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

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

  1. Ivan Vinitskyy said on 25th September 2010, 22:40

    3 things can stop Alonso:
    Hamilton at the start
    Safety car
    Bad pit stop

    Don’t think any of those have a great chance of stopping him though.

    • I think only poor reliability can stop Alonso. Ferrari have been having electronic problems all weekend.

      • I do think he will have to do the tactical thinking himself here (like he did in Qualli) as Ferrari are pretty much used to making wrong pit stop calls and mixups here in Singapore.

        And another thing that might get him are the backmarkers. It is not too easy to pass them here with little room between the walls and it takes only a slippery bit of track to have a accident.

    • miguelF1O (@) said on 26th September 2010, 3:13

      the only thing that hamilton can do to stop alonso at start is crashing anyway vettel is the favourite cause tomorow nothing will happen simple pits victory for redbull

    • wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 26th September 2010, 4:26

      Engine trouble can too hamper his chance but I would love to see his battle with Hamilton like Canada.

    • Let’s hope they also got rid of those “experiments” they did yesterday before Massa stopped on track :-S
      It could be tricky

  2. F1iLike said on 25th September 2010, 23:25

    To me it looks like Mark Webber rather than Red Bull has been sluggish of the line in recent races.

    • Errr, Vettels not exactly looked rapid off the line either

      • F1iLike said on 25th September 2010, 23:52

        Judging by the chart in the article, there is quite a difference between the two of them =)

        • Apart from Spa Webber has been sluggish in qualifying for a while now. And to compound the problem he’s starts off the line are even worse.

          I’m Australian and in his corner but Webbo hasn’t dominated (i.e. faster in qualifying AND in the race) his teammate since Turkey.

          Looks like the pressure has got to him. Or perhaps he’s been put in his place at the team and that has him down on confidence.

          • F1iLike said on 26th September 2010, 1:46

            I’d say he just had a high between spain and turkey and that high got him to what happend att turkey. That arrogance got to him and he tried blocking from behind. He hasn’t dominated Vettel either before or after those odd 3 races.. But still, he leads the WC so..

          • Toby Bushby said on 26th September 2010, 2:53

            F1iLike, did you REALLY just insinuate that Webber is responsible for the collision with Vettel in Turkey? Are you actually Christian Horner under a psuedonym? :P

          • That’s a ridicules suggestion. Webber didn’t turn into him from behind, Dr Marko’s toy-boy turned into him when he was hardly half a car length ahead.

          • F1iLike said on 26th September 2010, 21:25

            Are you guys for real? Man there’s some serious hate for Vettel out there. And obviously very little sense of racing etiquette. Did you see what Schumacher did at Silverstone towards Vettel? Very much alike, and even tighter closing UNTIL Vettel was beside and then sufficently past him.. Learn racing before you blame.

  3. David BR said on 26th September 2010, 0:15

    Hamilton has got to be smart this time. A good start and he should nick second. After that, hassle Alonso a bit (maybe test the Ferrari`s reliability) but no heroics are needed with Webber behind and perhaps liable to drop even further at the start.

  4. Andrew White said on 26th September 2010, 0:20

    I wouldn’t put all my money behind Alonso just yet. The potential for a damp track brings with it the possibility of a safety car or two. Turn 5 looks tricky and leads onto the best passing opportunity on the track, so Alonso will have to be on his guard.

  5. Lewis just has to sit it out. If my maths are correct he only has to finish in the first 5 to stay points in front of Alonso. After Vettels pressroom comments today, let Seb hassle Alonso, either Alonso’s temperament, or the car’s engine reliability questions, will do the rest.We saw how he was with the younger Lewis, he’ll react the same with SV.
    Alonso is out of replacement engines which, in my book means, he’s out of the championship race.
    After LH’s last race incident, better just to let the other two wrangle – unless SV is so slow at the start that LH can reasonably risk-free slot in behind Alonso. Then just keep the pressure on – and watch out for the smoking engine in front!
    But hey, let’s hope they all come back safe.

    • there are 8 engines for the season; that means some engines have to be run three times….

      i.e. alonso has no BRAND NEW engines, true…., but, most of his engines dont have a full race weekend on them, and somewhere everyone is going to have to run an engine or two, for THREE weekends

      • Chris Burland said on 26th September 2010, 7:49

        Because of some changes made to the spec of the engine, and the units which failed earlier in the year, Ferrari are planning to only use engines 7 & 8 in the last 5 races. They’ll both end up doing 4 races on each of these two engines. [source: BBC in on of the practice sessions]

  6. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 26th September 2010, 0:44

    I wouldn’t be so sure!

