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Singapore race analysis - a night to remember 29 Sep 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates victory with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008. © Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams celebrates his podium with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM01 crashes out of the race
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008

The visibility concerns proved unfounded, the predicted thunderstorms never came, and the drivers quickly discovered they could overtake. The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, the first Formula One event under floodlights, was a huge success and produced one of the most fascinating races of the season. Few could begrudge Fernando Alonso his first 2008 victory, despite good fortune playing a part. The Spaniard had been quick all weekend and an excellent strategy call from Renault helped him win from 15th on the grid…

Renault
Fernando Alonso, P1
Nelson Piquet, retired lap 14, accident

What a day for Renault! And Alonso owed much of it to his team mate Nelson Piquet’s crash on the 14th lap which brought out the safety car. The Spaniard had an aggressive first stint, pitted as early as the 12th lap, and was thus perfectly placed when the safety car came out. He built up a huge lead, lost it all when the second safety car deployment came on the 51st lap, then calmly opened it up again. He praised his car’s performance all evening, but the success owed as much to the man behind the wheel. In contrast, Piquet did his future prospects no favours with yet another accident.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, P2
Kazuki Nakajima, P8

Williams looked strong all afternoon, but nearly lost it all when Rosberg was called into the pits when they were still closed because of the safety car intervention after Piquet’s accident. He had just passed Trulli and was looking good, but now had to go for it like mad to make enough of a gap after taking the lead on the 18th lap. He stayed there until the 28th lap, when he served a 10s stop and go penalty, dropped to fourth, but recovered to take his best-ever finish with a deserved second place behind Alonso and ahead of Hamilton. Nakajima showed great spirit early on, passed a few people, and deserved the final point as Williams closed the gap to Toro Rosso and Red Bull.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, P10

Hamilton was just unlucky that the safety car and first pit stops worked the way they did, and that he got trapped behind Coulthard for so long. But on a day when neither Ferrari finished, six points for third place were very welcome, especially as he extended his title points lead to seven over Massa. Kovalainen was unhappy to lose out in a wheel rubber with Kubica in Turn 3 on the opening lap, and he was dropped back into traffic from which there was on escape for the rest of the evening.

Toyota
Timo Glock, P4
Jarno Trulli, retired lap 51, hydraulics

Trulli looked good as he led for a while on his one-stop strategy. Even after his stop he was in play for decent points until a hydraulic problem stymied him. Glock was strong all afternoon, and took a deserved fourth place which keeps Toyota in play for fourth overall, despite Renault’s victory. A late protest to the stewards over Vettel supposedly being released unsafely into the path of Glock during a pit stop was rejected.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, P5
Sebastien Bourdais, P12

Vettel lost out to Glock in the early going, and ultimately did not have an answer to Toyota’s pace, but he was pleased with fifth to add to his recent Monza victory. Bourdais gave Massa a hiding late in the race, but suffered the age-old problem of understeer whenever he hit traffic.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, P6
Robert Kubica, P11

Kubica would have been very well placed had it not been necessary to bring him in for fuel before the pit lane was officially open after Piquet’s shunt. The resultant 10s stop and go penalty ruined his afternoon. Heidfeld, however, had a tough fight in the upper midfield and hounded fifth-placed Vettel to the flag.

Red Bull
David Coulthard, P7
Mark Webber, retired lap 30, gearbox

Webber was ahead of Coulthard initially until he had an off-track moment, and subsequently gearbox failure claimed his Red Bull. The Scot’s first pit stop timing worked in his favour and he was able to resist Hamilton for a long time. In his second stop, however, there was a snafu with the refuelling hose when he tried to leave before it was disconnected. Despite that, he held on for two points for seventh place.

Honda
Jenson Button, P9
Rubens Barrichello, retired lap 15, engine

Button never had the pace to run any higher than the midfield, but Honda reliability and the misfortune of others nearly earned him a point. Barrichello could have been well placed after a timely early stop, but then his engine failed.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, P13
Kimi Raikkonen, P15

This was a terrible afternoon for Ferrari. They looked good in the early going with Massa leading and Raikkonen closing on Hamilton in second place. Then came Massa’s disastrous pit stop in which the onboard monitoring system told him it was safe to leave when the fuel hose was still attached, and another unsafe release in the path of Sutil earned him a drive-through penalty. Later he spun, finishing 13th as Hamilton opened his points lead over him from one to seven. Raikkonen was delayed in that first pit stop, but was fighting back strongly for fourth with Glock until he crashed on the 58th lap. Just to make it worse, the red cars set the two fastest laps, but the team lost their lead in the constructors’ world championship to McLaren.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, P14
Adrian Sutil, retired lap 50, accident

Fisichella must have thought it was Christmas when, having started from the pit lane after making set-up changes, he found himself running third by his first pit stop on the 29th lap. That dropped him way back down the order however, to an eventual 14th place finish. Sutil was unlucky to get unsighted when Massa restarted after his spin on the 51st lap, and found himself with nowhere to go but the wall.