Singapore Grand Prix - 04/10/08

The inaugural Grand Prix of Singapore was a success, the kind of success that puts into sharp perspective just how much other such events have failed to live up to the term ‘success’. The event had an inescapably unique allure and identity. Fans of Champ Car will have known what the cars would have looked like under lights, but the breathtaking surroundings and skyline of Singapore were woven into much of the TV coverage, unlike at Valencia. Yes the drivers complained of bumps and sparks, however you will be hard pressed to find any viewer who shared their complaints.

Admittedly the success of the race was helped by the dramatic turn of events during Sunday’s race, but that could be said of many a Grand Prix. Singapore’s presentation of this event, and the undeniably attractive setting, must be recognised as significant positive factors.

Just one race after the sport crowned Sebastian Vettel as the youngest winner in the history of F1, the previous holder of that mantle reminded all naysayers of his enduring talent and remarkable ability to bring a win home given the slightest sniff. Fernando Alonso has been branded many things, but he’ll always be a race winner and champion. Well-known F1 journos had happily said they did not believe Alonso would ever win a race again. I myself had said a few weeks ago that his performances had been a little shy of what we had come to expect of past champions in slightly inferior machinery.

While Alonso’s victory owed much to the safety car, it should be remembered that he was fastest in practice 2 and 3 and set the third fastest lap of the race behind only Massa and Raikkonen. Ferrari saw to Massa’s chances, and he later spun himself also, plus Raikkonen crashed out. Alonso was fast, made no errors and executed an overtaking move on Trulli equally as impressive as the one Hamilton pulled on Coulthard (a direct result of Alonso’s pit exit). The difference in performance of Renault over Toyota is much smaller than the difference between a McLaren’s performance and that of a Red Bull, so that should reduce the shine taken off Alonso’s move due to Trulli’s fuel load. If you listened to ITV’s commentary, James Allen and Martin Brundle mentioned how many believe Alonso to still be the best driver in the sport. Anyone unfamiliar with the history of F1 tuning in this year would have wondered where those statements had come from seeing as how so much coverage and praise is usually reserved solely for Ferrari and McLaren, specifically Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg rekindled some of the early season promise of Williams by achieving his second career podium. Interestingly, out of the 15 world championship rounds so far this season, Rosberg has qualified in the top ten on 7 occasions. Of those, 5 have been at all the temporary/partially temporary street and public tracks that F1 visits (Melbourne, Monaco, Canada, Valencia, Singapore), which shows Rosberg and Williams’ strength at this kind of venue in 2008. Rosberg was one of the main beneficiaries of the safety car situation on Sunday despite making his stop when the pits were closed. The length of time taken to issue him with a stop-go penalty allowed him to pull out such a lead over those held up behind Trulli and Fisichella, that he eventually finished second just ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

It is said that the reason it took so long to issue his and Kubica’s penalties was that the stewards were debating what to do about Massa and Ferrari’s botched pit stop and unsafe pit release. The incredibly cynical amongst you could say that Ferrari and the stewards once again cost Hamilton points by delaying what should have been an immediately issued penalty for Rosberg, thereby allowing him the opportunity to make up enough time to emerge in front of Hamilton. But that’s probably taking things a little too far, eh?

Rosberg’s old Williams team-mate Mark Webber once again demonstrated his disastrous bad luck by retiring his car due to the gearbox attempting to select two gears at once. The cause of this was said to be an electrical surge originating from a passing tram, whose tracks Webber was driving over at the time. You could not make this stuff up.

This week saw Ferrari’s Luca Di Montezemolo make a number of fierce remarks about the current state of F1, and its need of the safety car to produce any amount of excitement. Some would argue that Ferrari’s own drivers and pit crew, just as in Valencia, are capable of providing enough drama and entertainment quite without the aid of a safety car. Montezemolo also reserved some strong words for the state of the Singapore GP venue, suggesting it would be a more fitting location for a circus than a motor race. The accusations levelled at Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit by Montezemolo are hard to accept as anything beyond intense disappointment at a ruined opportunity by Ferrari to pull out a lead over McLaren.

Following on from last week’s column, it now appears that Renault are leaning towards promoting Lucas Di Grassi to a 2009 race seat after recent impressive and consistent testing performances. Romain Grosjean may well need to win the GP2 championship next year in order to earn a seat in F1 for 2010. Although, if Nelsinho Piquet is binned by Renault in favour of Di Grassi, Grosjean will undoubtedly take over the mantle of lead test driver.


driv4r said...

Very nice write-up! (Y)

One more thing that I'd like to see is other positions of the race or at least top 8 ;) It's useful when you are not able to watch the race yourself and want to get all the information from one place.


AERO_HDT said...

Excellent synopsis of the event!

The Singapore race was the biggest roller-coaster ride I've experienced in quite some time, the spectacular backdrop bettered only by controversy and a very-unexpected podium at the chequered flag.

I wonder how much longer we can chalk up Webber's dismal results as "bad luck". Surely the dice can't be loaded that poorly?

Nico Rosberg and Williams on the podium - is the oldest privateer outfit in the field due for a rennaissance?

Anonymous said...

Great Job Maz, very informative.

Is McLaren-Mercedes leading the constructor points? It must be close with Ferrari after Singapore.

I also see that BMW Sauber is keeping Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld for next season too...

Keep up the good work!