Singapore, 22 September – Many believe Fernando Alonso is being fanciful when he says the Drivers’ championship is not decided yet. However, one has to admire his determination after tonight’s incredible drive to second place under the spotlights at Marina Bay. Felipe Massa also delivered a strong performance, taking the chequered flag in the same sixth place from which he started the race. Fernando’s race featured two tyre changes, the Brazilian’s three. The Spanish Ferrari driver also talked about being realistic earlier this weekend and sure enough, the need for realism took its usual form, as Sebastian Vettel was simply on a different planet taking another well-deserved victory for Red Bull. Joining them on the podium, having struggled with back pain for much of the weekend, was Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.
As the lights went out, Rosberg briefly passed Vettel but the pole man got it back at the first chicane, while Fernando made a blistering start to go third at the first corner, by just driving along the wall, ahead of Grosjean and Webber and that was the move on which his second place was built. Felipe maintained his sixth place grid position, after briefly ceding it to Hamilton’s Mercedes. By this time leader Vettel in the Red Bull had already built up a gap of over 4 seconds to second placed Rosberg in the Mercedes. Fernando was 1.2s behind the German.
The gaps grew bigger so that by lap 4, Vettel led Rosberg by 6.2, with Fernando 2.2 behind and 1.2 ahead of Webber in the other Red Bull. Grosjean’s Lotus was under a second behind the Australian, with Felipe exactly 1.0 behind the Frenchman, with a 0.8 cushion over Hamilton in the Mercedes. The rest of the top ten was made up of Button, Hulkenberg and Perez. Raikkonen brought his Lotus down pit lane to start the first run of changes, rejoining with another set of Supersofts. Lap 11 saw Fernando put in a fastest race lap. Several cars at the lower end of the order came in for tyres on that same lap. Felipe made his first stop, fitting the harder tyre on lap 12, dropping to 13th.
Webber, Button and Hulkenberg all pitted on lap 13, the Australian taking on Mediums. Fernando came in next time round, also fitting the Medium tyre, dropping to sixth behind Di Resta’ Force India. Rosberg came in from second on lap 15, as did Grosjean and the German’s team-mate Hamilton. With Vettel yet to pit, the order behind him was Rosberg, Di Resta, also on zero stops, with Fernando fourth, right on the Scotsman’s gearbox, losing precious time to the two leaders. Vettel changed to the Mediums on lap 17, keeing the lead, while Fernando was still trying all he could to pass Di Resta, the only driver not to have pitted at this stage.
Finally, on lap 20 of the 61 lap race, Fernando had some clean air ahead of him as Di Resta came down pit lane and the Ferrari man set about cutting back the 7.5s gap to second placed Rosberg. The Spaniard trailed the leader by over 16 seconds, while Felipe was seventh, 3.4 behind Hamilton and 1.5 ahead of Button. The race was settling into a pattern until lap 24 when Ricciardo crashed the Toro Rosso into the barriers which brought out the most familiar site at the Marina Bay Circuit, the Safety Car. Fernando, Felipe, Grosjean, Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg and Gutierez and Maldonado all dived into the pits to take advantage of the race being neutralised. Fernando was now on another set of Mediums, but Felipe returned to the Supersofts. The Spaniard rejoined in fifth place behind the Safety Car, the highest runner to have made a second tyre change at this point, with Felipe eighth. In fact, the SC helped Fernando a little bit, as it cancelled out much of the time lost behind the Force India.
The race was live again on lap 30 and it was a repeat of the opening scenario, with Vettel immediately pulling out a lead of over 3 seconds on Rosberg, with the rest of the field tightly packed behind the Mercedes, in the order, Webber, Hamilton, Fernando in fifth, Grosjean, Di Resta, with Felipe eighth, now held up by the Force India and Button and Raikkonen completing the top ten. Grosjean had a long pit stop with a technical issue on lap 33. He then pitted again to retire, which promoted Felipe to sixth. Webber and Sutil made their second stops on lap 40, so Fernando was now fourth. Next time round Rosberg changed tyres, so Fernando was back in a podium position again, with 20 laps remaining.
Felipe and Di Resta came in together on lap 42, the Brazilian dropping to twelfth. Lap 43 and Hamilton switched to another set of Mediums, so that Fernando was now second, half a minute behind Vettel on older Primes, but the German brought the Red Bull in on lap 44 for a final change, with enough of a margin over the Ferrari man to maintain his lead. Lap 54 saw Raikkonen pass Button to secure a trip to the bottom step of the podium. At this point Felipe was ninth, but with Di Resta crashing out, the McLarens spiralling down the order and Webber’s car expiring, the last handful of laps meant Felipe was back where he started in sixth to give a welcome boost to the Scuderia’s points fund.
In an amusing post-race moment, Fernando was not alone when he returned to parc ferme on his slowing down lap, as he stopped to give Webber a lift home, the Australian perched on the side pod of the F138! Now there’s a two week break until Korea – Japan, the first of three sets of back-to-back races.