Delhi gets that F1 feeling

November 10, 2008

WITH A pair of goggles and a cap, an ING Renault team T-shirt on his torso, Nelson Piquet didn’t quite look the gritty customer he usually is in images beamed from the pits on racedays. On Sunday, at the Rajpath, he looked boyish, rather chocolate-faced in his role of Renault’s top driver at the roadshow.

With no Alonso here, Piquet was the hot property as he, although sparingly, and Lucas Di Grassi showed Delhiites what Formula One was all about. Just a couple of days ago, 2009 with Renault was secured for him, and he came with a freer mind than he would have a week ago. Although he finished 12th with 19 points in his rookie season, pulling up well in the latter half of the season, he would be a bit disappointed.

“But I am happy and we plan to do well next year,” said Piquet junior, whose father and namesake was a three-time world champion. “The developments we have made in the second part of this year have been impressive and we know we can do better next year. The new car will be unveiled in January and you better watch out for us as we will be driving with less downforce in the new car.”

The ING Renault team picked up pace in the latter part of the season after making some technical changes to the car with Alonso leading the way with two wins and one second-place finish. “The car changed a lot from 2007. That is why in the beginning it was a big shift while we were still developing a lot.

“Next year, there is going to be another big change but mechanically, suspension, (it) is not going to change that much. So I think we won’t need time to adjust to the changes.

“We’ll target more podium finishes next year. This year I wanted to be in the top 10, I finished 12th. I’d like to be top six in the championship.” One of Piquet’s memorable experiences this year, apart from his second-place finish in Germany, was the night race in Singapore that he thought was very well-managed. “It is something that we think can have a long-term future. I think many venues can do it. Formula One needs new things like this.”

Asked on the standard engines being mooted for the 2010 year, the Garmany-born Brazilian had mixed views. “The standard engines will give the smaller teams a level-playing field. They will be able to compete better with the bigger teams. However, the bigger teams will feel short-changed as they bank on engine development.. But then, you can never keep innovations out. Development will continue in some form and that’ll be good for the market.”

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Renault’s Fernando Alonso took a superb victory in the Japanese Grand Prix as title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa collided in a dramatic race.

Hamilton made a poor start, ran off the road at the first corner and was tipped into a spin by Massa on lap two.

Both were given penalties for different incidents but Massa recovered to take seventh and cut Hamilton’s lead to five points with two races left.

Hamilton, his car damaged by Massa, was 12th and out of the points.

Massa finished eighth on the road, but was promoted to seventh when Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais was penalised 25 seconds, demoting him to 12th, for a collision with the Brazilian on lap 51.

Hamilton is still in a strong position but the Englishman will have to cut out the mistakes that have characterised his season if he is not to lose the championship for the second year in a row.

“What can I say? it was a bad day, I’ll move on to next week [in China],” said Hamilton.

“I went wide at turn one, it was a mistake, and then Felipe hit me off, I went on the inside and he broke left and hit me pretty hard.”  I cannot believe it right now and back-to-back wins is a great feeling – it is completely amazing

Massa is not Hamilton’s only title rival. BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica  who finished second in Japan is 12 points off the lead and cannot be ruled out.

“Twelve points behind the leader with two races to go – anything can happen,” Kubica said.

Hamilton’s problems began at the very start of the race as he got off the line slowly from pole position in his McLaren and then went too far in trying to make amends at the first corner.

The move would earn Hamilton a penalty for forcing another car off the track, but it also demoted him to sixth place, right behind Massa.

The Englishman tried to pass the Ferrari into the Turn 10/11 chicane on the second lap and the two cars ended up colliding.

Massa was given his own penalty for causing that collision, and, once they had taken their drive-through penalties, the two title rivals ended up at the back of the field – with Massa a few seconds ahead.

Massa was penalised for this – but still cut Hamilton’s championship lead

The chaos among the drivers of the leading teams left Kubica in the lead but he lost it to Alonso when the Spaniard made his first pit stop a lap later than the Pole.

