The entire face of the 2012 FIA Formula One season was changed when Lewis Hamilton lost his gears. Leading the Singapore Grand Prix by seconds and setting the fastest laps, his McLaren MP4-27 shifted into neutral and would not reset.
Sebastian Vettel inherited the lead for a controlled second win of the year, with Jenson Button following closely.
"I'm just incredibly happy and proud because this is such a tough race," Vettel told podium interviewer Eddie Jordan. "So proud to win it."
Button, though generally out of the immediate title race, was pleased with his podium finish.
"We got through it and it's a good second place," he said. "I'm reasonably happy with that."
"For us as a team to have another (mechanical) failure here again is disappointing but the important thing for us is that we have a good car; and it seems that every race we go to we really do have a chance of winning."
But no one was as successful on the day as Fernando Alonso, picking up 3rd-place points while his closest championship rival failed to finish. Though he loses a small portion of his lead to Vettel, the retirement of Hamilton was exactly what the Ferrari garage needed. As Alonso himself said:
"In Monza it was Lewis winning the race and Sebastian retired, here it is Sebastian winning the race and Lewis retired, so for me it's okay if they keep going like this!"
The night race was, as usual, marked by safety cars, first brought out by an inconveniently placed shunt for Narain Karthikeyan, then by a shocking front-to-back smash by Michael Schumacher on Jean-Eric Vergne. The several pacing laps under yellow not only served to shorten the race by two minutes, but also gave the leaders’ soft compound tires a crucial break, negating the possibility of a late rubber-saving challenge that could have played right into Button’s hands.
But it was also a race of hard charges, Paul di Resta moving from 6th on the grid to a personal best 4th, and Felipe Massa surviving a frightening bit of wheel-to-wheel loss of control with Bruno Senna to make it to 8th from 13th.
Nico Rosberg also climbed, from 9th to 5th thanks to solid strategy and regular lap times, and the Lotus-Renaults followed. Though Romain Grosjean originally lead those two, he gave way to points contender teammate Kimi Raikkonen with laps to go.
Daniel Ricciardo picked up two points in 9th, both Toro Rosso cars running well until the other of Vergne was eliminated. Mark Webber captured the final point in the dying laps from Senna.
Along with Hamilton's heartbreak went Pastor Maldonado's, who fought Alonso hard mid-race only to suffer hydraulic problems on his Williams. He ended the race nose-first in the garage, still having scored not a single point since his win in Spain.
Like his 2010 season, Vettel has brought himself back into the title fight with only a few races to go. He lies a vast 29 points behind Alonso, but has the Japanese Grand Prix to look forward to next. His past three appearances at Suzuka Circuit have resulted in two wins and a championship-clinching 3rd.
Raikkonen sits a further mass of points back, with a deficit of 45 to Alonso, but the news is of Lewis Hamilton, now 4th in the points, 52 adrift.
For the Constructors' title it is still all Red Bull. They dominate with 298 points while McLaren have the next most at 261. Alonso's recent run combined with Massa's sudden form keeps the Scuderia just above Lotus.
At the end of the hot, exhausting weekend and his hard-fought win, Vettel had one more thing to add to his podium interview:
"I would like to dedicate it to one very special man Mr. Sid Watkins who passed away. He will be remembered for sure, I think he's one of the biggest reasons that we can go out on a circuit like this and enjoy ourselves and be reasonably safe because he pushed the boundaries in terms of safety for all of us, so very big 'thank you.'"