Singapore GP – A counter attacking podium
Nineteen points in the bag for Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the Singapore Grand Prix, thanks to a third place for Fernando Alonso and an eighth for Felipe Massa. It was a very hard race, featuring two Safety Car periods and very taxing climatic conditions.An eighth podium of the season means Fernando keeps the lead in the Drivers’ championship, although his advantage over his closest pursuer has come down to 29 points. The Spaniard started on the Supersofts he had used in qualifying, before stopping twice, both times fitting the Softs. Felipe had to make an unplanned pit stop right on the first lap because of a puncture to the left rear tyre, picked up in the scramble at the start. Once on the Softs, the Brazilian was much quicker and produced a great comeback which brought him up to eighth at the flag. Felipe stays tenth in the Drivers’ table and the Scuderia is still third in the Constructors’.
Stefano Domenicali: “It was a very difficult weekend, but the final outcome can be regarded as positive. It’s true that Fernando’s lead over the next man has been reduced, but it’s also true the Spaniard has made up points on three of his four closest rivals. As for the Constructors’, the situation is pretty much the same as before: the leader is a bit further away but second place is a tiny bit nearer. Performance today was definitely better than we had seen in qualifying, also in terms of tyre behaviour. We were rather unlucky: but for the puncture on the opening lap, Felipe would certainly have finished higher up the order and the first Safety Car period definitely wasn’t propitious. There are six Grands Prix to go to the end of the season and clearly, we need to make a step forward in terms of performance, because we cannot rely purely on the misfortune of others. Where we need to improve a lot is on circuits that require maximum aerodynamic downforce. Having said that, we mustn’t over react as it’s better to bring a few updates that work rather than bringing too many. This is the area where we need to improve and it will be one of our priorities in the coming days. The other, which is as always the number one priority, will be reliability: the further on the championship goes, the higher the price you pay for the slightest error.”
Fernando Alonso: “In the end it went well, but we definitely can’t go on like this. It can’t always be the case that my closest rival retires, as has happened in the last two races and we can’t think of carrying on to the end of the season with qualifying sessions like yesterday’s, when our performance was almost a second off the best. On track we manage to make the most of what we have, making few or no mistakes, thanks to great work from the team: for that alone we deserve to be where we are in the classification. Today, we pulled out an advantage over three of our four main competitors, which is positive. Probably this has been the most difficult circuit for us: we will find partially similar characteristics in Korea and Abu Dhabi, but I hope that by the time we get there, we will have found a way of improving the car. The start was definitely not one of my best of the season, but luckily I managed to take back my position from Di Resta immediately. At my first pit stop I immediately ran into traffic, but I had felt the tyres were beginning to degrade too much, so we opted to pit. On the Softs, we were more competitive, but then, after the second stop, the Safety Car came out, which favoured Button and Vettel. Just before the restart, the two leaders nearly collided and I lost a few metres because I was changing settings on the steering wheel. At that point, we didn’t know yet whether we would need to stop again, but when the second neutralisation came and some drivers pitted, then we decided to stay out, even if we weren’t sure if we would suffer with tyre degradation in the final stages, but that wasn’t the case and we made it comfortably to the podium. It was a very tough race physically, definitely the most tiring of the whole season: three hundred odd kilometres in this heat and such high humidity is very stressful.”
Felipe Massa: “That was a very tough and difficult race. There’s regret for what happened at the first corner, because without the puncture, I could certainly have finished a lot closer to Fernando, which would have been important for both championships. Once I had pitted, there was not much to work out: the aim was to try and make the tyres last as long as possible, while at the same time, going as quickly as possible. Luckily, the two Safety Cars brought the pack together again, but it’s also true that I would never have thought of doing such a long stint as my last one on the Supersofts. The performance of the 2012 today was definitely very different to what we had seen on the two previous days: it seemed like I was driving a different car! Even at the end, I tried to push to make up some places and it was only in the last two laps that I switched to thinking about just bringing the car home, given that the tyres were practically gone. The move on Senna? I think the rules are very clear and one just has to respect them: I was already alongside him and he had to leave me room, but instead he squeezed me into the wall. McLaren and Red Bull are very strong, but I think that today’s result is not so bad for the team: Fernando has managed to bring home a good points haul. Of course we must improve our performance, especially in qualifying.”
