Alonso holds off Vettel for Singapore victory

Fernando Alonso took a lights-to-flag victory for Ferrari in tonight's Singapore Grand Prix with a flawless drive, fending off a persistent challenge from Sebastian Vettel; the two were separated by just 0.293 seconds at the chequered flag.

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

From the very beginning of the race, the two-time champion ruled the roost and held onto the lead in his Ferrari, which later led him to take the top step of the podium as the winner, ahead of Red Bull's Vettel and Mark Webber. Alonso seemed thrilled with today's result, and is still setting his sights on the titles.

"After the earlier gift -- the Easter surprise, as I called it - of getting pole yesterday, today it was important first and foremost to make a good start: that is what happened, even if Vettel might have been slightly quicker away than me, but here the run to the first corner is not so long and so I was able to close the door and keep the lead."

"There are four races to go and the championship is very open," he continued. "In Spa, Sebastian, Jenson and I came away empty handed, then in Monza it was Hamilton's turn: the dance towards the title sees the contenders see-sawing up and down, although Mark is still holding on to a slight lead. We must stay calm and concentrate on our own job, without thinking about what the others are doing: what is certain is that we will leave nothing to chance, fighting right to the very end."

The majority of the field maintained their original qualifying positions during the first lap, with the exception of Rubens Barrichello in his Williams, who went down two places, and Renault's Robert Kubica, who did the opposite to gain two positions.

By lap two the action on the track started to unfold, as Nick Heidfeld, who was standing in for Pedro De La Rosa at Sauber, had contact with the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi. Heidfeld was forced to pit for new tyres as a result of the incident, after the right rear one got damaged, and he needed to replace the front nose cone. The German was then under investigation by the race stewards, on lap seventeen because of the small collision, but they later declared that no further action would be taken. However, it was not quite as straight forward for Liuzzi, who retired from the race, with his right rear track rod broken and a cracked suspension.

Start: Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari leads.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The safety car was deployed on lap three for two laps, making it the third year in a row for one to be out on track in the race. This was to allow the race marshals, to move Liuzzi's car to safety. At this time many of the midfield and back marker cars took advantage of this, and decided to pit early on lap four, along with current Drivers' Championship leader, Mark Webber. The Australian rejoined the race in eleventh place, which looked as if he could be out of the point scoring positions. He slightly ran wide on lap seven, but managed to keep it together, to stop Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber grabbing tenth place. It seemed to be an eventful race day for Webber, despite him not being right at the front for a change.

On lap eleven, he managed to jump into eighth place, and was fighting wheel to wheel with Michael Schumacher's Mercedes to get the position. The Red Bull driver began to gain momentum from then on, and his next battle was with the Williams of Rubens Barrichello. Webber started to lose a bit of time as his tyres were wearing down, and he appeared keen not to pit too early. He just avoided the barrier at Turn eighteen by a whisker on lap twenty-three, and three laps later he became the third fastest man on the track. On the other hand, there was more controversy for Webber to face, as the blue flag was waved on lap thirty-six, to inform the back markers to allow the front-runners to pass through.

Just minutes later and Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren, and Webber came to blows as they came into contact with each other. Their collision meant that Hamilton suffered his second retirement in a row, due to suspected damage to the suspension on his car. The race stewards decided to investigate the incident further on lap thirty seven, and they announced on lap forty-eight, that there would be no punishment served. Nevertheless, Webber then went on to have a fairly steady end to his race, landing himself the final spot on the podium and still leading the Drivers' Championship from Fernando Alonso by only eleven points.

For the race winner's Ferrari team mate, it was a repeat end to yesterday in qualifying as it was in the race today. Felipe Massa started from the very back of the grid, but did manage to make it into fifteenth place early on, due to the safety car being out and other incidents taking place. Even so, he did land himself in the last of the point scoring positions in the race, to take tenth position and bring back one point for himself and the team.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Brazilian driver did remarkably well to get the result he did from the race today. After all he is now up to the limit and needs to manage the eighth, and final engine he has until the end of the season. If he is forced to ask for a further one, then he will incur a grid penalty for whichever number engine he will be on. In the latter stages of the race, Massa did nearly steal ninth place from Nico Hulkenberg. The Williams driver had a minor blip and ran wide on lap forty-four, but managed to recover from it, to maintain the position until the end of the race.

Defending World Champion, Jenson Button, had quite a strong race compared to his McLaren team mate Hamilton. The Briton had no problems when he pitted, and nearly caught up with Mark Webber to battle for the last podium spot. Button did not manage to find the pace to catch the Australian, but picked up some valuable points, to keep his title hopes still very much alive.

Of the outsiders racing in Formula One this season, some experienced a few highs and lows at times. On lap seven, Jarno Trulli suffered a puncture in one of his tyres, and had to make an unexpected pit stop to sort it out. A while later on lap twenty-eight, and the Italian's race came to an end, and he abandoned his Lotus at the side of the track. His Finnish team mate, Heikki Kovalainen was having a fairly good run and on lap forty-two, was in fourteenth place and ahead of the other new teams. All of a sudden his lucky streak ran out on the last few laps, as he was battling for position with the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Buemi. This resulted in a spin, and shortly after Kovalainen's car was on fire, with oil leaking onto the circuit. He soon made a swift exit from the cockpit, and got hold of a fire extinguisher to put the flames out himself. With this occurrence his result goes down as a retirement, and left Lucas Di Grassi for Virgin, finishing ahead in fifteenth place.

