Ferrari’s pit lane debacle in Singapore provided rivals McLaren with the ideal ammunition on which to trumpet their new status as championship leaders and Lewis Hamilton’s PR were quick to flag up his team’s flawlessness under the Marina Bay lights.
“The race was a good example of team-work, with your first pit stop perfectly timed and the whole team working faultlessly during a number of high-pressure situations,” was the preamble to a question posed to Lewis Hamilton about McLaren’s preparations for Japan on his official website lewishamilton.com
“To be honest, this team has always been rock-solid,” replied Hamilton. “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. I think Singapore showed just what we could do we didn t really put a foot wrong.”
“I ve got to give credit to the engineers and strategists for helping me to save fuel during the first Safety Car period, and the guys in the garage pulled off two perfect pit stops.”
“What more can I ask for? We re just getting stronger and stronger we all want this so much that every race just pulls us closer and closer together.”
Hamilton extended his championship lead to seven points as a result of a Ferrari’s mix up with Felipe Massa’s pit stop, while McLaren have taken the lead of the constructors’ championship for the first time since April.
It will not be lost on fans that Hamilton’s lead over Massa is the advantage he would have maintained had he won his appeal against his Belgian GP penalty in Paris.
Lewis, after almost a week in Singapore, do you feel the team s decision to keep you on European time paid off?
“Yeah, definitely. We felt pretty confident before the race that it was the right thing to do. And both Heikki and I have got such a good team around us people like Aki and Adam and Olli that we knew they d make the right decision for us. At first, it felt a bit weird being wide awake so late at night; you ve just got off an aeroplane, so you re not really sure what time it is anyway, and your bodyclock is trying to tell you to sleep when it s dark, but after a night or two it felt like the most natural thing to do, and it was the most sensible thing to be doing given the times we were driving.â€
As you leave Singapore, what were your over-riding impressions of night racing?
“It s weird, as well as being asked all the time about staying on European time, the question I was most often asked about was racing under lights. But I ve got to admit it s something you don t even notice as a driver. My family was telling me about some onboard footage from my car where you could see my eyes through the visor 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.â€
The race was a good example of team-work, with your first pitstop perfectly timed and the whole team working faultlessly during a number of high-pressure situations.
Is the team now doing anything differently as we head towards the climax of the world championship?
“To be honest, 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. I think Singapore showed just what we could do we didn t really put a foot wrong. I ve got to give credit to the engineers and strategists for helping me to save fuel during the first Safety Car period, and the guys in the garage pulled off two perfect pitstops. What more can I ask for? We re just getting stronger and stronger we all want this so much that every race just pulls us closer and closer together. I can t really describe that feeling of team-work, but it s incredibly strong: it s what keeps us all going.â€
What s next?
“I know some people are taking this opportunity to get some holiday before Japan, but I m just focusing on my normal regime. So I ll be going back home, doing some training, relaxing and just getting ready for Fuji. Nothing unusual. I had some awesome experiences in Japan last year and it s a race that gives me a lot of energy I love the place, a circuit on the side of a mountain sounds crazy but it s one of the best places in the world for a racetrack. Most of all, I love the fans they re some of the most passionate and committed I ve ever met. And I d love them to have a nicer experience than last year when they were drenched for most of the weekend, so it would be good to have some sunshine this time!â€
How will you focus on the world title fight during the next three races?
“Obviously, the six points we got on Sunday were pretty important to our title chances. 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 that we did that in Singapore. We only finished third, but we couldn t really have asked for more from that result I didn t want to risk throwing those points away with any kind of move as you never know what might happen. We also made all the right decisions at the right moments in the race. And the car still feels fantastic to drive. All I can do is take one race at a time while keeping one eye on the final result at the end of the year.â€
Stefano Domencali, team boss at Ferrari, has said that Felipe Massa’s disasterous pit-stop was caused by human error, not technical.
