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. S Hughes said on 28th September 2008, 20:53

    Archictron, I never mentioned anything about a towel??? You must be mixing me up with someone else. I am stating a fact – Alonso’s win was gifted to him. Don’t believe in karma either – in poetic justice, yes. You don’t have to read my posts if you find them boring – just skip over them next time. I am entitled to my opinion as well, as annoying as you might find it. Funnily enough, I find some of the opinions on here pretty annoying too.

    And BTW, I consider Lewis’ Silverstone, Hockenheim, Monaco and Spa wins a trillion times more deserved and skilful than Alonso’s safety car bit of luck.

  2. Keith of course you are right in a way about the karma, but see it as a way for us supporters of the sport to try to believe in some sort of heavenly “justice” and moving on instead of dwelling in a depressed state of seeing FIA taking the word arbitrary to a new dimension.

    Mahesh:

    “I didn’t anyone of McLaren/Lewis fans crying for justice last year at Nurburgring or post Fiji , when Lewis escaped penalties.”

    Please don’t go overboard with those nonevents showing your true colors. Hamilton didn’t escape anything because he didn’t deserved penalties in any of those cases (if you don’t belong to a group of bashers who think every move the kid does should be penalized. Webber Monza in mind). On the edge driving happens every race without getting as much attention and scrutinizing just because it is not a yellow helmet in a silver car. I don’t particularly like Alonso after last year’s backstabbings but I found his win refreshing and well deserved today. If we all are trying to move on let’s try to move on from the sniping and bashing as well.

  3. David Watkins said on 28th September 2008, 20:59

    Architron

    Fernando looked strong all weekend but the fact remains that without the safety car he wouldn’t have won. Lewis’ utterly dominant performance at Silverstone was the best performance of the year by any driver in my opinion.

    I’d like to see Fred in a BMW next season. He and Kubica would be exceptionally strong if they are properly managed and both realise that they are racing as a team first and indiivually second.

  4. Architrion said on 28th September 2008, 21:18

    I didn’t said that Hamilton wins at Silverstone, Monaco or any other wasn’t better than this one… I said that this one is worthier. Why? Because of the material. What Vettel has done at Monza and Fred here gains my heart and many of purist of F1 fans. We always remember when the weak one wins the stronger boys. Believe me. I can’t remember when Damon Hill won with that Jordan, but I forgot almost any other fact of that year. But don’t worry. Lewis has it in his pocket, and he seems to have learnt the lesson of last year races, after seeing the way he managed to finished third without taking any risk at all.

  5. @Nick

    I agree Kimi’s ‘wall trip’ wasn’t that big a deal. Indeed, I’ve just read the stewards have just given the wall a ten place penalty at the next race for causing an avoidable accident.

  6. beneboy said on 28th September 2008, 21:32

    @Jupiter

    I think the set number of laps a driver has to serve a penalty only applies once the safety car goes in so because we had several laps with the safety car this effectively gave Rosberg 10 laps from the restart (I think, but could be wrong) to take his penalty so he made the most of it and stayed out as long as he could.

    If anyone else has some more updated info re this rule please feel free to share, if only you could buy a set of regulations at the book store !

  7. Great and very well deserved victory for Alonso.

    On a related note, I have to say: Alonso really impressed me with his driving today. Through his career up until last year, he had a tendency to really charge the corner with an aggressive turn-in. This weekend, his manipulation of the car was just pitch-perfect, aside from maybe a couple of charges on old tires.

  8. “I don’t agree with all this stuff about ‘Karma’”

    Thank you for saying that before me Keith….this is auto racing after all.I didn’t see any Karma Police at the track.

    Congratulations Alonso!

  9. @Jupiter – This isn’t the first time that stewards have taken ages to investigate race incident. At least in case of Rosberg , their hand were full reviewing Mass, and Kubica situation. The worst I remeber is USGP 2004, JPM’s car got stalled on the Grid and he was balck flagged at around Lap 50 when he was running 4th. His infringement – Didn’t indicate Car stalling on the grid in “15 seconds”. The stewards expected driver to react in 15 seconds but they took more that 50 Minutes ( given USGP could be lapped at 1min 13 secs by V10 powered car).
    It was pretty straight forward violation, Apparently in that case , they didn’t want the track side fans to loose interest in the race, if they had immediately blackflagged JPM.

