2010 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore – 61 Laps
By: Nick Koglin
Even as it is Formula 1’s lone night race, this was by no means a sleeper. There was plenty of pre-race drama and a healthy dose during the race as well.
With 5 races remaining, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber came into this race in the midst of a considerable performance plateau albeit still leading the championship due to consistency. The remainder of the championship contenders include teammate Sebastian Vettel, McLaren’s 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and the fastest driver at the previous race in Italy and two-time World Champion, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. In fifth, last year’s champion and F1 pretty boy, Jenson Button of McLaren is trying to regain some of last years’ fortune.
As far as the Constructors Championship is concerned, the battle is between Red-Bull and McLaren with Ferrari lingering somewhere in the distance. The graphical breakdown of the pre-race standings looks like this:
|1||Mark Webber||187||1||Red Bull-Renault||350|
Also, Singapore marks the return of Nick Heidfeld and Christian Klien to Formula One racing. Heidfeld replaces Pedro de la Rosa at BMW-Sauber and Klien jumps in the HRT chassis formerly occupied by Sakon Yamamoto.
All though Sebastian Vettel absolutely crushed the field in practice, it was Fernando Alonso who once again stole the pole. There was really nothing exceptional to note in qualifying aside from Rubens Barrichello taking his Williams-Cosworth to an exceptional 6th position. For an independent team, each race Williams has seemed to make considerable strides towards attacking the factory-backed teams.
The other notable event qualifying was the failure of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. Several things to note here: One, Singapore has never been kind to Massa, as it likely cost him the 2008 World Championship, a result of the Crashgate Scandal involving Renault. Secondly, team orders and poor luck have resulted in a pretty difficult year for the Brazilian and on top of it all are the rumors of Massa getting replaced at the end of the year, so pressure for him is pretty high.
Massa would start from the back of the grid after replacing his engine for the 9th time this season. (If a driver chooses to replace more then 8 engines in a year, a 10-place grid penalty is instilled on said driver. However, Massa began the race from the back anyways.)
At the start, Alonso took the race straight to Vettel driving him towards the wall. From there, all bets were off as Vettel and Alonso took a dominant lead over Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the field. The start was unusually clean, but Singapore, as with many city circuits, is extremely tight and subsequently it makes passing quite difficult. Needless to say, the safety car wound up its odometer a lot during this race, particularly in the opening stages.
The McLaren team, desperate to gain points in both championships, really looked off pace early on today. Boasting a revised aero package, one rooting for the British team would hope that the supposed increase in downforce would help out in the tight corners of Singapore. Unfortunately for McLaren, the aerodynamicists at Ferrari and Red Bull also brought out the big guns and it showed today.
In the opening laps, Webber pitted as part of a risky strategy. Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld’s return to F1 was short exchanged blows with Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi eventually leading to a retirement. Timo Glock of crazy Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team made a valiant effort to hold off the much faster Niko Hulkenburg, Adrian Sutil, and Felipe Massa but their far superior machinery eventually overran the garage project that is Timo Glock’s car. (Think Monte Blanc vs. Crayola)
Random Notes mid-race:15 laps into the race it became clear that Jenson Button just did not possess the same outright speed that teammate Lewis Hamilton had this weekend. On lap 21, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi took the fight to 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher’s defunct Mercedes; for me the jury is still out regarding Grandpa Schumacher’s return to F1.
Around lap 30 the top ten cars came in for their scheduled pit stops. The biggest loser here was Lewis Hamilton whose McLaren just could not keep the desired pace prior to the pit stop and upon his pit exit, he dropped from 3rd to 8th.
Around this time, the wheels began to come off for the independent teams (literally) as they racked up a good majority of the race’s crashes. However, it was the crash between Webber and Hamilton that certainly became the most significant incidence of the race.
Hamilton escaped uninjured, but his championship position did not fare so well. Webber somehow took no damage miraculously and continued to make the best of his risky early pitstop. At this point, 37 laps in, the race was mostly all decided. In the closing stages, Renault’s Robert Kubica took on fresh tires and made a mad dash from 12th to 7th. Elsewhere on the track, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel kept the final moments of the race tense with a fierce exchange of fastest laps.
In the end though, it was Alonso who secured the Grand Slam (win, pole, fastest lap, most laps led) and due to the retirement of Hamilton on lap 37, moved up considerably in the Championship standings. See table:
|1||Mark Webber||202||1||Red Bull-Renault||383|
Overall, Singapore was an excellent race, providing some enticing storylines, the Hamilton crash in particular. Alonso’s win gave the Spaniard a big boost in the championship standings but it ain’t over yet. Massa’s excellent points finish also helped give Ferrari a boost in the Manufacturer’s Championship, though it is still Red Bull’s to lose. While Hamilton’s crash may have damned his chances of winning the Driver’s Title, with 4 races remaining, nothing is out of the picture. The next race is in Japan at Suzuka, so stay tuned…