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. @Paty – I was talking to my friend yesterday and we have been watching F1 races for 20+ yrs now. In recent years, there have been too many controveries, too many dodgy decisions, which sometimes makes one feel that is this indeed motorsport or WWE, where everything is orchestrated.
    Having said that sheer joy of cars racing at speeds of excess of 300+kph and love for under dogs keep me hooked..

    So it maybe Oscar award winning performance by the brazilian rookie.. and comedy act award going to Maranello pit crew and their prop of gantry indicator :D

  2. beneboy said on 28th September 2008, 19:45

    @Sumedh & S Hughes

    I think most sites are pretty biased for or against one driver or team, autosport and this site are probably the exceptions.

    As long as you know what their bias is and you read around you’re able to get a pretty balanced view.

    Last season for e.g., I’d always have a look on Spanish sites after reading UK sites versions of what happened between Lewis & Alonso, once you’d read both sides you could spot the bias & make up your own mind.

  3. CarlitosF1 said on 28th September 2008, 19:47

    What about Kmi’s graceful pirouetting into the wall? Time to think there’s something really wrong with this guy? Check out the post-race Q & A with him in Autosport, it’s hilarious: Did you? No, I didn’t. How did it happen? It just happened. What’s gonna happen? We’ll see. Do you think? No, I don’t think (and so on)

  4. S Hughes said on 28th September 2008, 19:49

    Mahesh, you can’t name an F1 site I don’t visit – crash.net, paddock talk, pitpass, ITV, racefreaks.nl, you name it. crash is not that pro-Lewis and the comments are the usual bitter bile against Lewis. How come you haven’t noticed?

    Alonso’s chicanery is getting quite a few questions on Bleacher report too.

    You need to keep up dear.

  5. CarlitosF1, I guess most people are tired of bashing Kimi now. We need to cut him some slack. 4 races without points. Poor fellow admits he is pathetic; and that he’s championship is over.

  6. Kimi’s wall trip isn’t that big of deal….Michael Schumacher put it into the wall in AUS06 and you all love him. Massa’s spin in sepang was truly god awful driving.

  7. beneboy said on 28th September 2008, 20:00

    @Sumedh

    I’m with you mate, the other week I was getting a bit annoyed that Kimi couldn’t seem to score a point but now I’m just feeling sorry for him.

    The poor guy is in serious need of a break !

    Hopefully he’ll have a good weekend next race :~)

  8. CarlitosF1 – Kimi and words don’t go well…everytime he opens his mouth he just gargles. Once he tried to act cool was on Brazilian 2006 grid, when Martin Brundle asked him reason for his absence at MSC felicitation ceremony.

    He tried to sound smart and funny, by saying he was taking $***. Martin responded brilliantly ” So that is one lighter car on the grid today” . In short, Kimi’s gargle post/pre race is to be overlooked. Perecption that he has created of being “Ultrafast” driving inferior Sauber and Female Fans Going “Kimmmmmmmmmmmiiiii” has still kept him getting teh right seats. F1 end of the day hugely game of “Perception”. If Balding Kubica drops ball for 3-4 races, there will be talk of dropping him, anyways he doesn’t have any marketing value…. Kimi is blessed on that front

  9. MacademiaNut said on 28th September 2008, 20:18

    What FIA takes, Singapore gives!

    About Karma, Massa gave back the 6-point advantage (which FIA gave it to him). This is not about who is going to win; it is just that wherever the scores should have been before this race, it has been made that way after this race. So, from now on, it’s a fair game! Let the best man win.

  10. Mcademianut – Agreed on that point It was same with Renault and Fernando in 2006, what Italian Stewards ( Grid Penalty) and FIA (Mass Damper Controversy) Taketh. Ferrari Engine Failure (Suzuka 06) giveth.

    May the best man win !!!
    & yes I am rooting for affable, keep mouth shut and drive Brazilian :D

  11. Jupiter said on 28th September 2008, 20:23

    Rosberg drove a very good race to finish second but why did it take so long for him (and Kubica) to receive notification of their drive-through penalties? If it had been within a couple of laps of the ‘infringement’ then he wouldn’t have even scored.

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th September 2008, 20:25

    I don’t agree with all this stuff about ‘Karma’: Hamilton had a questionable penalty decision; Massa had a bad instruction from his pit crew. Six points one way, six points another, but Massa’s misfortune doesn’t mean Hamilton shouldn’t be 13 points ahead.

    Also: Stewards reject appeal against Vettel

  13. Architrion said on 28th September 2008, 20:32

    S. Hughes, you’re writings get me so tired !!!!! Man, Alonso won your dear Hamilton, take it as a man. Don’t worry. Hami drives a brillian McLaren and Alonso does the best of that rusty Renault. Lewis will win so many races and Alonso will have to call for lady luck to help him day after day….

    But seeing you so angry makes me think that deep inside you believe that this Fred win is tons worthy than any race Hami has won this year for the F1 supporters. So you think you need to do something about it and bash and bash and bash Fred’s victory time after time…. Cutting the chicane, getting a towel before weight-check after the race, or maybe driving in the hands of the gods….. Pure boredom, man.

  14. CarlitosF1 said on 28th September 2008, 20:49

    Hilarious, Mahesh. I remember some comment in this very blog comparing Kimi with that silent, laidback and hypercool highschool boy that girls die for, only to find sheer shallowness when they actually get to know them. I was one of those girls for a while too, here in Spain we (Alonso followers) feared the 2006 Kimi more than we feared MSC himself… Maybe a reason for me not to feel sorry about Kimi is that I would love to see Alonso dressed in red, but not the only one. The ones I do feel sorry for are those who don’t drive a Ferrari and are getting so much out of worse cars all through the season: Vettel, Trulli, Webber, Kubica, Rosberg (what a pace today when he had the lead!!) and of course Alonso (personal fastest lap only 0’2 secs slower than absolute fastest lap, that’s faster than both McLarens and only slower than both Ferraris).

  15. Fernando was simply stunning in that Renault. If he was in that Ferrari nobody would have come close to touching him in this race.

    As for the Ferrari first pit stop that just had me burst out laughing, especially when they were carrying it back up the pitlane.

    As for Rosberg how an earth did he get back in front of Lewis and DC I’ll never know that must have been some balls to the walls driving he did there!

    And someone needs to teach the Renault mechanics how to catch a bottle of booze.

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