This article is hilarious man! I love the sarcasm…
Panic at the pumps for Ferrari and Felipe Massa adds fuel to Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of glory
Edward Gorman, Motor Racing Correspondent, Singapore
Apart from the floodlights, the burning blue exhausts, the sparks ricocheting off the tarmac, the breathtaking setting and the buzz of excitement as Formula One entered the brave new world of night racing, the enduring imagery of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was the Keystone Cops pantomime put on by Ferrari.
In the days before seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher started his residency in Maranello in the late 1990s, the Scuderia had a reputation for pitlane comedy routines with mechanics standing around shouting and pointing at each other while cars stood in various states of undress in the pit box. With Schumacher gone and several of his key lieutenants also having moved on – among them Nigel Stepney, the disgraced former chief mechanic and discipline enforcer – it seems the old days are back.
In Singapore yesterday the team sabotaged the race of Felipe Massa, their championship contender, who had driven sublimely in qualifying on Saturday to secure pole by a country mile from Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren Mercedes. The ever-underestimated Massa produced one of the best launches of his career to streak away from Hamilton at the start and drove faultlessly in punishing heat and humidity before a safety car interruption on lap 15. This followed a heavy crash into the wall for Nelson Piquet Jr, the hapless Renualt rookie, which was to prove the key moment of the evening and which handed Fernando Alonso, Piquet’s team-mate, an unlikely race win from fifteenth on the grid.
As soon as the pitlane reopened during the safety-car period, ten drivers thirsty for fuel headed for the pits with Ferrari doing a “double-shuffle”. Massa was first and then came his team-mate, the reigning world champion and Ferrari “No2” this season, Kimi Raikkonen. The Italian team are alone on the grid in using an automated traffic light system suspended from a gantry and linked to the operation of the fuel hose, to release their drivers from pitstops, instead of a traditional lollipop. On this occasion, because of the number of cars in the pits, they chose to override the system manually but the mechanic with his finger on the button pushed it too early.
There then followed a dangerous comedy of errors as Massa drove away. His car ripped the fuel hose out of the re-supply tank, flipped the mechanic over who was operating it, almost collided with a passing Adrian Sutil in the Force India, before coming to a stop at the far end of the pitlane. After refuelling Raikkonen with the spare hose, eight mechanics then began running down the pitlane to try to save what was left of Massa’s race. When they got to his car it took them at least another 1 minutes to pull the fuel hose out as the Brazilian sat cursing his luck with his visor up and his race run.
Afterwards an embarrassed Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, admitted that he is going to review the use of the lights after the latest in a series of pitlane disasters, among them the unsafe release of Massa at Valencia and an early attempt to leave the box by Raikkonen at the same race. However, there were signs last night that if the Scuderia do not get rid of the system, the FIA, the sport’s governing body will do it for them and ban it on safety grounds. As one source put it: “Either it works or it doesn’t” – heavily implying the latter.
The race turned with the safety car, which, through its always dramatic and often plainly unfair effect on track position, came as manna from heaven for Alonso who had pitted early after a light first stint. It also assisted David Coulthard in the Red Bull who, together with Mark Webber, his team-mate, was able to sneak in to refuel just before the interruption. For Hamilton the episode dropped him to as low as ninth at the start of a middle stint when he was held up by Coulthard.
If Ferrari handed him up to seven extra points on a plate with their errors, Hamilton and McLaren were sensible enough to take them. Although every fibre in his being was telling Hamilton to put the Scottish veteran to the sword, the McLaren pitwall were keeping him on a tight leash and reminding him on the radio that it is a world title he is after this year, not race wins. While others fell away behind and in front of him, Hamilton drove the percentage game keeping his nose out of trouble and eventually passing the Scot, a move that secured third. When the pass came it was still a heart-in-mouth moment – Coulthard has proved accident-prone under pressure in his final season – but Hamilton got through cleanly after Coulthard lost momentum encountering Alonso leaving the pits.
This race had everything and was a reminder that you do not always need rain in Formula One for a memorable day’s, or, in this case, evening’s sport. While Alonso, Nico Rosberg – who was second for Williams, benefiting from a delay in being penalised for illegally pitting – and Hamilton were the main beneficiaries, Sebastian Vettel followed up his excellent race win at Monza with a solid fifth place behind Timo Glock, of Toyota.
The big losers on the day apart from Massa were Raikkonen, who crashed three laps from the end and was classified last, Coulthard, who suffered a minor case of Ferrari’s pitlane malaise at his second stop and dropped to seventh, and Robert Kubica for BMW who was eleventh after being penalised for pitting under a red light. Heikki Kovalainen, Hamilton’s team-mate, drove an anonymous race to finish tenth.
(61 laps): 1, F Alonso (Sp, Renault) 1hr 57min 16.304sec; 2, N Rosberg (Ger, Williams Toyota) at 2.957sec behind; 3, L Hamilton (GB, McLaren Mercedes) 5.917; 4, T Glock (Ger, Toyota) 8.155; 5, S Vettel (Ger, Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 10.268; 6, N Heidfeld (Ger, BMW Sauber) 11.101; 7, D Coulthard (GB, Red Bull Renault) 16.387; 8, K Nakajima (Japan, Williams Toyota) 18.489; 9, J Button (GB, Honda) 19.885; 10, H Kovalainen (Fin, McLaren Mercedes) 26.902; 11, R Kubica (Pol, BMW Sauber) 27.975; 12, S Bourdais (Fr, Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 29.432; 13, F Massa (Br, Ferrari) 35.107; 14, G Fisichella (It, Force India Ferrari) 43.571; 15, K Raikkonen (Fin, Ferrari) 4 laps. Not classified: 16 J Trulli (It, Toyota) 50 laps completed; 17, A Sutil (Ger, Force India Ferrari) 49; 18, M Webber (Aus, Red Bull Renault) 29; 19, R Barrichello (Br, Honda) 14; 20, N Piquet (Br, Renault) 13.
Qualifying positions: 1, Massa 1min 44.801sec; 2, Hamilton 1:45.465; 3, Raikkonen 1:45.617; 4, Kubica 1:45.779; 5, Kovalainen 1:45.873; 6, Heidfeld 1:45.964; 7, Vettel 1:46.244; 8, Glock 1:46.328; 9, Rosberg 1:46.611; 10, Nakajima 1:47.547. Eliminated after second session: 11, Trulli 1:45.038; 12, Button 1:45.133; 13, Webber 1:45.212; 14, Coulthard 1:45.298; 15, Alonso no time. Eliminated after first session: 16, Piquet 1:46.037; 17, Bourdais 1:46.389; 18, Barrichello 1:46.583; 19, Sutil 1:47.940; 20, Fisichella no time.
Championship positions: Drivers:
1, Hamilton 84pts
2, Massa 77
3, Kubica 64
4, Raikkonen 57
5, Heidfeld 56
6, Kovalainen 51
7, Alonso 38
8, Vettel 27
9, Trulli 26
10, Glock 20
11, Webber 20
12, Rosberg 17
13, Piquet 13
14, Barrichello 11
15, Nakajima 9
16, Coulthard 8
17, Bourdais 4
18, Button 3
Constructors: 1, McLaren Mercedes 135; 2, Ferrari 134; 3, BMW Sauber 120; 4, Renault 51; 5, Toyota 46; 6, Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari 31; 7, Red Bull Renault 28; 8, Williams Toyota 26; 9, Honda 14.
Grands Prix to come: Oct 12: Japanese GP (Fuji). Oct 19: Chinese GP (Shanghai). Nov 2: Brazilian GP (Interlagos).