Pat Fry: “Looking at our performance overall, we cannot be happy with it compared to that of our main competitors, because there is no point denying we were expecting better. Having said that, we saw that, even in difficult conditions, we managed to get the most out of our package, doing the best possible job on track – both Fernando and Felipe did very well – and in the garage and the pit wall. Race performance was better than what we had seen yesterday and we must calmly analyse all the data to understand how we can bring the sort of performance we see in the race into play in qualifying too. As far as the strategy is concerned, I think we made the right choices. At the second stop, we could not have gone longer with Fernando, because tyre degradation was getting too high. Unfortunately, the Spaniard came out behind a group of slower cars, but there was nothing else we could have done. The first Safety Car period was helpful for those who had yet to stop at that point, but at the same time, it also gave Fernando the possibility of running to the finish without stopping again, which was definitely positive. As for Felipe, bad luck immediately affected his race, but then he did a really good job of remedying the situation, proving to be very quick on the Soft as well as the Supersoft. I have to say his final stint was particularly good: 26 laps on the Option, with overtaking moves and a very aggressive drive was a very nice surprise. We need to study carefully the way this weekend went to understand how to improve our performance level for the coming races. We don’t have the quickest car, especially on this type of circuit and it’s down to us to try and give our drivers what they need to fight our strongest opponents on level terms.”
Weather: air 32/31°C, track 35/33 °C.
Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294
Singapore GP – Alonso relentless as Massa thrills
Marina Bay, 23 September – In some ways, the fourteenth round of the World Championship went according to plan: yesterday the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa said they were aiming for the podium and points respectively and that’s what happened with the Spaniard third and the Brazilian eighth. A tough race was expected and so it proved, with night time doing little to diminish the heat and humidity and, also as expected, the Safety Car played its part. While Fernando had some luck with Hamilton retirning, Felipe did it the hard way from the back of the pack.
The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and he was flanked on the podium by Jenson Button for McLaren in second spot, as well as Fernando. Today’s winner now takes his turn as the Spaniard’s closest rival in the Drivers’ championship and the gap is down from 37 to 29 points. In the Constructors’, the Scuderia has inched a bit closer to second placed McLaren, but the Red Bull is now 53 points clear of the Red Prancing Horse.
After a minute’s silence on the grid for Professor Sid Watkins, the doctor who did so much for safety in motor sport and who died last week aged 84, it was time for business for the next two hours, under the floodlights at Marina Bay.
Fernando obviously started on the Supersoft Pirelli as he qualified in the top ten and Felipe had made the same choice for the opening stint of the race. While Fernando maintained his fifth place, Felipe got caught up in a melee and dropped to 21st. Hamilton led from pole, while Vettel and Button both got past Maldonaldo. The Brazilian limped into the pits at the end of lap 1 with a left rear puncture, after which he rejoined at the back of the field. Fernando did not get the best of starts and had to reclaim his place off Di Resta in the Force India at the start and by the end of lap 2, he was already 7 seconds behind leader Hamilton. At the front, Hamilton and Vettel were separated by 1.4s, but then there was a gap of almost four seconds to third placed Button.
Lap 5 saw Felipe set the fastest lap time so far, as the Brazilian fought to get back in the race. The first run of pit stops was initiated by Mark Webber in the Red Bull, coming in on lap 8 and fitting the Soft tyres, but coming out in 20th place. Team-mate Vettel came in two laps later, rejoining 12th, promoting Fernando to fourth. Fernando made his stop on lap 11, fitting the Soft compound Pirellis, which put him back out in P12. The leader Hamilton was complaining of a problem with his right rear and pitted on lap 12, which put Button in the other McLaren in the lead. Di Resta and Rosberg were other top ten runners who changed tyres at this time. Lap 13 saw Maldonaldo bring the Williams in from second spot, while Raikkonen pitted the Lotus from ninth. Button pitted his McLaren from the lead on lap 14, followed in by Grosjean in the other Lotus. Fernando was now eighth, right on the gearbox of Perez’s Sauber and going into Turn 14, the Ferrari man got past. At this stage, Hulkenberg and Perez were the only two front runners not to have stopped for fresh rubber and the next few laps would hold the key to how the two stoppers and three stoppers were going to fare against one another.
