Alonso favourite whatever the weather (Singapore Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Singapore, 2010

Can Fernando Alonso convert his second pole position in a row into his second win in a row?

Lewis Hamilton romped to victory from pole position last year and he could be the biggest threat to the Ferrari driver at the start – even though he lines up behind Sebastian Vettel.

The start

Alonso may have lost his last pole position to Jenson Button at the start of the race but don’t expect the same to happen in Singapore.

With the benefit of starting on the clean side of a dusty track and a short run to the first corner, Alonso would have a good chance of getting to the first corner first whoever was alongside him.

His chances are amplified because the car occupying the number two position is, for the second year in a row in Singapore, Sebastian Vettel. And the Red Bulls have been sluggish off the line in recent races:

Lap 1 position change Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Germany -2 -1
Hungary 0 -1
Belgium +1 -5
Italy -1 -5

Vettel lost second place to Nico Rosberg at the start last year and then had to fend off Alonso, who started fifth. But he thinks it could go differently this year:

It?s the bad side of the grid with probably less grip, we will find out tomorrow.

But I think judging around the track and also the pit exit, obviously they have a new cleaning machine here for the asphalt which helped a lot throughout the weekend. OK, the water doesn?t disappear, but in terms of dust, I think it?s much better than it used to be for the last two years, so it should be fine.

I think there?s a picture right outside here where you can?t even see the last five cars starting into the first corner because there was so much dust. It will be similar tomorrow but probably not as bad which should give us a good chance and we hope for a good start, see what we can do.
Sebastian Vettel

Lewis Hamilton, third on the grid, fancies his chances of taking Vettel:

I am on the clean side of the grid and we have had the best starts for quite some time now, so fingers crossed that will continue tomorrow and it puts us in a good position.
Lewis Hamilton

With overtaking so difficult on the tight street circuit we saw drivers fighting especially hard for position on the first lap here last year.

Mark Webber tried to pass Alonso around the outside of turn seven and succeeded, though Alonso ran wide forcing both off the track. Webber was later penalised after he was deemed to have taken the position illegally – useful knowledge for any driver who finds themselves defending into turn seven.

Alonso is clearly in a strong position ahead of the start of the race. He is running without an F-duct on his car, but don’t expect his lower straight-line speed be a significant vulnerability: he was only 2.6kph slower than Vettel and 3.2kph slower than Hamilton through the speed trap in qualifying.

Massa’s comeback drive

While Alonso has no cars in front of him on the grid, Felipe Massa will start the race with the rest of the 23-car field in front of him.

Expect him to start on the super-soft tyres in the hope of a first-lap safety car deployment allowing him to get his mandatory tyre change out of the way. These tactics worked like a dream for Alonso in Monaco, because once he’d worked his way past the new teams the leaders had to pit to cover him, allowing him to finish sixth.

Whatever happens, it’s likely that at some point Massa is going to have to fight his way through traffic. How quickly he can do that will determine whether he can salvage anything from this weekend.

As we also saw with Alonso at Monaco, much time could be lost fighting with the new teams’ cars should any of those drivers choose to put up a fight. Just three laps behind Lucas di Grassi at Monaco cost Alonso around ten seconds.

If Massa fancies a spot of record-breaking, the lowest position on the starting grid a race has ever been won from is 22nd. That happened on a street circuit, when John Watson won for McLaren at Long Beach in 1983.

Strategy and weather

Should the race start on a damp track – as the first F1 sessions on Friday and Saturday did – remember that any driver who chooses to start the race on intermediate tyres (or full wets) does not have to satisfy the requirement to use both types of dry weather tyre during the race.

The wet running this weekend has shown that the track takes a long time to dry out – contrary to expectations that the warm ambient temperatures would encourage rapid drying. The more sheltered parts of the track, such as turn five, take even longer than the rest.

Assuming the race starts on a sufficiently dry track all the drivers in the top ten will be starting on the super-soft tyres they qualified on.

Whatever the weather does it’s hard to make a convincing case for anyone other than Alonso winning this one. As the man himself somewhat acknowledged:

There are no big worries for tomorrow. The start is OK, the pace is OK, the car is OK and the weather is OK, both conditions.
Fernando Alonso

What do you think will happen in the Singapore Grand Prix? Share your analysis of the race in the comments.

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