Singapore Grand Prix - Alonso wins night race while Webber still leads the championship Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won the Singapore Grand Prix for the second time in his career, and scored his fourth victory of the season, and reduced the gap to...
Singapore Grand Prix - Alonso wins night race while Webber still leads the championship
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won the Singapore Grand Prix for the second time in his career, and scored his fourth victory of the season, and reduced the gap to the leader of the championship to 11 points. Only Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull was able to keep up with the blistering pace of Alonso's Ferrari and crossed the finish line in second place only two-tenths of a second behind him, while his team colleague Australian Mark Webber, who still leads the championship, took third place on the podium. Most of the rain that had been forecasted for the Singapore Grand Prix fell during the day, and during qualifying and the race the track was dry.
There were plenty of incidents during the race, the safety car was deployed twice to give the marshals the opportunity to remove cars from the track. Miraculously enough, after the start all cars made it through the first few corners unscathed, but the first problems started during the second lap. Nick Heidfeld's BMW-Sauber hit the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi, Heidfeld damaged his front wing and had to pit to replace it, while Liuzzi had to abandon the race as his right rear suspension had been broken. With the $10,000 fine Force India got on Friday probably still in the back of his mind, Liuzzi decided to park his car on the circuit and the safety car was deployed for the first time.
A disappointed Liuzzi, "I had a good start and I was trying to overtake Heidfeld, who went straight on into Turn 7 side by side with Adrian [Sutil]. I was holding my line but after the corner they both came back on the line and I was squeezed into the wall. I had some contact with Heidfeld and damaged the front wing a little and then I must have cracked the rear suspension as well as the lap after it broke completely and I lost the rear end."
With the safety car now deployed, Red Bull decided to gamble and called Webber in for an early pit stop. Webber initially doubted his team's unusual strategy, "I questioned the call initially, but it turned out to be spot-on. I dropped back to 11th on the road, but everyone ahead of me had yet to pit and I was racing Lewis Hamilton for third place."
Webber then overtook Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi, and after a great battle with Michael Schumacher he was in eighth position behind the Williams of Rubens Barrichello. The Red Bull strategy almost failed, as Webber was stuck behind the Williams and lost a lot of time, but when Hamilton, who had stayed out during the first safety care period, finally had made his mandatory pit stop during lap 28, he rejoined the race behind Webber.
Both leaders, Alonso and Vettel, simultaneously made their pit stop on lap 29, Vettel stopped at his pit area but made a mistake when he shifted down the gears, he shifted back to second instead of first gear, and when he wanted to drive off, his engine almost stalled. By the time Vettel realized his mistake and had shifted back to first gear, Alonso was already 10 car lengths ahead of him and both exited the pit lane with Alonso still leading the race.
Safety car again
One lap later, on lap 30, Kobayashi pushed his luck a little too far, he overtook Schumacher for ninth position, but he hit the Mercedes in the side, Schumacher's car hit the wall, and he had to pit in for new tyres. But that wasn't the end of the story for Kobayashi, one lap later he crashed into the barrier, and Hispania driver Bruno Senna then crashed into the stationary BMW-Sauber. Kobayashi about his crash, "It was clearly my mistake. After I overtook Schumacher I knew I had to push very, very hard to score a point, but meanwhile the tyres were completely gone. I misjudged this in that corner and crashed into the barrier. Then Senna crashed into my car as well."
Senna was not happy, and although other drivers had already passed the crashed BMW-Sauber without any problems, he blamed the marshals for his accident. "As soon as I came out of the corner and into the braking area the flags came out, but it was too late and there was no way to avoid the accident. The marshals were just too late and I didn't have any notice of what was going on. It's just one of those days," the Brazilian commented.
Again the safety car came out, and this time Renault's Robert Kubica and Barrichello made their mandatory stop, and Webber moved up to third position with Hamilton and Button now behind him. When the safety car pulled into the pit lane again, Hamilton started challenging Webber, until Webber ran into problems overtaking a back marker. He had to slow down just a little bit, but just enough for Hamilton to take advantage of the situation, he pulled alongside Webber, the pair collided and Hamilton retired at the spot.
