Massa's dander was clearly well and truly up, and a couple of laps later he dispatched the next car up the road - Toro Rosso's sole remaining representative Daniel Ricciardo - without recourse to the same sort of drama.
Tyre wear, heat and humidity were all taking their toll on everyone, with things starting to get very scrappy now. Two different incidents claimed the front wings of both Saubers (Kobayashi while losing a fight for 11th position with Webber, Perez when he had the door slammed on him while making a move down the inside of Hulkenberg who in turn ended up with a puncture for his robust efforts) while elsewhere Bruno Senna was renewing a weekend-long acquaintance with the unforgiving barriers around the Singapore street circuit.
All of that changed nothing about Vettel's lead of the race over Button, With Alonso and di Resta leading Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Roman Grosjean, Felipe Mass, Daniel Ricciardo and Bruno Senna, leaving Mark Webber still stuck just outside the points - at least until lap 55, when Webber decisively blasted past the Williams on the run down to turn 7 to claim that solitary championship point. It also denied Williams any return at all on their weekend's efforts, and it seemed almost symbolic when a few minutes later Senna's car lost power and drive and ended up parked in a run-off area.
With all the safety car periods, the race did indeed fail to reach full race distance and hit the two hour limit two laps early. That suited Sebastian Vettel down to the ground as he claimed the chequered flag almost nine seconds ahead of Jenson Button by the end. Button himself had six seconds in hand over Fernando Alonso who took the final podium position, making it the Spaniard's 81st career podium which exceeded the tally of Ayrton Senna. More importantly, it keeps Alonso's championship hopes firmly on track
Vettel's win - which he dedicated on the podium to the memory of Professor Sid Watkins - coupled with Hamilton's early retirement puts the reigning world champion back into second place in the championship battle, 29pts behind Alonso. Hamilton will be even less happy to learn that he has even slipped behind Kimi Raikkonen in the drivers championship after round 14, with six races remaining in the 2012 F1 season.
Full race results available
Full championship points available