Sebastian Vettel wins Formula One Singapore Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel recovered from a heart-stopping track invasion by an unidentified fan on Sunday as he convincingly won the Singapore Grand Prix and closed the gap on Mercedes.
Ferrari's Vettel led wire-to-wire for his third win this year, ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes forced out with mechanical problems.
But Germany's Vettel had a major shock on lap 36 when he spotted a man walking on the track, a bizarre incident which brought the race to a temporary halt.
"There's a man on the track!" he yelled over the team radio, as the safety car came out for the second time in the floodlit night race.
The disruption was the closest Vettel came to an upset and there were echoes of his quadruple world title romp with Red Bull as he calmly won by 1.4 seconds.
"Yes, you did it!" Vettel screamed to his team-mates over the radio as he crossed the line, with fireworks exploding over the grandstand and lighting up the night sky.
At the front, Vettel dropped the hammer and set a fastest lap of 1min 50.520sec as he extended his lead to four seconds at the halfway stage.
But the German got a shock when he spotted a fan walking along the circuit on a few laps later, bringing the safety car out yet again.
Hamilton's retirement just after halfway completed a miserable weekend for the Briton, who was in line to match Ayrton Senna's tally of 41 wins in 161 races but left empty-handed.
Hamilton was running fourth approaching the halfway point of the 61-lap race when he lost engine power, rapidly dropping back through the field before he was told to return to the garage and call it a night.
Starting from pole position, Vettel had no problems, leading all the way to take the chequered flag for the fourth time at the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit, despite twice losing the big advantage he had built up when the safety car was deployed.
Australia's Daniel Ricciardo finished second for Red Bull, his best result of a frustrating year, while Vettel's team mate Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line third.
"It must be one of my best races. It was pretty intense," Vettel said. "Lots of pressure from behind; Daniel had a very good race looking after his tyres.
"Second stint I was dictating the pace. From then, I was trying to control the gap. We had a really great weekend."
Nico Rosberg finished fourth for Mercedes to cut Hamilton's championship lead to 41 points with six races remaining.
Vettel trails Hamilton by 49 and Raikkonen is 145 adrift with a maximum of 150 available. No other driver has a chance of winning the championship.
"If we have more weekends like this, yes we can catch Mercedes," Vettel said.
"Massive attack. Maybe we can make the impossible possible - we will definitely go for it."
Vettel's win was the German's third this season and the 42nd of his career, enabling the quadruple world champion to overtake the late Ayrton Senna into outright third place for the most lifetime wins, trailing only Michael Schumacher (91) and Alain Prost (51).
A proven master on the slow and twisty Singapore track, Vettel gave his rivals no chance when he planted his foot on the accelerator and made a flying getaway from the front of the grid.
The 28-year-old opened up a three-second lead over Ricciardo on the opening lap and was never seriously challenged even when the safety car was introduced.
Its first appearance came on the 13th lap when Felipe Massa exited the pits and was hit from the side by Nico Hulkenberg who speared into a wall, wrecking his Force India car and ending his race.
The second came when a spectator walked on the circuit before climbing back though a hole in the fence.
"If there was no safety car we could have been close for the undercut but the two safety cars came at pretty crucial times," Ricciardo said.
"It was really good to back up qualifying. We matched Seb in race pace and we have got to be pretty happy."
Hamilton, who needs one more win to draw level with his childhood hero Senna, endured his worst weekend of the season.
The Englishman struggled with his tyres in qualifying, starting fifth on the grid, and his race came to an end just when it looked like he might be able to challenge for a spot on the podium.
"I was feeling super optimistic and easily keeping up," he told the BBC. "I was hoping for a quick fix but it never came."
1. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 308.828 km in 2hr 01min 22.118sec (average speed: 152.673 km/h)
2. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) at 1.478
3. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) at 17.154
4. Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes) at 24.720
5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams) at 34.204
6. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Red Bull) at 35.508
7. Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) at 50.836
8. Max Verstappen (NED/Toro Rosso) at 51.450
9. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso) at 52.860
10. Felipe Nasr (BRA/Sauber AG) at 1:30.045
11. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber AG) at 1:37.507
12. Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Lotus) at 1:37.718
13. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Lotus) at 2 laps
14. Alexander Rossi (USA/Marussia) at 2 laps
15. Will Stevens (GBR/Marussia) at 2 laps
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 252.0pts, 2. Nico Rosberg (GER) 211.0, 3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 203.0, 4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) 107.0, 5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 101.0, 6. Felipe Massa (BRA) 97.0, 7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 73.0, 8. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 66.0, 9. Sergio Perez (MEX) 39.0, 10. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 38.0, 11. Max Verstappen (NED) 30.0, 12. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) 30.0, 13. Felipe Nasr (BRA) 17.0, 14. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) 12.0, 15. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 11.0, 16. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 11.0, 17. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 9.0, 18. Jenson Button (GBR) 6.0
1. Mercedes 463.0pts, 2. Ferrari 310.0, 3. Williams 198.0, 4. Red Bull 139.0, 5. Force India 69.0, 6. Lotus 50.0, 7. Toro Rosso 41.0, 8. Sauber AG 26.0, 9. McLaren 17.0
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