|Fernando Alonso celebrates|
Fernando Alonso put himself and Renault back in the winners column by winning the first ever Formula 1 race run at night in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix. After topping the time sheets in two of three practice sessions, but then having car failure in qualifying, Alonso showed Sunday that when horsepower is not an issue he and Renault can beat the best of them.
Nico Rosberg was second for Williams and Lewis Hamilton came home third for McLaren to widen his point lead over Felipe Massa whose race was ruined by a pit mistake after dominating early.
Starting from 15th on the grid, the win was Alonso's 20th career victory and 50th podium finish.
|Renault teammates Nelson Piquet Jr. and Fernando Alonso|
Timo Glock in the Toyota was fourth, followed by Sebastian Vettel in the Toro Rosso-Ferrari in fifth, Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber-BMW in sixth, David Coulthard in the Red Bull-Renault in seventh, and Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams-Toyota in eighth.
The race was a complete disaster for Ferrari.
On lap 16 under caution Massa pitted his Ferrari from the lead but was released too soon by the team and he left his pit with the fuel hose still attached, ripping off the hose and knocking over a mechanic.
The Brazilian stopped at the end of the pitlane, while his mechanics ran down the pitlane and after having much trouble yanking the jammed fuel filler from the car, he rejoined in last place.
On lap 58, his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was the fastest car on the track, was chasing Glock, but clipped the curb in the chicane and lost control and hit the wall - his race coming to an end.
"Fantastic," said the Spaniard. "First podium of the season and first victory. I am extremely happy. I cannot believe it right now, I need a couple of days to realize we won a race this year.
"Unlucky yesterday and maybe lucky today. It seemed impossible all through the season to be closer to the top guys. We were competitive from Friday. I was unlucky in qualifying, we started from the back and the first safety car helped me a lot and I was able to win the race.
"We chose to do a very aggressive first stint because we knew starting 15th you cannot overtake anyone here. We thought about a one-stop strategy but had some concerns with the brakes so we thought one stop was not possible, so we tried to something different."
"It was great weekend for all of us," he said. "A brilliant weekend for F1 with the first night race. We had a new challenge in front of us and we will be part of history.
"The spirit was good and for us at Renault we had a tough, tough 2008 championship and were fighting for fourth, but this victory is well deserved.
"The guys worked extremely hard through the season. We started one second behind BMW and now we have the same pace as them if not better.
"We will keep pushing in the last three races and next year more."
After qualifying's bitter disappointment, luck, the safety car, strategy and consistently good pace delivered justice for Fernando Alonso as he raced to victory for the first time in more than a year. "We had a bit of luck, but we had the pace," the delighted Spaniard said. Ironically it was teammate Nelson Piquet's heavy crash that brought out the safety car and triggered the strategy chaos that sped Alonso to the top of the order. "I'm ok," the Brazilian rued after returning to the paddock.
Just like Alonso, Nico Rosberg was lucky on Sunday, but he has also been quick all weekend, managing to negate the disadvantage of a stop-go penalty for pitting under the controversial safety car rules to finish a strong second. He also pulled off a daring and rare overtaking move to get past Jarno Trulli's Toyota, and held off Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps. Kazuki Nakajima bagged the final point for his eighth place.
Hamilton emerged from the safety car shuffle third at the flag, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who had superior pace from pole position in the early laps, from 1 to 7 points. The Briton spent a lot of time unable to pass David Coulthard, and in the final laps he ran behind Williams' Nico Rosberg. "I didn't want to take chances, particularly as the Ferraris were outside the points," Hamilton said. Team boss Ron Dennis confirmed: "We advised Lewis not to attempt to overtake Nico." Heikki Kovalainen finished tenth at the end of a bad race, during which he suffered damage in a hit from Robert Kubica, had to queue in the pits behind his teammate, and nursed home wearing brakes.
Timo Glock crowned his strong Singapore weekend with fourth place, in front of Sebastian Vettel following an overtaking move on the Monza winner. "My goal at the beginning of the year was to score 20 points so I am very satisfied to have achieved that," said the German. Jarno Trulli's weekend was not as good, but the safety car shuffle even had him in the lead at one point and heading for fifth place, until a hydraulics problem ended his race.
After his Monza win, Vettel finished fifth in Singapore, with teammate Sebastien Bourdais out of the points in 12th. "We feel the characteristics of the next circuits on the calendar should better suit our package," said team boss Franz Tost.
Robert Kubica's penalty for pitting under the safety car was not his only problem en route to just 11th place; the Pole also struggled physically with the Singapore track. "The visibility was getting worse and worse as I was getting tired," said Kubica, who urged organizers to smooth out some of the bumps ahead of F1's return in 2009. "Over the final fifteen laps I had an incredible headache," he admitted. Nick Heidfeld finished fifth.
Like winner Alonso, Mark Webber was well poised to benefit from the safety car shakeup in Singapore. "It would have been nice to share the podium with him today, with him winning and me second," said the Australian after retiring with a broken gearbox. David Coulthard, who had a pitstop mishap when the lollipop was prematurely lifted, finished seventh, only his second points finish of 2008. "I'm not going to point any fingers. It's just one of those things," said the Scot, after spending much of his night fending off Hamilton. The mechanic knocked over in the melee hurt his ankle and burned his thumb but is otherwise "okay", team boss Christian Horner said.
Rubens Barrichello retired with an electrical problem, and while Jenson Button fared better, his ninth place also delivered no points.
An unmitigated disaster for Ferrari, especially Massa's title challenge, whose 1 point deficit to Hamilton increased to 7 points with a key team mistake that left him 13th at the flag. The floored mechanic was lucky to escape serious injury when Massa, wrongly shown a green light on Ferrari's unique 'traffic lights' pitstop gantry, ripped the fuel hose from the rig, then incurring a drive-through penalty for steering into the path of Adrian Sutil. "It's hard to deal with losing in this fashion a race that was within our grasp," said the pole sitter, who easily held off Hamilton in the early stages. With only a few laps to go, Kimi Raikkonen crashed out of fifth place at the now notorious turn 10 chicane.
Force India's bad weekend did not improve on Sunday, when Giancarlo Fisichella finished dead last on the road despite running as high as third at one point, while teammate Sutil crashed. "Felipe spun, I avoided a crash with him only to go into the barrier myself," rued the German.
||4 Laps, Accident|