    I think something will happen, and one of the top 5 will be out before lap 30!. It could be a very nice GP this one!

  7. Keith, I disagree that it’s hard to make a case against Alonso, for 2 reasons, weather aside: (a) I think there is a non-trivial probability that Alonso suffers some sort of an engine problem, even temporarily, and (b) the RBR is indeed the fastest car around here, not the Ferrari, even though the difference is pretty small.

    If Vettel can retain 2nd position after the first lap, he should be able to stay very close to Alonso, in which case we could have a repeat of Monza, only this time w/ Alonso being chased instead.

    This is turning out exactly as I had predicted, a Vettel-Alonso affair, and of course my prediction that Webber will lose the WDC will also come true. Even in the best car on the grid, his mediocrity won’t allow him to win the title.

    • bosyber said on 26th September 2010, 9:12

      Not a Webber fan there, I guess. Webber had a pretty good race after the start in both Spa and Monza, actually; but in Monza Vettel had a better strategy, again.

      I do agree that if Vettel can stay in second, he might be able to chase Alonso, but I think you are discounting not only Webber too much, but certainly Hamilton as well, who might well be on Vettel’s heels, and Button could also be right behind.

      • I like Webber as a person. But the fact is he is no more than a slightly above-average driver. He may be quick on occasion, but he lacks in race management and consistency … and makes too many mental errors.

        As for the race, McLaren is not a threat for the win, their pace is at least 3 tenths off the Ferrari & RBR. Only if it rains we will see a winner other than Alonso or Vettel.

        • I would rather say, that RBR has lost him (and Vettel) a lot of positions through bad pit calls in the first few races. Otherwise he has done pretty well for himself.

          The starts are seemingly something with the car, and being slow on the getaway from P4-6 means that you are often on the wrong line for corners losing you more positions in the first sector.

  8. roberttty said on 26th September 2010, 1:54

    Latest weather forecast: guess what, it’s going to rain in the afternoon

    http://app2.nea.gov.sg/12hnowcast.aspx

  9. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 26th September 2010, 2:36

    I sicerely hope Alonso gets a puncture or an engine failure or gets held up by a backmarker or screws up his pit stop or runs out of fuel. This is not meant to be an inflammatory comment – I genuinely believe that Alonso winning the WDC will be the worst possible thing for the sport because Ferrari will have undermined one of the best seasons of racing in years by buying the title.

    • Paper Tiger said on 26th September 2010, 10:49

      Don’t worry. On the last race of the season, Vettel will be leading Webber into the last corner, with Webber needing to win to take the title off Alonso. Horner will get on the radio and say “WEBBER IS FASTER THAN YOU. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Vettel will pull over, allowing Webber to take the title. Red Bull will be fined $100,000 and Webber will become WDC.

      That’s what’s going to happen.

    • keep the hope up

  10. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 26th September 2010, 4:09

    I don’t think we will see overtaking tomorrow but Massa who will have a very busy night working his way past the slower cars. I want a damp track which will be trick for the driver & will sure mix things up beautifully.

    My top 3 goes with either Alonso or Hamilton winning it with Webber P3. & remember both Alonso & Hamilton are past winner on this circuit both will want for the championship & for glory to stay in front of one another that will be something to watch today.

  11. Pole sitter said on 26th September 2010, 4:26

    I think Lewis has got to watch out for madman vettel who will likely point his car to the right at the start. If Lewis does get in front of him I expect him to at minimum have a look at Alonso at the end of a straight on lap one. Lewis should try to do to Alonso what Alonso did to button in Monza. I think the Mclaren is sufficiently fast to keep up with the Ferrari.

  12. What a great lap from Fernando, it should be a great race

  13. RBR is going to be faster in the race, i’m sure RBR will pits will take em ahead of Alonso in the middle of the race.

  14. Scalextric said on 26th September 2010, 5:19

    Alonso can’t get too comfortable if Vettel’s in a position to attempt a pass on him.

  15. Osiris said on 26th September 2010, 6:14

    Lap 1: Alonso starts slow, tries to cut off Vettel by going across, Vettel fights back, perhaps a minor prang, Hamilton is in the lead meanwhile, JB second, yellow flag / safety car, McLaren procession start to finish.
    Or so I wish :)

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