Lap 15 and the order was Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Maldonaldo, Hulkenberg, Fernando now sixth, Perez, Di Resta, Webber and Rosberg completing the top ten. Felipe was now twentieth. It didn’t take long for the Spanish Ferrari man to get past the German Force India driver, but there was a big 5.2 second gap to fourth placed Maldonaldo. Felipe made his second pit stop on lap 19. Lap 20 and Fernando had got to within 4 seconds of the Venezuelan Williams driver and the Ferrari man was lapping faster than the race leader, gradually reeling in the Williams and was only 11 seconds off first placed Hamilton, as Felipe set another fastest race lap on lap 21. The Brazilian was flying! Hamilton had looked dominant until he coasted to a halt on lap 22 with no gears, so that the top three now read, Vettel, Button and Maldonaldo, with Fernando just off the virtual podium.
Webber resumed the run of pit stops, fitting the Supersoft on lap 28. Next lap and Maldonaldo and Fernando pitted nose to tail and came out in the same order, but sixth and seventh, as Di Resta, Rosberg and Grosjean all moved ahead of the battling duo and, as the race reached half distance, it looked as though it might hit its two hour legal limit before all 61 laps were completed, even if the Safety Car had not been needed so far. As they ran into heavy traffic, the Ferrari man closed right up to the Williams. Lap 33 and Fernando pulled alongside Maldonaldo a couple of times, but could not squeeze past.
It was at this point that Karthikeyan hit the wall bringing out the Safety Car, Vettel, Button and Di Resta all came in to pit, followed by Rosberg, Grosjean, Maldonaldo, with Fernando now moving up to third having pitted before the SC. Maldonaldo had to retire in the garage. Massa also came in. The Safety Car let the field go at the start of lap 38 and Button almost drove into the back of race leader Vettel and a couple of laps later the Safety Car came out again, as Schumacher piled his Mercedes into the back of eighth placed Vergne in the Toro Rosso, causing both cars to retire. Felipe was working his way up the field with some consistently quick laps and impressive passing moves. The one on Bruno Senna stands out, as Felipe seemed to bounce his F2012 off the wall and then the Williams, arriving at Turn 13 ahead of his fellow countryman, even if the Ferrari was completely sideways!
From then on the order did not change significantly and, as expected with two appearances from the Safety Car, the two hour limit meant that Sebastian Vettel was shown the chequered flag after 59 of the planned 61 laps. In between Fernando on the podium and Felipe in eighth, came Di Resta fourth for Force India, then Rosberg (Mercedes) and Raikkonen and Grosjean for Lotus. Behind the Brazilian the last two points places were filled by Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) and Webber (Red Bull.)
Singapore GP – Alonso on podium to consolidate championship challenge, Massa’s amazing comeback
Marina Bay, 23 September – A demanding, exciting and very positive race for Scuderia Ferrari, at the end of which both drivers were in the points, with Fernando Alonso third on the podium and Felipe Massa eighth, after having to fight his way back from last. The win went to Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, with Jenson Button second for McLaren. The Drivers’ classification looks good for Fernando, who now has a decent 29 point lead over now second placed Vettel, after Lewis Hamilton retired with a technical problem. Scuderia Ferrari is still third in the Constructors’.
The Safety Car as always here, played its part, coming out on lap 33 when Karthikeyan put his HRT into the wall and the second time, almost immediately after the first period had ended, after Schumacher’s Mercedes collided with Vergne’s Toro Rosso.
After the start, Alonso had to retake his starting place off Di Resta in the Force India and once Hamilton was out, the podium beckoned, especially after Maldonaldo had to retire his Williams, also with technical problems, thus handing third to the Spaniard, who thus finished his race in fine style.
Massa was very unlucky at the start, suffering a puncture after a coming together in the first lap melee. He dropped right to the back after his pit stop but then showed great consistency and pulled off some daring passing moves, especially on fellow countryman Senna in the Williams, thus ending a great show with a points finish.
The championship continues in two weeks time at the legendary Suzuka circuit in Japan.