    It is decisions like these make an impartial fan like me think if this all F1 business has become a hoax !!!!

    @Jian – On the same note I would like to say this is not about Lewis Bashing !!!Any racing fan can put his/her hand on heart and can’t really explain why FIA looked the other way in case of Hamilton related incidents last year. Ideally if they were that sure that “McLaren had gained unfair advantage from Ferrari documents, the drivers not being penalized was hard to explain”.

    Nurburgring was McLaren Home track and Marshal’s &Stewards were from local Motor association, releasing Lewis back on track was blatant violation as it was unsafe to competitors in dangerous track condition with low visibility.

    Fuji safety car incident, was sure enough candidate for Grid Penalty in following race. Kaz Nakajima got one this season for “unsafe driving behind safety car” didn’t he?? So were rules interpreted differently for Fuji’07 violation ??

    Hard to bite Pill, but the point being made is incosistency and notion of doctoring race outcomes. I am not condoning Ferrari related incosistencies here as well, If Valencia was financial penalty, then today was same situation so same fine. So either valencia was wrong or today’s penalty was wrong.

  10. Biggest difference I saw between Valencia and today’s pitstop for Massa was he never yielded the position to Sutil. He did that in Valencia, plus the fact that he went side by side and had the massive snake being dragged along the pitlane that was always going to be a penalty regardless of it being his fault or not.

    I don’t care if FIA don’t fine Ferrari but they have to ban the system or force every team to use a sensor on the fueling rig as someone else pointed out here today.

  11. david-br said on 29th September 2008, 0:05

    Architron

    Hamilton was penalized in France this year with a drive-through for cutting a chicane on the first lap and passing Vettel (supposedly: McLaren said he’d already passed him). It’s a consistency issue. Alonso’s actually my second favourite driver out there and I’d be against any penalty, particularly retrospective, taking away today’s great win. It was fantastic to see him leaping from the car and on the podium. But that FIA is much more severe in Hamilton/McLaren’s case is fairly obvious.

    As for the Karma issue, I agree with Keith. The fact is, if Massa still wins by just a few points, his loss of points today won’t really satisfy me that the right driver won the championship.

    Another question: Kovaleinen. Are McLaren really sure he should be a permanent fixture? Hamilton can finish second in the last three races and still win, but if Massa’s up front, there’s a big chance Kimi will be there challenging for second. Today it looked like he’d pass Lewis in the pits or that they’d have an ‘interesting moment’ with Kimi trying to overtake on track. But Kovaleinen is just too far away to be any help to Lewis. Or is this McLaren strategy’s affecting Kovi’s qualifying and race performance? Either way, Raikkonen looks set to have a big impact on the final result.

  12. Mahesh: Schumacher was pushed on track by Marshalls in 03 and finished with quite a few points without any attention brought to it from the stewards. Once again the rules weren’t clear by the time Hams car got lifted onto truck. Very much as in Spa the unwritten rules were at least outspoken ones afterwards. The Nakajima case I haven’t seen.

    We can both agree that FIA doesn’t really care about its own precedent even if we use different cases to reach that conclusion. Let’s hope that their ridiculous inconcistency dosen’t affect the outcome of this amazing WC season more than it already has.

  13. Mahesh said on 29th September 2008, 0:41

    Jian – thats another good example you have given. btw that was 2004 season I think. In the same race, Alonso had off track exersion at the same spot as MSC, and the Marshal didn’t give him push.

    So its not about Drivers or favors they receive from FIA/Marshals/Stewards. we agree that the inconsistencies shown, give rise to scandals and tarnishes almost every acheivement in F1 in recent past!!!!

  14. Mahesh said on 29th September 2008, 0:49

    My bad Schumi Nurburgring (Home race) 2003 and Alonso Monza (Foreign race) 2004 :P

  15. How about that drive by Nico Rosberg and the finish of Kaz Nakajima? Just when I start thinking the sport has passed Frank and Patrick by, they begin to show progress! Welcome back boys.

    Can anyone explain WHY the Renault did so well this weekend, when they have lagged all year long? Besides Fernando’s brilliant drive?

    As for the track and layout, the pit in and out definitely need revising before next year’s event, and thank the racing gods for no rain. Can’t imagine the carnage braking over those wet bumps coming into turn 7.

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