Alonso proves the prince of darkness to keep heat on Webber in title race
Monday 27 September 2010
Fernando Alonso didn't need a team-mate to crash for him this time as he beat Sebastian Vettel by a hair in a slow-burn Singapore Grand Prix. The race did not explode into life until just past half distance when a collision between the world championship leaders, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, saw the Englishman pitched out of the race with a broken suspension and the Australian increase his advantage in the title fight.
"We knew that with two hours in this heat and humidity, and with no time to breathe, this would be the toughest race of the season," said Alonso. "This win means a lot, coming as it does from the win at Monza. We wanted to confirm that, on a normal track and with more downforce, the car would still perform well. It did, so it seems we can be competitive on any track and will keep fighting for the championship."
After the first lap Alonso was a second ahead, but it didn't take long for the first safety car to be deployed. This came on the third lap as Tonio Liuzzi's suspension-damaged Force India was cleared away from its resting place just past the chicane.
Like Felipe Massa at the end of the first lap , Webber took advantage of the hiatus to switch from the soft-compound Bridgestone tyres to the more durable hard rubber, hoping to avoid stopping again. By the time racing resumed on the sixth lap, Webber was already back up to 10th.
At the front Alonso quickly regained his rhythm, holding Vettel at bay by 1.3sec as Hamilton maintained third and Jenson Button began to drift back in fourth place.
Webber's recovery took him past Michael Schumacher when the former champion made a mistake under pressure on the 11th lap. Webber's team-mate, meanwhile, was steadily losing touch with Alonso, who had a 2.3sec lead after 12 laps as Hamilton followed a similar distance behind the Red Bull. Over the radio, Red Bull told Webber he was now racing Hamilton for third place rather than for the lead.
McLaren's hopes of victory had also evaporated by now as their rear tyres wore and both Hamilton and Button settled into lonely races, neither challenging nor being challenged. Behind them a similar stalemate had set in as Renault's Robert Kubica chased Mercedes' Nico Rosberg for fifth place.
However, what had become a very dull race suddenly came alive when Hamilton became the first of the front runners to make a tyre stop. It came, on the 28th lap and went very smoothly, but even so it allowed Webber to comfortably move ahead of the McLaren. Once again, some brilliant strategy by Red Bull had won track position, just as it did for Vettel at Monza a fortnight earlier.
Alonso and Vettel both swept into the pits a lap later, the gap between them having shrunk from three seconds to 1.8sec as they lapped Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus on the 28th lap. Vettel's car was slow away, rather as Webber's had been at the start of both the Belgian and Italian races, but he shredded Alonso on their out lap so only 1.2sec separated them again when racing resumed by lap 30.
By half distance, the fight for the lead was back on as Vettel was hounding Alonso mercilessly, less than a second behind. But at the very moment that he seemed set to pounce, Kamui Kobayashi lost control of his Sauber and hit the wall in Turn 18, a lap after he had punted Schumacher into a wall.
Bruno Senna was unable to avoid the Sauber as he rounded the corner, and as the track was partially blocked the safety car was deployed for the second time. That prompted both Kubica and Rubens Barrichello to make their pit stops, so now the order was Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button, and Vettel was looking very aggressive on the harder-compound tyres.
It was like a replay of Button versus Alonso at Monza, but now it was Alonso who was the hunted. Webber was right there to take advantage, too. And he did, but not in the manner that had been expected.
He had two lapped Virgins between him and Vettel at the restart and as he and Hamilton threaded their way by them Lewis got alongside and moved into third place – until they got to Turn Eight. As Hamilton left some room and turned in, Webber, riding the kerb, tapped the rear end of the McLaren, sending it over the kerbs and into retirement.
Hamilton's mood was evident as he hurled his steering wheel away and clambered angrily out. But, as the stewards rightly saw, it was a racing incident between two hard chargers.
In the ensuing mayhem, which also saw Schumacher turf Nick Heidfeld into retirement, Alonso opened up a another lead over Vettel, but not for long.
Soon Vettel was on the attack again as the race completed its 61 laps before the two-hour mark. The Spaniard kept the German at bay as they completed their penultimate lap but by only two-tenths of a second. And, as Alonso won his fourth race of the year to move into second place in the title hunt the gap between them stayed the same.
Singapore results and standings
FIA Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, Singapore (61 Laps):
1 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1hr 57min 53.579sec;
2 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:57:53.872;
3 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:58:22.720;
4 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:58:23.965;
5 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:58:42.973;
6 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 1:58:49.680;
7 R Kubica (Pol) Renault 1:59:20.138;
8 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:59:45.995;
9 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Williams 1:59:46.370;
10 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:59:46.876;
11 V Petrov (Rus) Renault at 1 Lap; 12 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap; 13 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP at 1 Lap; 14 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap; 15 L di Grassi (Br) Virgin Racing at 2 Laps; 16 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 3 Laps. Not Classified: 17 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 49 Laps completed; 18 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 36 Laps completed; 19 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 35 Laps completed; 20 C Klien (Aut) HRT-F1 31 Laps completed; 21 K Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber 30 Laps completed; 22 B Senna (Br) HRT-F1 29 Laps completed; 23 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 37 Laps completed; 24 V Liuzzi (It) Force India 1 Lap completed. World Championship Standings: 1 M Webber 202pts; 2 F Alonso 191; 3 L Hamilton 182; 4 S Vettel 181; 5 J Button 177; 6 F Massa 125; 7 N Rosberg 122; 8 R Kubica 114; 9 A Sutil 49; 10 M Schumacher 46; 11 R Barrichello 39; 12 K Kobayashi 21; 13 V Petrov 19; 14 N Hulkenberg 18; 15 V Liuzzi 13; 16 S Buemi 7; 17 P de la Rosa 6; 18 J Alguersuari 3; 19 H Kovalainen 0; 20 L di Grassi 0; 21 K Chandhok 0; 22 J Trulli 0; 23 B Senna 0; 24 S Yamamoto 0; 25 T Glock 0; 26 N Heidfeld 0; 27 C Klien 0. Manufacturers Standings: 1 Red Bull 383pts; 2 McLaren 359; 3 Ferrari 316; 4 Mercedes GP 168; 5 Renault 133; 6 Force India 62; 7 Williams 57; 8 BMW Sauber 27; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 10; 10 Lotus F1 0; 11 Virgin Racing 0; 12 HRT-F1 0.
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