The Alternative Review makes a triumphant comeback this week following a two race suspension (you’ll have to ask Derek Warwick about that one), and it’s a cracker this week. In Singapore, we had not one, not two, but three members of the Richland F1 writing team, making for some great banter and – of course – lots of hard work. Oh, and there may have been some racing on track.
Seb’s masterclass leaves our jaws on the floor
Sebastian Vettel has taken many brilliant victories over the years, but his total domination of the Singapore Grand Prix may just have been the best so far. Having opened up a steady gap during his first stint, the safety car looked to tie him back to second placed Nico Rosberg once again, evoking more than one “hallelujah” from the fans and even some of the media in Singapore. What Seb then did was nothing short of extraordinary. Red Bull told him that he needed to build up a twenty-seven second gap to the man in P2 if he was to pit and come out in the lead, although anything greater than fifteen seconds would have kept him close enough to re-pass during his final stint. However, Vettel went even further than that, leading by thirty seconds come his final stop, allowing him to come out with a comfortable lead and then – naturally – push on. To be lapping between one and two seconds per lap faster than the rest of the field for the majority of the grand prix is testament to Vettel’s ability as a racing driver and the brilliance of the Red Bull RB9 car. It was also his third career Grand Slam – pole, fastest lap, win, lead every lap. Having only just hit form at this point last season, a repeat of that form could see him seal the title with plenty of time to spare.
Nando and Kimi use their noggins
Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen looked incapable of finishing on the podium heading into the race on Sunday, yet both drivers produced stellar performances to bounce back and do exactly that. However, on raw pace alone, they would most probably have fallen short as both Mercedes drivers and Mark Webber, although Alonso’s rocket start may have put him in contention for a podium finish come the chequered flag. The safety car came at the right moment for both drivers though, allowing them to pit and take on fresh tyres that would see them through to the end. As the trio of Webber, Hamilton and Rosberg tangle with the other stopping cars, the future Ferrari teammates were safe from the threat, allowing them both – on the face of things – to claim a great result. Alonso’s car has been a pig on the high downforce circuits such as Hungary and Monaco, making P2 in Singapore a welcome result for the Scuderia. Undoubtedly, a cause of great frustration will be the fact that despite racking up a respectable total of 54 points in the last three races, Alonso has come second to the same man – Vettel – every time, meaning that he is 21 points worse-off in the title race than before this run of form. For Raikkonen, the result off the back of, well, a back injury on Saturday that saw him suffer in FP3 and qualifying, lining up thirteenth on the grid. He claimed on the podium that he was in no discomfort during the race, but the Finn will be keen on being fully fit for the Korean Grand Prix next week. His pass on Button around the outside of turn five may well be the best we have seen so far in 2013, evoking a raucous round of applause in the media centre.
Webbo, Nico and Lewis bring some excitement to proceedings
Let’s face it: even with the safety car coming out, there was very little to jump up and down about during the first half of the Singapore Grand Prix. However, after making their second stops, the Webber-Rosberg-Hamilton train certainly spiced things up. The Red Bull driver got the jump on Rosberg in the pits, and set about leading their charge past those who had stopped under the safety car. Gutierrez, Hulkenberg, Perez, Button, Raikkonen and Alonso were all on the ‘hit list’, but the latter two proved to be a step too far. With Singapore being notorious for its lack of overtaking opportunities, the mix of slower cars, older tyres and this charging trio made for some good action in the final few stages. Of course, it all came to a bitter end for Webber after his engine overheated, spewing plumes of smoke along the main straight. The real talking point of the Australian’s weekend was still yet to come though…
Formula One has a knack for being controversial, but this is one of the few incidents that is somewhat quite humorous (well, the aftermath is, not so much the incident itself). Having retired from the race on the final lap, Webber did not fancy the long walk back to the pits. Instead, he ran onto the track and flagged down good friend Fernando Alonso, hitching a lift on the sidepod of the F138 on his way back to the pits. A good show of sportsmanship and help for your fellow competitor, right? Wrong. Soon after the race had ended, the FIA confirmed that both drivers had been reprimanded, prompting puzzled faces from fans and journalists, not to mention the two drivers in question. However, the FIA quickly released the CCTV tape showing the incident, with Alonso’s stoppage forcing two drivers to take evasive action and narrowly missing Lewis Hamilton. Although no-one was hurt, the possibility for an incident was there. However, both drivers were far from amused, taking to Twitter to make their distaste known and proposing a remake of the film ‘Taxi’ starring the pair and directed by Ron Howard. Cheers lads, but we’ll stick with Rush…
Silly season just will not go away
The merry-go-round of driver rumours reached something of a ‘top speed’ in Singapore. It’s crazy to think that twelve months ago, all of the major deals were pretty much done, one of them being Sergio Perez’s move to McLaren as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton. However, rumours in the paddock across the course of the weekend suggested that the Mexican driver could now be at risk for 2014 given the array of drivers available (Nico Hulkenberg being one linked to the seat). Further to that, Heikki Kovalainen is thought to be returning to Caterham full-time next season, with Tony Fernandes confirming in the team principal’s press conference that he knew the identity of one of his drivers in 2014. Otherwise – and despite Joe Saward’s best efforts in that presser – all of the teams are remaining coy, not wishing to give anything away. Don’t worry folks, we should know by FP1 in Australia (Marussia did cut that deadline very fine with Bianchi, mind!).
Richland F1′s Singapore Spectacular
As mentioned, we were lucky enough to have three members of the Richland F1 team in Singapore: yours truly, Trent Price and Abhishek Takle all enjoyed the night race and provided some great work for the site (as well as our other publications), as well as enjoying the delicacies the media centre had to offer: Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, basically. Abhishek was also secretly excited about Justin Bieber’s performance on the Monday after the race, insisting that his extended stay in the country was purely coincidental. In my case, I couldn’t get to the airport quick enough for fear of contracting this ‘Bieber fever’ (nasty stuff, I hear). Joking aside, Singapore is a wonderful country for Formula One to visit, unifying tradition and culture with modernity, and one can hope that it will rightfully remain on the calendar for years to come as the sport’s only night race, cementing a place as a mainstay on the calendar.
“I think this race is worth doing every year just for Justin Bieber and Ben and Jerry’s” – Abhishek
Images copyright of Richland F1, bar the ‘Taxi’ spoof poster, which is courtesy of @alo_oficial.