barrier at the right-handed turn eight.

For the fourth consecutive year since the inception of what has become one of the best and most spectacular events on the calendar, the safety car was brought into play.

When it made its exit, and with the majority of the field making a dash into the pits for fresh rubber, there was a hope Vettel would be caught.

But instead he again opened up a comfortable cushion that only in the dying stages was threatened when Button closed to 3.9secs with three laps remaining.

A gaggle of backmarkers, though, scuppered any hope of a challenge in the dying laps, leaving Vettel to again take the plaudits and the acclaim from a packed grandstand at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Paul di Resta secured his best result of his debut campaign with sixth, executing a perfect two-stop strategy after a gamble by Force India in starting him on the more durable soft tyre compared to the faster supersofts.

Behind the Scot, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was seventh, followed by Adrian Sutil in his Force India, Massa and Perez.

PA

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