Fernando Alonso’s bad luck turns good for win

2008 Singapore Grand Prix

While Felipe Massa led at the start Fernando Alonso was a long way back

While Felipe Massa led at the start Fernando Alonso was a long way back

Fernando Alonso scored his first win in over a year and Renault’s first win in almost twice that time as the new Singapore circuit created a surprise result.

It was an unusual podium featuring Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the latter extending his title lead on a poor day for Ferrari.

Felipe Massa failed to score after another disastrous problem during their pit stops, and Kimi Raikkonen crashed late in the race.

Mixed fortunes for Alonso

Fortunate toyed with Alonso all weekend. He was quickly up to speed on the bumpy Singapore street circuit, fastest in the second and third free practice sessions, and fancied his chances of taking pole position.

But a car failure in qualifying left him a wretched 15th – a starting position no driver had ever won a Grand Prix from in the 799 world championship events leading up to this race. It took a strategic gamble and a stroke of fortune to bring him into play on race day.

At the start Felipe Massa was quickly down to business, pulling out a lead over Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen stayed third ahead of Robert Kubica, who barged Heikki Kovalainen aside at turn three, leaving Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock to pass the Finn.

Jarno Trulli made an excellent start from 11th to move up to ninth. But with a fuel-heavy car he quickly had a train of rivals stuck behind him: Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Sebastien Bourdais all covered by 5.1s on lap five.

After several attempts Rosberg got by Trulli on lap seven. Soon Nakajima and Alonso were also through, but the leaders had dashed away.

Massa maintains his lead

Massa had a three second lead over Hamilton by lap nine, with Raikkonen a further 4.3 behind. But Raikkonen’s lap times started to improve and he set a pair of fastest laps, cutting Hamilton’s advantage to 2.6s by lap 13.

Meanwhile Alonso, who along with Rosberg had started on the less favourable super-soft tyres, made his first pit stop. Although he fell to last it proved extraordinarily fortunate timing when his team mate crashed two laps later, Nelson Piquet Jnr backing his car into the wall in front of the grand stands by the Marina.

The arrival of the safety car on track meant the pits would have to be closed. The leaders had already passed the pit lane entrance when the crash happened but Red Bull reacted quickly and got Mark Webber and David Coulthard in.

Rosberg and Kubica, however, were running low on fuel and had to pit while the pit lane was off-bounds. That meant they were guaranteed a penalty later in the race.

Pit lane disaster for Ferrari

When the pit lane opened most of the remaining cars streamed in, including both Ferraris and McLarens, Vettel, Glock, Nakajima and Button. Felipe Massa was first into his pit box but when Ferrari’s unique gantry lights above the pit told him to leave the fuel nozzle was still attached to his car.

Massa took the fuel hose down the pit lane, knocked one of his mechanics over, swerved in front of Adrian Sutil, and stopped before the exit. His remaining mechanics sprinted the entire length of the pit lane after the car, and after a few heaves managed to wrench the hose off the car. But the stewards took a dim view of the incident, and along with Kubica and Rosberg, Massa was later hauled in for a penalty.

It was a double blow for Ferrari as Raikkonen had been forced to queue behind Massa before making his pit stop, and Kovalainen had the same problem with respect to Hamilton.

Video of Massa’s pit lane disaster

Rosberg loses the lead

The penalty was of little consequence to Massa as he has already fallen to the back of the pack. But Rosberg, who had been ahead of Alonso, potentially lost a shot at victory at this point.

He led the field after the restart with Trulli and Fisichella – both of whom had not pitted – right behind him. Then came Kubica who was due a penalty, and Alonso, then the two Red Bulls of Coulthard and Webber, who had got their pit stop in early. Then came the first of the original group of leaders, Hamilton, ahead of Vettel and Glock.

With Trulli and Fisichella holding the field up Rosberg pulled as far away as he could before taking his penalty. He managed nine laps before he had to take to the pits, pulling out enough of an advantage to resume in front of Coulthard and Hamilton.

After the others had made their pit stops and served their penalties Alonso took the lead from Rosberg, Coulthard and Hamilton. He came out in front of the Red Bull after his pit stop on lap 41, which gave Hamilton the chance he’d been looking for to pass.

