It was a great weekend in Singapore and the whole experience deserves a special post (coming soon ). This review however will focus on the race only.
Following his technical problems in second the part of qualifying Fernando Alonso had to start from lowly P15. It had to be great disappointment after very promising performances in free practice sessions and Q1. His post qualifying words sounded like he will only be there on Sunday to get over with the race:
“The race is lost. You can’t overtake here and I’m starting from 15th, so I will be going out just to lap the track, but it’s over already. If there are 10 or 12 retirements and there are safety cars… but there are no miracles. We have to do a better job on Saturday, especially on tracks like this where you can’t overtake. We said all weekend that starting from eighth or ninth would be a problem, so starting from 15th it’s all over.”
But then Sunday came and he looked very relaxed on the grid. When the commentator on the track asked him about his feelings before the race that seemed to be ruined before it even started, Alonso’s replied with a smile on his face – “who knows, perhaps there will be a safety car and we will get lucky” (this is not the exact quote). He had no idea …
The race started very well for Massa. As for the better part of the weekend he took the near perfect line into the Turn 1 and by Turn 3 he was well clear in the front. He started to pull away from Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. Massa looked well in control from the beginning and the only serious battles were further down the field, where slow and heavy Trulli held several faster cars behind himself. Here happened the only overtaking attempt in Turn 1. Nico Rosberg made move on Trulli got in front of him but went wide and lost that particular battle. He as well as his team mate Nakajima later managed to get ahead of the moving chicane that was Trulli. In the meantime Kimi Raikkonen picked up the pace and started to record fastest laps of the race.
Contrary to my predictions Alonso started the race quite light. He took full advantage of his lighter fuel load and climbed 3 places after start. He also overtook Jarno Trulli and then surprisingly made his first pit stop. I am not sure what (other than the places gained at the start) was the actual plan here. But we only wondered for 1 or 2 laps. Then the wreck of Piquet’s car appeared on the screen and the fun begun.
The Safety Car came out and as it often happens it came out around the time some drivers needed to make their pit stops. Alonso was good having made pit stop only 2 laps earlier, both Red Bull managed to get in just before the pit lane closed but that was about it. Kubica and Rosberg were running out of fuel and had to pit despite knowing a penalty would follow. Once the pitlane opened most of the other went in, including both Ferraris and McLarens. What happened next was sort of Montreal deja-vu. The race was again turned on its head during the Safety Car pit stops. Ferrari not for the first time this year made a serious pit stop blunder releasing Massa with the fuel hose still attache. The hose broke away hitting one of the mechanics. Massa could only stop at the end of the pitlane, far from Ferrari garage. It took quite a while for his crww to reach him and detach what was left of the fuel hose. Massa later received a drive through penalty for dangerous release from the pit stop. His race was ruined.
Once things settled down a bit I checked the Kangaroo TV in my hand trying to make some sense of what was happening, but it was not easy. The order simply did not make any sense . After the restart Nico Rosberg pulled away. Knowing that a penalty will almost sure follow his “illegal” pit stop he put his foot down to create some gap before he would have to go in to serve his penalty. By the time that moment had arrived, he was over 20 seconds ahead. It played to his advantage that 2 cars behind him were Trulli and Fisichella … The other thing that played to his advantage was the long time it took stewards to come up with the penalty (more on that later)… He resumed his race in 4th place.
When everything settled down Alonso took the lead, followed by Rosberg, Coulthard and Hamilton. Hamilton later passed Coulthard just before both made their pit stops (Coulthard’s pitstop did not go too well). Behind them Raikkonen was making his way up the field into the points. Alonso looked well set for the win.
Then Jarno Trulli’s Toyota slowed down. Before he made it back to pits he managed to “disturb” Massa near the entry to the tunnel. Massa spun and touched the wall, stopped for a while then pulled away only to make room for Adrian Sutil to hit the same spot. Safety Car was out for the second time. With only around 10 laps to go the gaps were erased and we were in for sprint race to the flag. Once Sutil’s car was cleared away from the track the Safety Car went in and Alonso pulled away again. He created himself healthy 6 sec lead in no time. Behind him Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock and Raikkonen. For a while it looked like Hamilton may try something on Rosberg but soon it became apparent that the top 3 settled for the positions, nobody ready to throw away the podium places and Hamilton 6 points (with Massa scoring zero). Kimi had other ideas however and kept pushing. He hit the kerbs at Turn 10 harder than he could handle and ended up in the wall (yet again). Fourth consecutive zero points finish for the defending chapmpion … His title hopes are now as good as over. His zero also helped Ferrari to take over the constructors championship lead.
Fernando Alonso switched to cruise control mode in the final laps and brought his car safely home in 1st place. This was his 20th Formula 1 win, his first since 2007 Italian GP. For Renault this was the first win since 2006 Japanese GP.
Nico Rosberg’s 2nd place was his best ever Formula 1 race finish and his second podium (3rd in 2008 Australian GP).
Lewis Hamilton played it smart this time and extended his lead to 7 points. This means he has it all in his hands. Massa can win all 3 remaining races and it still may not be enough for the title …
Further back Glock hauled in decent points for 4th place helping Toyota to keep contact with 4th placed Renault team. Nick Heidfeld, besides scoring some points, beating Robert Kubica, overtaking Heikki Kovalainen and closing on Kimi Raikkonen in drivers standings also recorded his 25th consecutive race finish, breaking the record set by Michael Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel’s points for 5th place took Toro Rosso ahead of Red Bull in constructors standings, 2 points scored by Coulthard were not enough. Kazuki Nakajima added to great weekend for Williams with his point.
Stay tuned for more on Singapore GP – my complete photo gallery and the great Singapore GP experience – coming up later this week !
Photos: Renault/LAT, F1Wolf.com