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

  1. @Sumedh – Totally agree about PF1. Well but for that matter I should say, the entire Media , going overboard with Lewis Success, not realising that, it will hurt Lewis in long run…
    Last year they had “sarcastic” column Alonso writes to his fictitious cousin which was in poor taste. I wonder what happened of that column this year

  2. Sumedh: I should clarify that I mean that the mishap was well earned for the whole team of prancing horses. Even though I get carried away with individual drivers once in a while I agree that Massa didn’t personally earn that much bad karma, he didn’t need to, his team did the work for him.

    Mahesh: yeah you are right, and come to think of those sweaty palms I guess I really should be more happy that he played it safe. It can only mean good things for the finish since he has the advantage in Japan, they are equal in Shanghai while Massa has the home advantage in Interlagos. All in all even preconditions which mean that those 7 extra points should be enough.

  3. *wrt to chicane cutting*
    I noticed it too but the replays made me think he had two option, break hard(would be called break testing) or cut the chicane. In the latter he had more risk to damage his car. I dont know the rules but at the start every driver is thinking of gaining places and avoiding accidents, I have seen more than my fair share of chiane cutting and it normally is acceptable unless it was premeditated.

    Great win… Totally deserving, would be heart broken to see it ruined something like this.

  4. @Jian – Well to think of for last two seasons Title is for Hamilton to “Lose”. McLaren has been the Best car on the grid,both in terms of Speed and Reliability. I hate to say that but one key factor has been those Cosworth Engineers who were out of jobs when Cosworth pulled out of F1 end of 2006, was boon in disguise for Norbert Haugh, has those guys have brought that punch which was lacking with McLaren end of 2006 when they had most Fragile Engine on grid

  5. S Hughes said on 28th September 2008, 19:01

    Keith, the ITV team noted Alonso’s chicane cheating (but without giving back the 2 positions), but of course, as he won, the stewards wouldn’t do anything. Shame the same couldn’t have happened with Lewis’ much more skilful win in Spa. Alonso lucked out with strategy and the safety car – I seem to remember the same thing happened in Hockenheim with Piquet. Plus Alonso spent some time crowing to the media about Lewis’ chicane cutting penalty, only to do the same thing in Singapore. What a hypocrite.

  6. Internet said on 28th September 2008, 19:11

    Kimi has scored 0 points for the 4th race in a row. On the other hand, F1Fan will probably be content as Kimi has got another fastest lap.

  7. S Hughes said on 28th September 2008, 19:12

    Sumedh, I love PF1. At least there is some positiveness there for Lewis, not the usual hatred and bias. I find their reporting excellent and amusing.

    I saw a brilliant letter in ‘F1 Racing’ magazine written by a Ferrari supporter who was appalled at Lewis’s Spa penalty. The magazine said it was one of 100s of letters they received on the subject, ALL in support of Lewis. I think the internet bloggers are not necessarily the majority (they are usually Hamilton-haters) but are the most vocal and vociferous. ‘F1 Racing’ magazine is a global publication and Hamilton is pretty popular with the readership. Shame the same cannot be said of the internet sometimes.

    Anyway, well done Lewis today for a solid drive for points. No doubt you will be criticised for it, just as you are criticised for exciting overtaking, but if you end up world champion, who cares what the snipers and haters say?

  8. “Keith, the ITV team noted Alonso‚Äôs chicane cheating”

    that’s a bit over dramatic isn’t it?

    i watched the replay (high res version, not the youtube link), alonso cuts the first corner, gains a single place then gives it back.

    he then waits for one corner before making the move again. can’t see there was anything to investigate meself?

  9. S Hughes,

    You feel that Hamilton haters make up the majority, I am a MSC fan; and even I feel there are far too many anti MSC fans out there. It is all perception. I guess every driver fan feels he is up against the rest of the world :D

    P-F1 is far too doting on Lewis; If you read either autosport.com or f1way.com; You will see what are good unbiased articles (I appreciate its editorial and “race features” section though). Take an example of F1-fanatic. It has a .co.uk at the end; but it is not exactly a Lewis Fan site? :)

  10. S Hughes said on 28th September 2008, 19:30

    Sumedh, I just want to know what is wrong with a UK F1 site being a Lewis fan site (not that PF1 are at all), but what is wrong? Lewis is from the UK, he’s brilliant, what is the problem? Can’t he have UK supporters or what? Don’t understand.

  11. I hope everyone realises now how absolutely overrated Massa is…he really is terrible.

  12. @Sidepodcast – Thanks for walking us through what happened.

    @ S Hughes – Sidepodcast, has explained the Fernando cutting chicano story now. Well there is one more site crash duh net , which gives stories in “positiveness” as Lewis Fans see it and guess what you get ample opportunities to Slander Fernando as well. You should visit it, you will find many supporters :)

    I for one who loves F1 and agree that inconsistencies, random rulings and unprofessionalism shown by FIA is bringing motorsports to disrepute. But when I say that McLaren/Lewis Supporters can’t beat the “Victimization” card to death. Its time to move ahead.

    I didn’t anyone of McLaren/Lewis fans crying for justice last year at Nurburgring or post Fiji , when Lewis escaped penalties. And when both FOM and FIA were doing everything they could so the sport could get a “Rookie winner” thus increasing spectator interest.

    So lets get life and move on

  13. Is planet-f1 a UK F1 site?

    And, a F1 news site is above all a “news” site, not a fan club. You may read any discussion forums in P-F1; and people there are openly critical of P-F1.
    http://forum.planet-f1.com/index.php?t=msg&th=69081&start=0&#msg_num_4 read deepblue’s comment here.

  14. It can’t be better than that!
    I am rooting for McLaren as team and Alonso as driver and now Alonso won and McLaren leads the constructors championship … I’m a happy chappy :-)

  15. comment 43 was for S Hughes

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