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Vettel eases to Singapore hat-trick

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates winning the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit in S
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates winning the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit in S

By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel cruised to a third straight Singapore Grand Prix victory on Sunday and moved 60 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso after a dominant drive under the floodlights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

The German led from pole to flag and lapped on average almost two seconds quicker than his rivals to finish 32.6 seconds clear of Alonso and take another big step towards a fourth successive title with six races remaining.

Kimi Raikkonen shrugged off back pain to climb from 13th on the grid to third for Lotus in a challenging race that was held up by one decisive safety car period when Daniel Ricciardo crashed his Toro Rosso into the barriers on lap 26.

"Yes, yes, that's what I call in control," Vettel shouted over the team radio after chalking up his seventh win of the season and 33rd of his career.

"The car felt absolutely fantastic. This is absolutely a team effort."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Vettel, who was again booed on the podium from some in the crowd below, had been in a league of his own after "one of his best ever drives".

Vettel was challenged briefly by fellow-German Nico Rosberg, who was second on the grid, on the run to the first turn but once he held off the Mercedes, he controlled the race.

Alonso again used a charging start and brilliant strategy to climb from seventh on the grid and keep his title hopes alive. He gambled on pitting for a change of tires during the safety car period and nursing his Ferrari all the way to the flag on medium tires.

"We knew we didn't have the pace today so we had to invent something with a different strategy from the other teams," said the Spaniard. "It paid off at the end.

"We are in a position in the championship where we have nothing to lose."

Raikkonen, who will join Alonso at Ferrari next season, duplicated the Spaniard's strategy and was able to hold on for third place from the fast-charging Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who opted to stay out behind the safety car.

Alonso's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa finished in sixth place with McLaren's Jenson Button and Sergio Perez claiming the next two spots ahead of Nico Hulkenburg's Sauber and Adrian Sutil in a Force India.

Vettel's team mate Mark Webber briefly climbed up to fourth place in the closing stages but his Red Bull lost power on the last lap and he slipped out of the top 10.

There was also disappointment for Romain Grosjean, who started third on the grid but retired on lap 33 after his Lotus suffered a pneumatic system failure and was called in by his team to retire in the pits.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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