BANGKOK – Another runaway win. Another chorus of boos. And another step toward the Formula One title.
The pattern has been the same for weeks for Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. His win at the Singapore Grand Prix over the weekend was his third in a row and it put him 60 points clear in the drivers' championship standings with six races remaining. The dominant manner in which he won in Belgium, Italy and Singapore meant his rivals have all but abandoned hope of preventing him taking a fourth-straight title.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was second in the race and is second in the championship standings, but even the Italian team knew his chances of catching up to the German were unrealistic.
"The only thing we can try and do is to stay there in second and if there is an opportunity, we will take it," team principal Stefano Domenicali said. "Without a problem for Vettel, it's very difficult to fight for the championship, but you never know."
Vettel's performance under the lights of the Marina Bay circuit for F1's only night race was staggering. When it mattered most, in the early laps and again after the restart following a mid-race safety-car period, he was often two seconds per lap quicker than his nearest pursuers.
Such dominance delighted his team and F1 purists, but was a turnoff for fans wanting a closer race. Vettel was heavily booed when interviewed on the podium, following similar abuse he received in Italy. He might have fewer fans here after events in Malaysia earlier this year: Vettel ignored team orders and overtook teammate Mark Webber, compounding the sin by his pointed lack of repentance and harsh comments about the Australian.
The German laughed off the latest boos, dismissing the critics as jealous Ferrari fans.
"''I just don't think it is right, I don't think it is sporting," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of the booing in Singapore. "The clearest thing is that it is not fair, and no matter what Sebastian says, he is a human being. He has driven his socks off, he has produced an absolutely stunning performance, and that should be applauded. It shouldn't be booed."
The only sour note for Red Bull in Singapore revolved around Webber, who was near to finishing third only to have his engine to fail and the car end up in flames parked beside the track on the final lap.
Webber hitched a ride back to the pits on the side of Alonso's Ferrari in what looked like a charming bit of good sportsmanship. Instead, race stewards gave both drivers a reprimand for what was deemed an unsafe action as two cars had to swerve around them on the slowdown lap while Webber ran onto the track and clambered on board.
It was Webber's third reprimand of the season, so he will receive a 10 grid-place penalty at the next race in South Korea.
Alonso's second-place finish, and the maintenance of a slim championship hope, was just enough for Ferrari to keep on developing the current car while all other teams aside from Red Bull had begun devoting funds and time toward the 2014 V6 turbo models, which require a radical redesign.
"At this stage, it is clear that Vettel and Red Bull have a better package but we will try to deliver on track what is still in the pipeline," Domenicali said. "At home, we are 99 percent dedicated to the 2014 car because it is a huge and complex project that it is very important to be on top of, so we need to fight with what we have."