In a pit stop during the Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa was given the green light by his pit release system to leave his pit box. Unfortunately, the refuelling hose was still attached to his car and he had to stop just before the pit exit and wait for it to be detached by his mechanics, effectively losing him the race. After the disastrous first pit-stop, the team reverted back to the more traditional lollipop method to ensure that the second pit stop went more smoothly.
“Unfortunately there was a mistake,â€ Domenicali admitted about the Singapore error. “It was not an electronic system, it was run manually, because normally in that condition when there are a lot of cars coming in that safety car situation.
“It is better to have like a lollipop but instead of a lollipop you control the green light and unfortunately there was a mistake.
“We will analyse what we did in the other pit stop because it was a tense moment. Again a guy was knocked down. He’s OK, no problem at all, but it’s a very tense moment.
“So we preferred not to use [the electronic system] for the other pit stop because we wanted to give a sign of less tension because it’s a system that is trying to give as good performance as possible. That’s the reason why we didn’t use it for the others.”
Both Massa and Domenicali have both said that the issue was a human error, not a technical one, and that it could have happened with either system.
“When you see a green light to go, that means that you have to go,â€ Domenicali continued. “It doesn’t matter. The green was on because he had to go. If we didn’t have the traffic light, we would have had the lollipop up. In that respect it didn’t change the specific scenario that we have today.”
“It was not a technical failure but a human one,â€ Massa explained. “The same thing can happen with any system. Of course we could return to using a lollipop, but today s problem was not about this. These things happen. We are all human and we can all make mistakes.â€
Singapore race stewards have rejected an appeal by Toyota against Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel. The Toyota team had complained that during one of their pit stops, Vettel had been released dangerously into the path of Timo Glock.
Race stewards examined footage of the incident and questioned both drivers over the event and decided that no action needed to be taken.
The decision means that with three races left on the 2008 calendar, Toyota are 15 points ahead of Toro Rosso.
Ferrari have confirmed that they will be retaining the services of both test drivers Marc Gene and Luca Badoer for another season.
Badoer, who holds the dubious honour of being the driver who has competed in the most number of Formula One races (48) without scoring a single point, has been with the Ferrari team since 1997.
Gene has been with Ferrari since 2004 as a test driver having spend the previous few seasons as a Williams test driver. A limit on the F1 testing has limited the amount of testing he can do and he now also races for Peugeot in some of their Le Mans efforts.
Ferrari own goal in Singapore puts McLaren in the driving seat for title
Ferrari were left to lick their wounds in Singapore after a bungled pit stop and a mistake from Kimi Raikkonen sent the Scuderia into meltdown and left rivals McLaren in command of both championships for the first time since April.
Once again it was the Italian team’s electronic pit release system that did the damage when Felipe Massa pitted after the first safety car period.
Ferrari triggered the green light before the fuel hose had been detached and not only was Massa released straight into the path of another car, as he had been in Valencia earlier this year, but he also carried the fuel hose down the pit lane and was forced to wait at the pit exit while it was detached.
“At the pit stop, one of the guys made a mistake,” said Massa. “But we are only human. Each one of us always tries to do our best and these things can happen.”
A drive through penalty for Massa’s “unsafe release” sealed the Brazilian’s fate and he trailed home thirteenth, while Kimi Raikkonen threw his car into the wall for the second time in the space of three races trying to make up ground in the closing stages.
“I was trying to attack Glock in case he might make a mistake,” he said, “but I went slightly wide at the chicane, jumping over the kerb and when the car landed, I lost control and ended up in the barriers.”
The result catapults rivals McLaren into the lead of the constructors’ championship for the first time since April with the Woking squad leading Ferrari by a single point with three races remaining. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile leads Massa by seven points having stayed out of trouble to finish third.
“A black day, there’s little else to say,” rued team principal Stefano Domenicali. “We had the potential to finish first and second but we didn’t even pick up a point. We are very disappointed but that doesn’t mean we are downtrodden.”
“We have always shown our ability to react, especially at the most difficult times and we will do it again this time. The situation in the two championships has become more complicated but there are still three races to go and a lot of points up for grabs.”
