22 laps into the most glamorous race of the calendar year under the dark skies and bright lights, Lewis Hamilton’s chances in the Singapore Grand Prix came to a rather unglamorous halt. His night-out was abruptly cut-short with the gears in the McLaren simply refusing to transmit any further. It all started well and good for the Brit after having turned the tables on Sebastian Vettel’s all-weekend domination by snatching the pole position on Saturday and having consolidated his lead in the earlier part of the race only for things to fall apart. Well, not something Vettel would be complaining about as he gladly accepted the offering on his plate and did not let the opportunity spill, staying clear of the challenge posed by Jenson Button in his rear view mirrors and seeing the chequered flag first at Marina Bay.
With the European leg of the season having been done and dusted, the cars have now already rolled out for a second trip to Asia after having raced in Malaysia, Bahrain and China earlier in the year. And certainly there could not have been a better way to ignite the new phase of the season than under the glittering lights of Singapore. Not just the transition of continent, but a transition of the spectacle too. Three weeks ago, the cars were speeding through the historical Spa-Francorchamps and Monza. While the two iconic race tracks reflect a rich history and tradition associated with motorsport on every single corner and chicane on the speedways, Marina Bay happens to be the icon of the modern day associating motor-racing with glamour and leaving the admirers of speed, enthralled around the world, leaving them no choice but to want more of it. Which would be a wish fulfilled as Marina Bay’s contract has been extended for the next 5 years. While Spa and Monza happen to be the great-grand dads of race venues, Marina Bay happens to be the brash new kid, catching the attention of the world with its glamorous offering.
The basic necessities of the sport, however, don’t change. No matter how much of glitterati and extravaganza is added to fuel the public’s interest, at the very core of it, it is the on-track action that ultimately matters the most. So while Katy Perry took care of the audience prior to the start of the race, it was down to our beloved daredevils, seated inside those mean, aerodynamic machineries to take care of the rest of the evening. And what can be said on a collective basis is, that it indeed turned out to be a treat. Felipe Massa, who after the first lap was left reeling at the very bottom of the line-up came charging through the field lap after lap to finish a commendable 8th. His brave overtaking manoeuvre on compatriot Bruno Senna was a clear message from the man himself to all the people who repeatedly point fingers at him and doubt his credentials in the scarlet of Ferrari. Paul di Resta drove a brillant race in his Force India, pacing his race superbly from start to finish and claiming a 4th place finish, equalling the team’s best performance which was achieved by Nico Hulkenberg in Belgium. And talking about “The Hulk”, well, he too drove a superb race in the mid-field and Force India’s weekend could indeed have been better had it not been for an unwanted collision with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, forcing him to take the pit-stop route one time too many. Sergio Perez, in his Sauber tried to pull-off a late pit-stop strategy, but thanks to the bumpy nature of the Marina Bay, accompanied by 23 corners in one lap, the strategy could not be put to use and it infact cost him more.
The drama of the evening however, were the two Safety Car incidents. Narain Karthikeyan, having dominated his HRT team-mate Pedro de la Rosa over the entire weekend, crashed right into the wall under the grand-stand that rendered him motionless on the race-track itself, forcing the Safety Car to slow things down while the track marshals toed the car away from the scene. Later on after the restart, Micheal Schumacher seemed to search for the brakes in his car and ultimately ended up driving right into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, spraying debris all over the track and forcing another safety Car interval. Two Safety Car periods on a lengthy Marina Bay race track meant the race could not go the entire 61 laps and had to be ended two laps before as the 2-hour limit was surpassed. Fernando Alonso, having had not such a convincing weekend in the Ferrari, finished 3rd behind Vettel and Button, thanks to Hamilton’s gear-box trouble and Pastor Maldonado’s hydraulics failure.
The result of the race however doesn’t change anything at the top of the championship with Alonso, still enjoying a healthy lead in the championship, but it is the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel who after a disappointing outing in Italy, finally seems to be beginning to rage a bit louder, trailing the Spaniard by 29 points.
Since its inception in 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix has always been a race that motor-racing fans across the world eagerly await even as the season rolls out in March. And on the weekend that really mattered, neither did the Marina Bay disappoint, nor did the daredevils seated inside those slick, aerodynamic, mean machines.
As far as the championship is concerned, well, given the unpredictable nature of it thus far, it sure is set to be a classic chase to the finish.