Fernando Alonso won the first-ever night race in F1 while starting from 15th on the grid in a topsy-turvy Singapore Grand Prix which saw no less than two Safety Car periods. Ironically, it was the crash of teammate Nelson Piquet which brought out the safety car in the first place which saw Alonso leapfrog many of the front-runners since he had already made a pit-stop before the accident. Both the Ferraris – and especially pole-sitter Felipe Massa – lost out massively in the first safety car period. Massa’s race and effectively the Drivers’ Championship chase was compromised when the fuel-nozzle got stuck while he made his first pit-stop and he was released with the nozzle still stuck into the car. Kimi Raikkonen was waiting behind and though his stop was not compromised that much, it delayed him enough so as to drop the pair to 16th and 18th places. It turned from bad to worse as Raikkonen crashed out four laps from the end, thus effectively ending his Championship defence. Massa finished 13th to signal the worst race for Ferrari this season!
Williams’ had a good race as Nico Rosberg finished in a creditable 2nd after running as high as P1 after the first safety car incident but had to serve a stop-go penalty for pitting when the pit lane wasn’t yet opened. Robert Kubica also had to endure a similar penalty which saw him drop out of the points contention altogether. Lewis Hamilton drove an almost inconspicuous race involving only one overtaking move over David Coulthard and finished third, which sees him open up a 7 point gap over Massa in the drivers’ championship. Toyota would be sad and happy at the same time; sad to see Jarno Trulli retire from a possible podium place with a one-stopper strategy and happy to see Timo Glock finish fourth. Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Kazuki Nakajima finished in the last four point-scoring positions.
Force India had a glimmer of a hope in finishing in the points as single-stopping Giancarlo Fisichella was running as high as second after the first safety car period but a lack of pace meant he steadily dropped down the order and eventually finished 14th. Teammate Adrian Sutil was the casualty which saw the second safety car period as he smacked into the barrier at turn 17. This time around, there was no impact on the race except getting the front-runners to bunch up closer than they were before. From thereon, it was just a matter of holding onto the lead for Alonso and holding Hamilton behind for Rosberg and they managed to do that effectively.
The one team that will love to forget the Singapore Grand Prix will be Ferrari. A small electronic connection between the fuel nozzle and the stop/go red n’ green lights might have played the most crucial part in deciding the 2008 Drivers’ Championship yet! In Massa’s defence, the lights did go green for a split second before turning back to red again but in that split second, he had lifted off and was off…taking the nozzle with him! And what on earth is the matter with Kimi Raikkonen? It is the fourth consecutive race in which he has failed to finish which doesn’t bode too well for a defending champion. All he had to do was to hold onto his fifth position but a wobble over the kerbs meant he went straight into the wall at turn 10, drawing the curtains on a miserable weekend for Ferrari. To make matters worse, they were overtaken by McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship – though by just one point.
The F1 caravan now moves eastwards for the Japanese and Chinese Grands Prix and looks like McLaren and Hamilton have it nicely sewn up, unless Ferrari and Massa can pull off something special. Sigh! Time to switch over the support to Massa [as one guy over at BBC Sport pointed out, he’s the Tottenham Hotspur of F1 😛 ]