McLaren’s Ron Dennis admitted that they asked Lewis Hamilton to nurse his McLaren home in the points once it was clear Ferrari had dropped out of contention.
“In the last few laps, having seen Kimi’s accident, we advised Lewis not to attempt to overtake Nico but instead to settle for third place and the seven-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship that the resulting six points netted him,” the 61-year-old explained.
“The race was a hugely successful event, and we’re delighted to have emerged from it with the lead in both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championships.”
Ferrari team manager Luca Baldisserri was under no allusions that the Italian squad had missed a great opportunity to seize the initiative in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship having shown strong race pace all weekend.
“We could have made a significant step forward in both championships but we ended up going backwards,” he said.
“Now we must roll up our sleeves and prepare as well as possible for the coming races. There is still plenty of time to recover but there is no more room for error.”
Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley admits that Ferrari were at fault for the Brazilian’s pit lane disaster in Singapore.
Massa’s hopes of winning the historic Marina bay race were dashed when Ferrari’s controversial pit-release system gave him the green light to leave his pit box before the refuelling hose had been detached.
The Ferrari driver carried the hose down the pitlane, much to the delight of the McLaren crew, before stopping at the pit exit and waiting for it to be detached by his mechanics.
“When he came in, we had a problem with the fuel rig,” Smedley explained to German broadcaster Premiere. “He saw the green light and he correctly left the pit box, but it shouldn’t have been a green light, so it was a failure of the team and not of him.”
“Unfortunately, it’s just one of them things, everything always happens at the worst possible time, that’s why you’ve just got to be 100 percent waterproof with all your reliability and today we weren’t.”
“Today we were useless,” he added.
The incident was almost identical to Ferrari’s pit lane faux-pas in Valencia, only this time the stewards were less sympathetic and docked Massa with a drive through penalty on the grounds that it had been an “unsafe” release.
Game over. The Brazilian was dropped to the rear of the field and a spin at Turn 18 with ten laps to go sealed his fate.
“It was a very difficult race,” added Smedley. “As we predicted yesterday, it was going to be very difficult, the inaugural Grand Prix at a new circuit, a street circuit. And for us it was more than difficult, it was a nightmare!”
“We had a safety car in exactly the wrong point, but Lewis had it as well, we predicted correctly that he was coming in on the same lap as us, so I mean it shows our pace yesterday in the race, and it shows how fast we were able to pull away from him, so we were a lot quicker here with Felipe.”
Massa was philosophical about the incident: “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.”
“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 today. At the pit stop, one of the guys made a mistake. But we are only human.”
“Each one of us always tries to do our best and these things can happen. With the Safety Car still on track, I didn t lose a lap, but then I got a drive-through and later I also picked up a puncture in the left rear.”
Ferrari’s pitlane debacle also dashed Raikkonen’s Singaporean hopes. The Finn had been forced to queue behind Massa in the pits and bore the brunt of Ferrari’s bungle as much as the Brazilian himself.
Unlike Massa though, Raikkonen recovered to fifth and was sitting pretty when the safety car re-remerged in the closing stages. That was until he dropped his Ferrari into the wall with only four laps remaining.
“I was trying to attack Glock in case he might make a mistake, but I went slightly wide at the chicane, jumping over the kerb and when the car landed, I lost control and ended up in the barriers,” explained the Finn.
“My situation in the championship was already rather compromised, so this doesn t really make that much difference but I am unhappy because the team has lost precious points in the Constructors classification.”
Zero points for Ferrari and advantage McLaren in the constructors’ championship for the first time this season.
“A black day, there s little else to say,” said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. “We had the potential to finish first and second but we didn t even pick up a point.”
“We are very disappointed but that doesn t mean we are downtrodden. We have always shown our ability to react, especially at the most difficult times and we will do it again this time.”
“The situation in the two championships has become more complicated but there are still three races to go and a lot of points up for grabs.”
Fernando Alonso P1
“This is a fantastic result 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.
Wining a Grand Prix here just seemed to be impossible because we missed our chance yesterday in qualifying, but we were very fortunate today 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.”
