Hamilton came to a standstill with mechanical trouble on the 23rd lap. "We have a gearbox failure," said a race engineer. "I'm sorry, we did everything we could yesterday."
Hamilton was looking to cut into the championship leader Fernando Alonso's 37-point lead in the 2012 F1 championship lead. But now he is 52 points behind the Spaniard with just six races remaining.
Sebastian Vettel won here, just as he did last year, and has now replaced Hamilton as Alonso's closest challenger, 29 points behind. Before the race, which was ended on the two-hour cut-off because the cars did not have time to complete the 61 laps, Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said he had never seen Vettel so focused. It could be 2010 all over again, with the German now within sight of a hat-trick of titles.
For Hamilton, though, he is either winning or retiring at the moment. Having won two of the previous three races he has now failed to finish four times in seven outings. That's more retirements than Frank Sinatra. He is back in fourth place in the table.
This was also the fourth time in five races that McLaren, the form horse in terms of the pace of their car, have failed to bring both cars home.
But there was some consolation for the team, with Jenson Button taking second place at the Marina Bay street circuit, ahead of Alonso, Paul di Resta, Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen.
It was also the best career result for Di Resta, which is sweet timing for the Force India driver, who is being linked with a drive with one of the big teams.
But there was yet another disappointment for Rosberg's Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher, who failed to make the finish for the seventh time this season.
This time he crashed into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne – the oldest driver on the circuit colliding with the youngest.
When the celebratory post-race fireworks went off in the warm night air they might have been going off for Alonso. Every time he looks behind there seems to be someone else in second place, which is just as he likes it.
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