Alonso said he asked the team to get him out in front of Kubica but doing so meant he had four laps’ less fuel than the BMW for the middle stint of the race.

It was one of the Spaniard’s greatest races and secured him and Renault an unexpected second win in a row.

“We were second when we stopped for the first time and I wanted to exit the pits in front of Robert,” Alonso said.

Nelson Piquet finished fourth for Renault, with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli next, followed by the Toro Rossos of Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel and Massa.

Massa, the fastest man on the track in the closing stages of the race, lost ground in the incident with Bourdais but recovered to grab eighth on the road from Red Bull’s Mark Webber on the penultimate lap.

Singapore Grand Prix results

September 28, 2008

1. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 61 laps, 1 hour, 57 minutes, 16.304 seconds, 98.22 mph.

2. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Williams, 61, 1:57:19.261.

3. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren, 61, 1:57:22.221.

4. Timo Glock, Germany, Toyota, 61, 1:57:24.459.

5. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Toro Rosso, 61, 1:57:26.572.

6. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, BMW, 61, 1:57:27.405.

7. David Coulthard, Britain, Red Bull, 61, 1:57:32.691.

8. Kazuki Nakajima, Japan, Williams, 61, 1:57:34.793.

9. Jenson Button, Britain, Honda, 61, 1:57:36.189.

10. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, McLaren, 61, 1:57:43.206.

11. Robert Kubica, Poland, BMW, 61, 1:57:44.279.

12. Sebastien Bourdais, France, Toro Rosso, 61, 1:57:45.736.

13. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 61, 1:57:51.474.

14. Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Force India, 61, 1:57:59.875.

15. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari, 57, 1:50:11.975.

Not Classified

Jarno Trulli, Italy, Toyota, 50 laps.

Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 49 laps.

Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 29 laps.

Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Honda, 14 laps.

Nelson Piquet Jr., Brazil, Renault, 13 laps.

Drivers’ standings (after 15 of 18 races)

1. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren, 84 points.

2. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 77.

3. Robert Kubica, Poland, BMW Sauber, 64.

4. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari, 57.

5. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, BMW Sauber, 56.

6. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, McLaren, 51.

7. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 38.

8. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Toro Rosso, 27

9. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Toyota, 26.

10. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 20.

10. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Williams, 20.

Constructors’ standings

1. McLaren, 135 points.

2. Ferrari, 134.

3. BMW Sauber, 120.

4. Renault, 51.

5. Toyota, 46.

6. Toro Rosso, 31.

7. Red Bull, 28.

8. Williams, 26.

9. Honda, 14.

In Formula One’s first night race, Renault’s Fernando Alonso captured the Singapore Grand Prix after starting 15th on the grid Sunday while McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead.

Alonso won for the 20th time in his career, his first victory since last year’s Italian Grand Prix. Williams’ Nico Rosberg was second, his best Grand Prix finish, and Hamilton was third.

Aloson was way back on the grid after a fuel pump failure in qualifying. On Sunday, the Spaniard benefited from an early safety car period that turned the race around.

Hamilton extended his championship lead to seven points because of a turn of events that cost title rival Felipe Massa of Ferrari any points. The Brazilian led early on from the pole, but his race was ruined when he pitted after the end of a safety car period at the start of the 20th lap.

Massa pulled away from his stop prematurely, taking the fuel rig and hose with him up the pit lane. He knocked over one of his mechanics, who needed medical treatment, and almost collided with another car.

By the time the Ferrari crew was able to sprint the length of pit lane and wrestle the rig out of the car, Massa had dropped from the lead to 18th and last. He then incurred a drive-through penalty for an “unsafe release from a pit stop.” Massa finished in 13th place.

It was a dismal race for Ferrari, with reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen crashing out on the 58th of 61 laps. The Italian team’s pointless finish and Hamilton’s third place lifted McLaren atop the constructors’ standings by one point.