Nelson Piquet DNF
“From the start of the race things were complicated and I had a lot of graining and the situation got worse and worse. The team asked me to push, which I tried to do and finally I lost the rear of my car. I hit the wall heavily but I’m ok. I am disappointed with my race but obviously very happy for the team this evening.”
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director ING Renault F1 Team
“This is an amazing victory for Renault and for Fernando. Since Friday we knew that the car was very competitive and we were very disappointed at the end of qualifying. Today the car was extremely quick, stronger than the Ferrari and McLaren, and although we had some luck when the safety car came out, we deserved this victory. It’s a very important result for Renault after two difficult seasons and helps us prepare for 2009 in the best way possible.”
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering
“I think the luck we had in the early part of the race was nearly a cancellation of the bad luck we had yesterday. The car has proven itself and so has Fernando. The whole result is a tribute to the team and this wonderful circuit is a tribute to Singapore!”
“A positive end to a difficult weekend at this fantastic new venue. I started well, but then my rear tyres faded and, although we had good pace, I wasn t in a position to challenge Felipe ahead of me.
During my first pit stop I lost a bit of time because everybody came in due to the Safety Car period. After that I was unfortunately stuck behind David and although I was clearly faster it was really difficult to overtake him. After the second re-start, I tried to stay as close as possible behind Nico; however, I didn’t want to take chances – particularly as the Ferraris were outside the points. Also, this is not a track where overtaking is easy. The first night race in Formula 1 history was great fun, and I now look forward to the forthcoming double-header in Japan and China.”
” I made a good start and was going to pass Kubica round the outside at the first two corners. Unfortunately he touched me and almost spun me around. My underfloor was slightly damaged as a result. I lost momentum and two cars overtook me. When the Safety Car came out and the pitlane was opened a couple of laps later, Lewis and I came in and I had to wait behind him until it was my turn. It then was a strange race and most of the time I was in traffic with no overtaking chances. Halfway through the race I had brake problems and had to conserve them until the finish. I m happy for Lewis and the team now that he has extended the championship lead and we are on top of the Constructors rankings. I will now go for it in the next races and help to make sure that we stay ahead in both championships.”
“Today’s race was a very exciting one, full of incidents, triggering Safety Car interventions that had a significant influence on the final outcome. In the last few laps, having seen Kimi’s accident, we advised Lewis not to attempt to overtake Nico but instead to settle for third place and the seven-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship that the resulting six points netted him. Heikki’s race was spoiled by having to queue in the pits. Overall, then, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix was a hugely successful event, and we’re delighted to have emerged from it with the lead in both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championships.”
“A great Formula 1 premiere at night. Lewis extended his championship lead with third place which is a good result. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes leads now in the Constructors’ rankings as well which is also not bad. Thank you to the organisers and Bernie and his team for their efforts – this spectacular event will create a big response.”
After venting his frustration in qualifying when a fuel problem dropped him out of the running, Fernando Alonso struggled to conceal his delight on Sunday after storming to victory in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix.
The Spaniard, who qualified fifteenth and opted for a short first stint, was vaulted into the lead when his team-mate Nelson Piquet crashed into the wall on lap 15, bringing out the safety car.
That forced the rest of the field to pit for fuel once the safety car peeled off, which gifted Alonso the race lead.
Alonso had demonstrated strong race pace all weekend and no problem maintaining his advantage and taking his twentieth grand prix victory and his first in over a year.
“Fantastic,” the double world champion enthused after the race. “First podium of the season and the first victory. I’m extremely happy, I can’t believe it.”
“I think I need a couple of races to realise that we won a race; it seems impossible. Here we’ve been competitive, we had bad luck in qualifying, but great luck in the race. The safety car helped me a lot and I was able to win the race.”
“We chose to do a very short first stint, recognising that in fifteenth place you can’t overtake.”
“So we tried something very different: very short first sting and try to make as many positions at the start, and we would see from there. It was very lucky. The pace was there all through the race and we were always able to pull out a gap to the cars behind us.”