"This was the defining moment of the race for both of us," Webber later said. "I was baulked by a back marker and that allowed Lewis to get a run down my outside into Turn 7. He turned in, but I was still there and we collided at the apex. It was a racing incident, as the stewards subsequently agreed."
Hamilton's version of the accident was slightly different, "I saw that he'd made a mistake, and had got caught up with the back markers, so I was in position to slipstream him. I was on the outside going into Turn 7, and he was in my blind-spot, just behind me. I thought I'd got sufficiently past him, though. I braked, turned in, and tried to leave enough room for him on the inside -- and the next thing I knew I'd got clipped, my tyre was blown, and that was it."
More incidents and accidents
That was it for Hamilton, but not for Schumacher and Heidfeld, who both separately had been involved in earlier incidents. On lap 36 Schumacher tried to overtake Heidfeld and the same scenario unfolded, also at Turn 7 both cars collided, Schumacher's Mercedes spun around after the impact, but after another visit to the pit lane for new tyres he was able to continue the race. Heidfeld hit the barrier and could not continue his race, and his return to Formula One was not a happy return. Heidfeld, "Of course I would have hoped for a better result and wanted to finish the race. But, in my view, Schumacher was braking a bit too late and knocked me out of the race."
Schumacher was disappointed with his first race at the Singapore Marina Bay circuit. "I had two encounters with other cars which were racing incidents and meant that I had to make my stops at times which were not ideal and consequently my race was heavily compromised. I suffered with the rear tyres on my first set of options which made me slide rather than drive through corners which was tough, so I would probably say that I only enjoyed the second part of the race," the seven-times World Champion said after the race.
The last incident occurred during the final stages of the race, three laps before the end of the race Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen was in a good 15th position, until he ran into the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi and spun. Kovalainen's car caught fire and he had to hastily abandon his Lotus on the start-finish straight. The Finn, who deliberately did not drive his burning car into the pit lane, "I spun the car to get back onto the track which I think cracked the fuel tank pressure release valve, and it looks like that caused an airbox fire. I didn't want to come into the pits as it definitely wasn't safe enough to do so, and pulled over on the main straight."
By the time he got out, his car was ablaze, luckily he was handed a fire extinguisher by one of the people of the Williams team who were at the pit wall, and successfully attacked the flames himself. Kovalainen later jokingly said, "I told Tony [Fernandes] and Mike [Gascoyne] that they maybe need to pay me more as I'm now a fireman as well!"
Who lost, who gained?
Webber qualified in fifth position and finished in third position, given encounter with Hamilton not a bad result, he has now extended his championship lead from 5 to 11 points. He's now being chased by Alonso, who gained the most last weekend and enhanced his chances for the championship considerably, he not only won the race, but is now second in the title chase instead of third, and 11 points behind the leader, instead of 21.
Although Vettel jumped from fifth to fourth place in the table, unfortunately for him, he is still 21 points behind the leader, before the race the difference was 24 points, and thus only closed the gap with 3 points. Button's fourth place was reasonable as he also qualified in fourth position, but he tumbled from fourth to fifth position in the championship, and the gap to the leader has increased from 22 to 25 points. Hamilton also lost one place in the championship and is now third instead of second, and the gap to the leader has increased from 5 to 20 points.
McLaren therefore was the big loser, they lost a lot of points compared to Red Bull Racing, who also gained the most in the Constructors' Championship, while Alonso and Webber gained the most in the Drivers' Championship. For a complete result of the race and the current standings, follow the link at the bottom of the page.
FIA Stewards Report
A busy weekend for the Stewards, on Friday during the second practice session Sutil was fined $10,000 after he had attempted to drive his damaged car back to the pits. Sutil had damaged his left front suspension in the Singapore Sling chicane, according to the Stewards he should have stopped and left his car at the track, instead of trying to drive it back, which was 'potentially dangerous to spectators, marshals and other drivers'. On Saturday, during the third practice session Lotus was reprimanded for the unsafe release of Jarno Trulli in the pit lane.