Coulthard defended turn seven but a late-braking move by Hamilton gave him third place. It hardly mattered though, as both pitted on the end of that lap and a problem getting away four Coulthard meant Hamilton would have had the place anyway.

Meanwhile Raikkonen had made better progress up through the field than Massa. Massa had fuelled to the end of the race on lap 31, meaning he was tackling half the race distance on one set of super-softs. Raikkonen was up to ninth by lap 37 and took Trulli on the following lap to move up into the points.

Massa seemed to be struggling with his tyres and a moment’s misjudgement at turn 18 sent him spinning backwards into the barrier. He was able to get going again, but pulled away as – who else – Sutil was arriving onto the scene. Sutil crashed into the barrier more comprehensively, calling for a second safety car period.

Late scare for Alonso

Once again it seemed fortune was playing with Alonso. He’d had a healthy lead over Rosberg before the second interruption, now his advantage was gone – and so was Rosberg’s with respect of Hamilton. But they were both on the soft tyres while Hamilton was on the super-softs, and if that was not enough to dissuade him from making a rash more the thought he was about to make big gains in the championship surely was.

Hamilton got a bit of a run on Rosberg at the lap 53 restart, but a little over-steer at the exit of turn five gave Rosberg crucial extra breathing space and allowed him to hold onto second.

Hamilton had Glock on his case who in turn was defending from Raikkonen – but not for long. On lap 57 Raikkonen hit the kerbs at turn 10 too hard and went straight into the barrier. It was a fourth no-score for Raikkonen and, completing Ferrari’s misery, gave McLaren the constructors’ championship lead.

Alonso’s win might have looked lucky, but his fortune in the race was at least partly caused by his misfortune during qualifying. Any winner after two hours on a bumpy, barrier-lined track in such heat must be a worthy one.

Hamilton extends his championship lead

Rosberg’s second place and Kazuki Nakajima’s late promotion to eighth (thanks to Raikkonen) gave Williams a vital boost. Hamilton’s six points were, ironically, the same he had lost in the contentious stewards’ ruling on Monday, giving him a seven point advantage over Massa though he will no doubt be ruing that it is not 13.

Glock was fourth after comfortably out-driving team mate Trulli all weekend, his team mate retiring from fifth on lap 51 with an hydraulic problem,. Vettel’s sixth place was especially impressive compared to his team mate’s torrid weekend, Sebastien Bourdais finishing 12th after spinning early on.

Nick Heidfeld scored three points and, like Kubica, is mathematically still in the title chase. Coulthard claimed two points for Red Bull after Webber dropped out half way through the race, and the final point went to Nakajima.

Massa was 13th after his pit problems and penalty, a galling result after an initial problem that was totally out of his control. Only Fisichella finished behind him, and Raikkonen, whose F2008 was buried in the turn 10 wall.

Full 2008 Singapore Grand Prix results
Full championship standings after Singapore

Update: Several months after the race it was discovered Renault instructed Piquet to crash to help Alonso win. The race finishing positions were not altered.

Fernando Alonso\'s win was his first since Monza last year

Fernando Alonso's win was his first since Monza last year

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97 comments on Fernando Alonso’s bad luck turns good for win

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  1. michael counsell said on 28th September 2008, 17:05

    Hamilton lost 4 points at Spa not 6.

    This result for Alonso was very similar to the one I predicted for the Monaco Grand Prix. Great strategy by Renault. McLaren tried it too with Heikki late on but it didn’t quite pay off, but if Sutil had crashed earlier he could have won.

  2. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 17:07

    Alonso overtook car(s by cutting the chicane at the start. Still, with the way the race developed, he would probably have won anyway.

    A nice slice of luck for young Lewis today. Who decided on Ferrari’s pit system? The Chuckle Brothers?

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th September 2008, 17:16

    Michael – And Massa gained two meaning Hamilton’s net loss in the championship was six.

    David – I didn’t notice Alonso passing anyone illegally – which corner?

  4. Mr Soap said on 28th September 2008, 17:16

    Hamilton lost 4 points at Spa not 6.

    Hamilton lost 4, Massa gained 2, net result in championship = 6.

