Well thankfully the predicted procession around the streets of Singapore failed to come and instead we were treated to an action-packed race. Okay, so it needed a couple of crashes, safety car periods and another calamitous weekend from Ferrari to make it so, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m just glad it wasn’t a bore of Valencia-sized proportions.
First of all, you really have to take your hat off to Fernando Alonso. For me, he has been one of the best drivers of the season and if anyone else deserved a win it was him. He’s been fighting hard all season in a car that has seldom been capable of keeping up with the front runners.
Alonso’s weekend got off to the worst possible start when he had a “fuel supply” issue (damn credit crunch) during qualifying, leaving him a poor 15th on the grid. This forced Renault to be inventive with their strategy, and they took a risk by having him start the race with a very light fuel load, pitting early and hoping for the Safety Car to come out. After his pitstop, Alonso was actually in last place.
But with this strategy Renault had struck gold. Alonso was the only person to have made his pitstop before the Safety Car came out and was able to move up the field slowly but surely until he was leading the race. From there, he looked awesome. He needed a shovelful of luck, but that shouldn’t detract from what was a great drive. I, for one, was delighted to see Alonso — whom I regard as the best driver on the grid — back on the top step of the podium.
Ironically, the Safety Car that Alonso needed was brought out by his team-mate Nelsinho Piquet’s crash. Bring those tin foil hats out of the cupboard!
Another man who benefited greatly from the situation was Nico Rosberg. He was running out of fuel when the Safety Car came out, so had to make a pitstop while the pitlane was closed. He got a 10 second stop–go penalty for that, but Rosberg was in the unique position of leading the race at the time, enabling him to pull out an enormous lead. As such, he actually lost very little in the way of track position, coming out in 3rd after his penalty.
Before the Safety Car came out, Rosberg was 10th. So by making an illegal pitstop, Rosberg still gained a lot despite the penalty. Yet another reason why the current Safety Car rules are ridiculous.
Hats off to Rosberg though. He did a stunning job to build up that gap and he kept his head to complete a career-best 2nd place finish. Apparently it’s all down to Frank Williams’s lucky tartan trousers.
Robert Kubica had no such luck. He went round behind the Safety Car for an extra lap before making his pitstop, so he came out in traffic. His stop–go penalty really hurt him and he was never in contention again. I think that’s the second time this season Kubica has been seriously disadvantaged by this disgrace of a rule.
Ferrari didn’t need Safety Car shenanigans to cause their race-ending pitstop disasters. Ferrari’s semi-automatic traffic light system that was brought under the spotlight in Valencia completely failed in Singapore.
A human was operating the lights, but goodness knows what he was thinking when he switched the lights to green as the fuel hose was nowhere near being released. Felipe Massa correctly read the green light that appeared, but took the fuel hose with him all the way down the pitlane — very reminiscent of the incident involving Christijan Albers at the 2007 French Grand Prix. The Ferrari mechanics sprinted down to the end of the pitlane to remove the fuel hose (with much difficulty) and Massa was able to carry on, but his race was over.
Massa had looked in control of the race. And his qualifying performance on Saturday was mesmerising, as he took pole by six tenths. But he scored no points in Singapore. This has enabled Hamilton (who was slightly, but not greatly, disadvantaged by the Safety Car situation) to regain the momentum coming into the final three races of the season.
It was, in fact, a truly disastrous race for Ferrari. They have had a few awful races this year. To compound Massa’s pitlane problem, Kimi Räikkönen had another one of his strange moments where he has fallen asleep, and grabbed some air at the controversial kerbs at turn 10, ploughing straight into the wall.
Red Bull are beginning to look like they are gaining some momentum again. They arrived in Singapore with some noticeable new aerodynamic pieces and they were performing pretty well during the race. Webber looked like he was going to score some points until he had a gearbox failure. David Coulthard, meanwhile, was running 3rd at one point before coming home in 7th following a minor pitlane snafu when the lollipop was raised too early, which was handled much better than Ferrari’s similar incident.
All-in-all, the first-ever night race must be hailed as a great success. It looked better on television than I expected. The circuit was quite fun with a couple of booby traps catching the drivers out, which is what we want to be honest. There was some overtaking, which is much more than can be said for Valencia. And it looked as though the crowds were huge, and they certainly seemed very enthusiastic.
I have to admit I was rather sceptical about night races beforehand, but this worked really well and there were no real disasters. The only real problem was the botched pitlane entry and exit designs, but that would have happened whether it was night time or day time. I now wouldn’t mind seeing more night races in the future.
Now we have three final flyaway races to go, with a double-header in Japan and China coming up. I’m off to catch some zzzs in anticipation for the early morning starts.