It was always going to be somewhat unlikely that Sebastian Vettel would wrap the F1 2011 laurels up in Singapore this weekend, but that the defending world champion and current world champion-elect came to within just one point of doing just that gives some indication as to just how dominant he was.
Having begun the floodlit grand prix – one he had never previously won – from pole position, following a textbook getaway when the starting lights went out, Vettel had established an astonishing 2.6-second advantage over second-placed Jenson Button at the end of the opening lap alone, and he went on to seamlessly stretch that advantage out over the first half of the race.
Although his crushing superiority was stalled by the safety car period following Michael Schumacher's impact with the barriers on lap 29, Vettel demonstrated just how much he had in-hand by setting the fastest first sector of the race no sooner had it returned to the pits to swiftly re-assert the status quo
After that, despite a concerted late-race charge from Button that reduced the gap between the pair significantly – with a copious amount of lapped traffic hardly aiding the Red Bull Racing star's cause – he maturely kept his head, and his reward was his ninth victory from 14 outings this season, and a success that means he requires just a single point more from the five remaining grands prix to seal the deal. Simply flawless.
“I am very, very pleased with the result today,” the 24-year-old German enthused. “The car was fantastic all the way through. When we needed to push, we could pull away quite easily, which helped us. When the safety car came out, it didn't really fit to our plan as we had a gap of about 30 seconds with 30 laps to go, but nevertheless I had a very good re-start. I was a bit lucky that there were some backmarkers between me and Jenson, and I was able to get back into the rhythm straightaway. I pulled out a gap, and I was quite happy.
“All-in-all, it is a fantastic result. I really love this track and I love the challenge here – it's one of the longest races of the season, but the car was fantastic and engine-wise, everything was great. Renault again did a very good job, so we were in a comfortable position for most of the race, which is pretty handy around here because it's quite a challenge to put all the sectors together, not only in qualifying but also in the race. I'm very pleased, and for the championship it looks like we have another chance at the next race...”
That much is rather an understatement, as the title is now all-but secured, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was the first to applaud his driver for another sublime effort.
“It was a big performance today to win the Singapore Grand Prix,” the Englishman acknowledged. “It's one of the stand-out venues on the calendar with a really unique atmosphere, and it's probably the toughest and most demanding race for the car and the drivers physically, due to the hot and humid conditions. Sebastian was faultless; he was truly dominant in the first half and in managing the race to the end, not taking any risks to record his ninth win of the season.
“On top of that, I think we also had the fastest pit-stop of the day, so a truly great team performance that puts Sebastian within one point of achieving his second world championship. However, that said, it doesn't change our approach as we head to Japan.”
“Today, it was simply a fantastic race with good driving from Sebastian,” concurred Cyril Dumont, from RBR's engine-supplier Renault. “He was able to be quicker by almost a second to all his opponents. He pulled out a big gap and was incredible. All-in-all, it's a wonderful result for the team and I think it starts tasting good.”