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GP Week : Issue 30
>>F1singapore doing more than showboating on low fuel around the floodlit Singapore Street Circuit. But it was the Spaniard who took a H surprising victory at F1’s first night race – surprising not just in that Renault has not looked like a race-winning team all season, and surprising not just in the manner in which the race panned out, but surprising in that Alonso’s pace really was as good as his practice runs had suggested. His victory was utterly merited. The race had started with Alonso down in a lowly 15th, the victim of fuel issues in qualifying dropping him out of the second timed session. He was distraught, watching what he knew was the team’s best chance of a 2008 win effectively melt under the floodlights. Up at the front, pole-sitter Felipe Massa streaked away from second- placed Lewis Hamilton as the lights went out, and with Kimi Raikkonen holding steady in third, the front end of the race had a familiar ring to it. By lap 13 Massa held a four second lead over Hamilton, with Raikkonen, the fastest man on track at that time, reeling in Hamilton at over half a second a lap to sit just over two seconds from his rear wing. That same lap, Alonso pitted from way down the order. It was a lengthy stop and he emerged dead last. But then, just two laps later, came the race defining moment. While Alonso had looked fast all weekend, his team-mate Nelson Piquet had looked ragged, at times appearing almost as if he was racing on a different track to his team- mate. The Brazilian overcooked his Renault on lap 15, slamming into the barriers backwards and bringing out the Safety Car. The timing for Alonso could not have been better. Nico Rosberg (ninth at the time of Piquet’s crash) and Robert Kubica (fourth) were the unlucky duo to be caught out by the crash. With fuel levels low, they had to stop for fuel in the closed pit-lane window, and despite adopting positions at the front of the pack once most of their rivals had stopped after the pit-lane had opened, knew they would have to suffer a penalty. When racing recommenced on lap E’D been quick all weekend, but nobody seriously believed that Fernando Alonso’s Renault was ever 20, Rosberg held the lead from the non-stopped Trulli and Fisichella, with Kubica fourth and Alonso fifth. The Ferraris, however, were nowhere to be seen. In the haste of the pit-lane opening under the Safety Car, Massa had been released early from his stop, dragging his mechanics to the ground as the fuel hose, which was still attached to his car, broke away from the refuelling rig. In the delay, Raikkonen, who had queued behind the Brazilian, fell to the back. Massa waited for the team to dislodge the fuel hose at the end of the pit-lane, and off he went. His day was to get worse when he was handed a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release, as Kubica and Rosberg were handed 10-second penalties for the timing of their stops. Under racing conditions, however, Rosberg was pulling away from Trulli and Fisichella, and was able to pull out such a gap that he could take his penalty and emerge behind Alonso. When Trulli and Fisi both took their sole stops, the order at the top was Alonso from Rosberg, with Coulthard third ahead of Hamilton. It took him 42 laps, but Hamilton finally figured out that one could pass at Turn 7 with just under a third of the race remaining, and snatched the final podium spot from the Scot. As the pit-stops played out, Coulthard had a similar moment to Massa and almost left with his fuel hose and mechanics attached, dropping him down the order. The action wasn’t done just yet, however, as with just 10 laps remaining, Adrian Sutil’s race was over. Not content with pulling into his path in the pit- lane, Felipe Massa’s self extraction from the wall under the grandstand at Turn 18 distracted the German, who buried himself into the very same barrier. The Safety Car came out for just a few laps, and at the restart there was nothing anyone could do about Alonso. He superbly led home the brilliant Rosberg and a relieved Hamilton for a famous and historic win under the lights. Behind them, Glock held on for a great fourth ahead of Italian GP winner Vettel, Heidfeld, Coulthard and Nakajima. Massa finished 13th while Raikkonen, who could and should have scored for Ferrari, ended his night in the barriers, just three laps from home. 25