During qualifying BMW-Sauber was fined $20,000 for the unsafe release of Heidfeld, who nearly collided with Schumacher. During qualifying Christian Klien was fined twice for speeding in the pit lane (6,600 and 5,800 Euro), for the same offence Senna was fined 7,600 Euro, and Glock 3,400 Euro. The Stewards also investigated a report Schumacher had set his personal best time during Q2 while a yellow flag was being waved, but after hearing the driver and examining the telemetry evidence, decided he had taken appropriate action to reduce his speed in the yellow sector, and therefore no further action was taken.
During the race the Stewards investigated the incidents between Hamilton and Webber, and Schumacher and Heidfeld, but decided no further action was required. After the race both Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg were handed a 20 second post-race drive-through penalty for leaving the track during the first lap at Turn 7 and gaining an advantage.
Does Ferrari have an engine problem?
With 19 races on the calendar, and an allocation of eight engines per season, theoretically speaking, all eight engines must at least last for two races, and three of those eight engines must at least last for three races. If an engine fails after one race, the problem becomes apparent, in that case not three, but four engines have to last for at least three races, or one engine must be used during four races. The performance of a Formula One engine decreases as the mileage increases, a phenomenon known as 'engine drop-off'. In general, a team uses an engine once for a high- speed circuit like Silverstone or Spa-Francorchamps, and then use it for the second and third time on a slower circuit where engine performance is less critical, for instance Monaco or Valencia.
Both Ferrari drivers used their last fresh engine at Monza, but there are still two high-speed circuits on the calendar: Japan and Brazil. Massa gave some insight on his engine situation, "Now I only have three left, which have each done one race, to rotate over the last four races of the season." If his statement includes the ninth engine, he has to use one engine which already did two races, which performance-wise could be a potential problem, and not just for him. Alonso also used all eight engines, and he hasn't got a ninth engine like Massa. Alonso will only have eight engines to his disposal for the remaining four races, the majority of those eight have at least been used twice.
Both drivers of the McLaren and Red Bull team still have one fresh engine left, and they will probably save it for Japan or Brazil, and perhaps use it for the second time during the last race in Abu Dhabi, a relatively slow circuit. Ferrari insisted they don't have an engine problem and stated the ninth engine for Massa was 'entirely precautionary', and suggested they decided to use a ninth engine because the 10-place grid penalty didn't hurt Massa, as he was already last on the grid.
Was the ninth engine for Massa in fact a very clever move, or could Ferrari be bluffing in this high-stake engine poker game? Ferrari is still in the running for the Constructors' Championship and Massa certainly has less engine worries now. But Alonso will have to race with 'old' engines in his final bid for the championship, so far the Ferrari engine has proved to be reliable, but the engine drop-off could be a problem. In case an engine would fail, he could indeed be in more trouble and be forced to use a ninth engine, and take a ten-place grid penalty for granted.
The final sprint to the end of the championship
Anything is still possible, the top-five drivers are separated by 25 points, or one race win. Many Formula One pundits have already predicted the championship will be exciting until the very last race. With four, or possibly only three races to go if the Korean Grand Prix is cancelled, all three teams, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren brace themselves for the final sprint, and acknowledge the importance of the final races of the season.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh commented about the championship, "There are four Grands Prix left to run -- four Grands Prix left to win in fact -- and both our drivers are within a win of the Drivers' Championship lead. So, yes, we're still within striking distance of taking both the Drivers' Championship and the Constructors' Championship, and that's what we're still intending to do our utmost to achieve. That's what McLaren is all about, in fact."
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, "We have picked up two very nice wins in a row on tracks with completely different characteristics, but we are still behind in both championships: we must continue to work like this, if at all possible, multiplying our efforts to try and fight all the way to the finish. The maths will be done only at the end, on 14th November in Abu Dhabi."
And he is right, "it ain't over 'til it's over", is a well known saying in Formula One, the next stop is Japan, a very fast high-speed circuit with quite different challenges compared to Singapore, follow all the news about the Japanese Grand Prix here on Motorpsort.com.