  5. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 17:19

    Keith

    I’ve heard whispers he cut the chicane at the first corner of lap one and overtook as many as three cars. I’m yet to see it again though so it could all be claptrap

  6. mail123456 said on 28th September 2008, 17:21

    @Keith – Alonso escapes opening lap chicanery:
    http://www.planetf1.com/story/0,18954,3213_4207248,00.html

    I didn’t see it either but will watch the replay soon …

  7. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 17:22

    BTW Keith you can put me down for commentary on Japan on either race or qualifying or both. I love watching F1 in the early hours of the morning. There’s an other-worldliness to it.

    So pleased Lewis didn’t Banzai it to DC and picked his moment perfectly. I was imagining him slowly cooking with frustration behind the Red Bull

  8. Seb Carter said on 28th September 2008, 17:28

    That race was so much better than Valencia for it’s first gp

    I was seated by the Esplanade and the entire weekend was superb. Everything was set up so well and the organisation was fantastic. The only complaint i have was that the price of food and the lot in the circuit was pretty pricey. But the entire experience was fantastic, especially the walk about!

    The actual race itself was damn good. Piquet kindly crashed himself to allow alonso to win that one! alot of action for a street track. And who said you couldn’t overtake?

  9. Architrion said on 28th September 2008, 17:39

    Trying to transform the traditional-first-curve-mess of a race into a jumping-a-chicane-breaking-rule issue is just unbelievable, and it reveals how much hated is Alonso for some F1 spectators…. I don’t know if Alonso gained an advantage, but one thing I know for sure… what happens at the first corner of a race is a complete different matter of having a battle for position with another runner and jump a chicane to gain advantage…. Maybe after seeing 300 or 400 more races someone can find the difference.

    I’m really happy this race ended the way it did because it can bring a fresh air into strategists minds… I was so tired to watch those Q1-Q2 qualifiers to fill up their fuel tanks and begin a procession instead of a race. And now comes Symonds and Alonso and shows them that you can try going extrmely lighter and voila… you win. ¿Remember a french race where an unknown racer (Schu) did make 4 stops to steal the victory against Fred?…. Those brilliant minds that are unable to develope something different than what their computered systems predict could open the notebook and write this lesson… with brilliant markers, please.

  10. It was a day and a race filled with ironies and karma. Massa has gathered bad karma from the unsafe release ahead of a certain Adrian Sutil in Valencia, from saying that he was satisfied with the ruling and his extra points this Monday. His drove brilliantly today yet the mishap was well earned. Lewis crash into Kimi in Canada is no longer this year’s most embarrassing moment.

    Now we have 6 different winners in the last 6 races, when was the last time this happened? Fernando deserves the victory, FIA will once again be consistent and persistent with their inconsistency and no penalty will be dealt. But I don’t mind seeing Nico Rosberg as race winner either.

    I finally understand that this championship is not about McLaren and Lewis Hamilton, they are not really competing in F1. You only feel like a battered wife if you think that way. What we really have is an exciting fight to the wire between how much Ferrari is capable of screwing up against how much slack FIA is going to cut them. Right now it is 6-6;)

  11. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 17:49

    Architron

    Who on here “hates” Alonso? I don’t even know the man.

    Sadly the god-forsaken pit-lane penalties were back again and the rule effectively removed Rosberg’s chance of victory and ruined several others’ races.

  12. Architrion said on 28th September 2008, 17:55

    If you feel that the most remarkable issue of Fred’s race today is that he seemed to jump the first corner (as many other did in many other racers in order to avoid an accident) instead that his pace was really fast and he drived between walls like hell-possesed and that his fastest lap was only 0,2 secs slower than Kimi’s fastest, then mate, someone could believe that you really hate the man……

  13. Bananaman said on 28th September 2008, 17:58

    It was so heartbreaking to see Alonso pulling out of Q2 after being so competitive that I’m glad he won. But did anyone else notice that he was holding the towel he was mopping himself with when he got on the scales to be weighed at the end of the race? I’m sure it was innocent and not a way to add a few grams to his mass, but I’d have thought F1 would have a more professional post-race procedure in place to prevent such things from happening…

  14. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 18:00

    and that someone would be paranoid and completely and utterly wrong. Stop being so precious

    Alonso’s strategy came up roses today. Even he did cut the first corner it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

  15. Bananaman – that’s the sign of a true professional! Always looking to see what he can get away with!

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