Di Grassi's team mate, Timo Glock, got off to a promising start in the race, he was up to eleventh place by lap ten. The German had a good track record in Singapore last year, when he was driving for Toyota, and finished in second position. Today in his Virgin Racing car, he seemed to be an obstacle for the other drivers.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-25 leads Jenson Button, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-25.
Photo by xpb.cc.

On lap fifteen in today's race round the Marina Bay Circuit, Glock was still holding eleventh position, but in doing so he blocked the drivers behind him, who had chosen to pit under the safety car. This meant that they had not gained anything from their early decision, which they thought might later be of benefit. Eventually two laps later, the situation turned around and Glock dropped to seventeenth, with the rest making the most of the opportunity to pass him. After causing a slight delay on track, Glock then retired from the race on lap fifty-two due to hydraulic problems.

Around the halfway point of the race, the front-runners decided to head for the pits. On lap twenty-nine, Sebastian Vettel and the leader, Alonso made their stops at the same time. It was Vettel who nearly had a problem as he left the pit lane. His car kicked into anti stall mode, but the Red Bull driver managed to control the situation without any issues.

With all of the front-runners still in the race at that time, including Lewis Hamilton, it was Robert Kubica in his Renault, who temporarily jumped into third position. Unfortunately, as the Pole, Vettel, and Alonso were going well, Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi, had contact on lap thirty-two.

This was especially bad news for the front-runners, as the safety car had to come out onto the track once again: Kobayashi crashed into a wall, doing lots of damage to his Sauber and ending his race. Bruno Senna was another casualty from the same accident, as he came flying round the corner with little time to slow down. The Hispania Racing driver crashed into the back of the Japanese driver's car, which caused him to retire from the race as well.

Kubica and Barrichello took the opportunity to make a pit stop under the safety car on lap thirty-three. Kubica seemed so keen to get back out onto the track, that he nearly had a close encounter involving his car, and one of the Renault mechanics as he left the pit box. Nevertheless, he rejoined the race in seventh, and Barrichello followed behind in eighth position.

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by xpb.cc.

When Kubica had to pit later on, around lap forty-six, he was in sixth place, but dropped down to thirteenth position afterwards. It was not a planned pit stop, but he had a right rear tyre puncture which was in need of repair. As a result of this, his team mate, Vitaly Petrov took tenth place temporarily. The Russian Rookie then finished the race in eleventh place. Kubica was fortunate enough to drive on to secure seventh position, giving himself and the team a few more points in the Championships.

The Force India drivers did not have the best race day, with Liuzzi bowing out very early on, and Renault's Kubica snatching seventh place from Adrian Sutil on lap fifty-six. The German driver still managed to keep eighth place though.

Christian Klien in the other Hispania Racing car, stopped out on the track, which spelt the end to his race on lap thirty-two. Before his unexpected exit to accompany team mate, Senna, in retirement from the race, he was driving well in twentieth place.

The safety car then returned to the pit lane on lap thirty-five, once the pile up from the collision between Kobayashi and Senna had been cleared.

There was more excitement in the race to come, as if there had not been enough going on already. Schumacher, and Nick Heidfeld in his Sauber clipped each other on lap thirty-seven. Schumacher went away from the incident Scot free, only having to pit to repair the damage to his front end plate. Heidfeld on the other hand, was not quite as lucky. His race came to an end as a result of the collision at Turn seven. Strangely, it happened at exactly the same spot, where Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton came together. The race stewards were kept busy throughout the race, and they also took an interest in the incident, between Schumacher and Heidfeld. However, they came to the decision that no further action would be taken.

In the closing stages of the race, there were doubts as to whether or not the drivers would finish by the two-hour deadline. Fortunately, Alonso was able to pass the chequered flag in first position, after successfully completing all sixty-one laps in time, along with the remaining drivers in the race. The Spaniard came third at Singapore in 2009, and was crowned the winner in 2008, despite the controversial end then, with Nelson Piquet Junior crashing out; where Alonso went on to take the victory.

By lap fifty-eight of the race today, there were only 1.6s separating the front runners, of, Alonso, Vettel, Webber, and Button.

On the final lap it was extremely close between Alonso and Vettel, with the second placeman nearly catching up. The man on the top step in Ferrari colours though, completed his final winning lap in 1:57:53.579.

The result from today's Singapore Grand Prix, still leaves Mark Webber leading, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel in third, and Jenson Button in fourth place. With only four fly-away races to go until the end of the season, just one race victory separates the top five in the Drivers' Championship.

The Constructors' title battle is just as close and still very open. The Red Bull team lead the way from McLaren by twenty-four points, with Ferrari forty-three points behind them in third place.

As the drivers head to Japan in two weeks time, there is still a lot to play for and plenty of points up for grabs. Both titles are still very much undecided, and could be awarded, to any of the current front-runners battling at the top.