Ferrari nightmare but great day for Lewis

Mr Consistency in the driving seat for first world title as fuel makes fools of red-faced Scuderia

Ferrari's team principal, Stefano Domenicali, described it as "a black day, there's little else to say", and he was not referring to the fact that the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix last weekend was Formula One's first night race. It proved such a nightmare for the Scuderia, with polesitter Felipe Massa finishing a humbled 13th and Kimi Raikkonen 15th, that they have been forced to target three one-two finishes in the remaining three races in their bid to stop Lewis Hamilton and McLaren from stealing the Finn's World Championship crown.

The race, of course, provided Fernando Alonso with a surprise win for Renault, and it was a sign that some people had clearly had too little sleep that a rumour went round the paddock afterwards that his hapless Brazilian team-mate Nelson Piquet Jnr had been told to plant his sister car in the wall on the 14th lap to bring out the safety car that the Spaniard needed with his aggressive, early-stopping refuelling strategy.

Where would we be without the conspiracy theorists?

The sleepless of Singapore could not come up with an answer either to explain how Massa's first pit stop made Raikkonen's similarly botched effort in Valencia look as smooth as silk. The little Brazilian had this one in his pocket and duly pulled out of the pit lane when his Ferrari's onboard lights system showed him green. The only problem was that the refuelling hose was still attached – oh, and he pulled right into the path of... Adrian Sutil. Yep, the same guy into whose track he was unsafely released in Valencia.

It would have been almost comic if it was not so tragic to see his Championship chances hurt in such a manner – not to mention the danger as fuel spewed all over several mechanics when the hose was torn from the Intertechnique refuelling machine.

Massa lost time waiting at the end of the pit lane for his mechanics to come and detach the hose; was subsequently hit with a drive-through penalty (though some wondered why he did not get the same 10-second stop-and-go penalties levied on second-placed Nico Rosberg and fading title contender Robert Kubica, who pitted before the pit lane was officially open); and the farcical incident held up Raikkonen, who was stacked up behind as all the early leaders came in as soon as they were legally entitled to when Piquet's accident triggered the safety car deployment.

"It's hard to deal with losing in this fashion a race that was within our grasp, with a car that was just the way I wanted it," said Massa, who also lost in Hungary when his engine broke with two laps left to run. "We had a good strategy and all the signs were there that we could get a one-two finish. But things can change in a moment and that's what happened. One of the guys made a mistake. We are only human. Each one of us always tries to do our best and these things can happen." As for Raikkonen, the mistake that launched him across the kerbs in Turn 10 on the 58th lap and into an unforgiving wall has done little to endear him to the Scuderia. Despite confirmation recently at Monza that he will stay until 2010, there were mutters in Singapore that his position may yet prove tenuous.

While Ferrari's corporate face went the colour of their handsome race cars, Alonso was laughing himself silly after a brilliant, opportunistic drive to a totally unexpected triumph.

"This is a fantastic result," he chuckled. "My first podium of the season; my first victory and I'm very happy, although I think it will take several days for me to realise what we have achieved. Winning a Grand Prix here just seemed to be impossible because we missed our chance in qualifying, but we were very fortunate [in the race] and it's a superb result for the team. We chose a very aggressive strategy and we had a bit of luck, but we had the pace and the car was fantastic throughout the weekend."

The success may throw the 2009 driver market open again, if he decides after all to stay rather than head for BMW Sauber or Honda.

"Seven points to make up in three races?" Massa mused afterwards. "That can be a lot or it can be a little. We have the potential to do well, and we'll give it our best shot. We mustn't give up and I'm sure we won't."

Certainly, the game is not yet over, but despite the dismissal of McLaren's Belgian GP appeal in Paris on the Tuesday before the race, Hamilton is looking good right now.

With a little better fortune, Hamilton might have won last Sunday night, but ultimately third place behind Alonso and Rosberg earned him six crucial points to boost his lead over Massa to seven as they head for Japan next week. Kubica, who might also have won but for that pit-stop penalty, is now 20 behind, and Raikkonen is fading fast, 27 adrift.

Overall, the historic night race was adjudged a huge success, even if the drivers barely noticed the difference. "My family was telling me about some onboard footage from my car where you could see my eyes through the visor," Hamilton said. "They said it was pretty cool, but it shows you that we're just focusing on the track and the corners, and not much else. I didn't really notice the lights, but I did think the whole idea of racing at night was awesome.

"This team has always been rock solid. We started the year feeling really strong and we just kept developing that. I'd say now that the team is the most positive and together that it's ever been. Since the middle of the season, we've got the car in such a sweet-spot that it's been competitive at every race.

"We're ahead now in both World Championships and have to keep focused during these next three races. I've said before that consistency is what will win this World Championship and I feel really pleased with what we did in Singapore."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?