F1 Singapore GP: Where The Streets Have No Name

Back in Germany, people were ready to have Ferrari thrown out of the sport for using team orders to get Fernando Alonso the win. After Alonso picked up his season win in as many races, it suddenly seems like a great idea. With his second win in the Singapore Grand Prix, the Spaniard vaulted himself right into the thick of the championship fight. Thanks to a clash between Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, the title chase is wide-open again.

It was a grand slam day for Alonso. He started the race from the pole, led all the laps, has the fastest lap and won the race to have a perfect day in Singapore. It wasn’t an easy day for the double-World Champion, though. He was pushed by Sebastian Vettel the whole way and dodged a pair of bullets thrown at him by a pair of safety car periods that bunched the field and encouraged some alternate pit strategies. But nothing could stop him from taking his third-straight podium at Singapore and the least controversial of his two wins in F1’s night race.

Farther back in the field, things were a bit more controversial. After the first restart, Lewis Hamilton was able to get the jump on championship rival Mark Webber. Coming out of one of the turns, Hamilton was able to get a run that allowed him to pull half a car length on the outside of the Aussie into the next turn. However, the Aussie ran deep into the turn and the pair collided. Hamilton’s left-rear suspension was broken in the collision while the Red Bull moved on unharmed. It was just one of those racing deals but it was the second race in a row where Hamilton was involved in one of those racing deals.

With Hamilton’s retirement, Alonso’s win and the rest of the championship frontrunners finishing in the top four, we’ve had another shakeup in the World Drivers’ Championship standings.

  1. Mark Webber 202 pts.
  2. Fernando Alonso 191 pts.
  3. Lewis Hamilton 182 pts.
  4. Sebastian Vettel 181 pts.
  5. Jenson Button 177 pts.

Two weeks ago, it looked like a straight fight between Webber and Hamilton. Well, it was the straight fight between the two that has allowed another driver back into the fray. Alonso appears to be in great shape heading into the final four races. After all, he’s the hottest driver on the grid right now. However, it’s important to remember that the top five are all within a race of each other thanks to the new 25 point wins.


Perhaps the most disappointing part of the race was the weather. Friday and Saturday morning saw heavy showers that kept the drivers on their toes as the track took its time to dry out. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the first wet night race on Sunday. The weather cooperated for the third straight year despite continuing fears that Singapore’s usual heavy rains would interfere with the Grand Prix. Maybe next year.


And the best part of the race might just be the stewards decision to not penalize Mark Webber for the collision between him and Hamilton. The Red Bulls used to have a reputation for being brittle because Adrian Newey built the car to be as light and aerodynamic as possible. Turns out that he’s built a car that is infinitely tougher than what McLaren brings to the track.


Since so much of Singapore’s grand prix history seems to revolve around Renault, I feel obligated to mention the rumours surrounding their second seat in 2011. It looks to be a two-horse race between incumbant Vitaly Petrov and former World Drivers’ Champion Kimi Raikkonen.

This seems to be a case of whether Renault would be better off with a driver with a low salary that has brought in sponsors or a high salary driver that has all the talent in the world but may not bring in enough sponsorship to offset his salary. Petrov hasn’t matched Kubica’s pace this season which is something that the Kimster would have an easier go of. This year’s Renault chassis is easily the fourth fastest chassis of 2010 behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. If Raikkonen had taken a gamble on joining Renault instead of a Citroen rally team, there would be a chance that Renault would be challenging Mercedes for the fourth spot in the Constructors’ Championship.

The decision at Renault could come down to who would be a better fit with Robert Kubica. He’s partnered with Nick Heidfeld who was supposed to be a #1 driver at BMW-Sauber and bested him. The question becomes how Kubica would handle being a #1 driver with a #1a driver in the other car as opposed to a certified #2.

Oh, who am I kidding? It’s all about the money. Renault is rumoured to be tight on funds. Either the factory has to buy back into the team to inject some capital or they’re going to have to sign Petrov for the sake of their bank account.


In other silly season news, it looks like Force India will promote test driver Paul di Resta to a race seat in 2011. Who he will replace is up in the air. Vitantonio Liuzzi has been off of Adrian Sutil’s pace for most of the season and would be the driver that di Resta would be expected to replace. However, Adrian Sutil has been linked with drives at Mercedes and Renault next season. It seems unlikely that Mercedes would let the promising German driver switch to a rival manufacturer so I would think that Sutil will play out the string at Force India before a switch to Mercedes GP.


In just silly news, kudos to Heikki Kovalainen today. Sure, he was outqualified by Timo Glock this weekend but had a much more spectacular finish. Kovalainen’s Lotus-Cosworth had a firey engine failure with just a couple laughs to go. He was going to pull into the pits but decided against bringing a fire where there was flammable race fuel. So he parked on the front straight. The only problem was that there weren’t any fire marshalls nearby. Instead, he got a fire extinguisher from one of the pit crews on the other side of the pit wall and put out the fire. I guess Heikki is one cool driver.


The next round of the World Championship brings us Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. This year could prove to be interesting at Suzuka. It’s a very fast, technical track but now that cars will be filled to the brim with fuel to start the race, the game will have changed. We’re used to cars screaming through the 130R at full throttle but can they on a full tank of fuel?

I would say that this track favours (stop me if you’ve heard this before) McLaren and Red Bull. This track reminds me of Istanbul with less Tilke and more turns. Okay, it’s not quite the same but it’s better than saying “It’s like the new US GP circuit without elevation change” when they haven’t even built that circuit. Anyway, the top two teams in the championship were tightly bunched at Turkey and I would expect something similar in two weeks. Sebastian Vettel won last  year’s race and would consider him the odds on favourite if Webber wasn’t ahead of him in the championship. Similarly for McLaren, this track is more of a Lewis track than a Jenson track. It looks like the dreaded team orders may factor into where folks finish in Japan.


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