Straw Poll: Sunday in Singapore
|By Edd Straw||Sunday, September 28th 2008, 18:20 GMT|
Autosport's Formula One editor reports on the daily mood-swing of the F1 press corp, straight from the Singapore media centre
You can usually judge what the press makes of a race by the reaction when the winner takes the chequered flag. For the second race in a row, there was applause aplenty in the media centre as Fernando Alonso ended a winless drought which extended back to the 2007 Italian Grand Prix.
But you get the feeling the applause was just as much to recognise Alonso for playing his part in making the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix a memorable event. Expectation and anticipation can be dangerous things, and only a dull race could put a dampener on what everyone agreed was a stunning debut event.
Even before the race it had been declared a massive success. McLaren boss Ron Dennis described it as "a real big step in the history of grand prix racing" at the start of the day, and noone disagreed with him. As for the operation of the race - the lights didn't fail, the drivers could see and the track problems the naysayers predicted didn't ruin the race.
The only real problem of the venue was highlighted by Rubens Barrichello after parking his Honda with an electrical problem. Sportingly, he decided to chuck his balaclava to the crowd, but failed in his wind adjustment calculations and watched it plunge into the harbour. But at least it got Honda a little airtime.
It was around about that time that Ferrari's race was falling to pieces. The sight of Felipe Massa charging out into the fast-lane of the pits into the path of Adrian Sutil for the second time in four races with an entire fuel hose was a surreal sight.
Massa, who had gone when his pit light turned green as planned, blamed human error and you couldn't help but feel sorry for him as he sat stricken a the end of the pit wall. Had he seen the McLaren crew cheering on the Ferrari mechanics as they sprinted up the pitlane to attend to him, doubtless he wouldn't have seen the funny side...
And to make matters worse, Ferrari CEO Jean Todt was there to see the Ferrari pit debacle. His mood wasn't helped by Kimi Raikkonen getting caught out by the high kerbing late in the race. As you can imagine, the atmosphere in anywhere red post-race was distinctly icy.
So to Alonso. There were question marks as to exactly what he had achieved by his short first stint on the super soft tyres, but once teammate Nelson Piquet had thumped the wall everyone realised that the race was there for Alonso to win. With Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg both having to stop for fuel when the pits were closed, a Renault's win was there for the taking.
And Alonso isn't the kind of person to look a gift horse in the mouth. He drove an inch-perfect race, even putting in a seemingly unnecessary fastest lap late in the piece once the race was in the bag.
"He just does that to worry Flavio," said Renault's delighted executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. He's a man used to winning, and anyone who doubts that only needed to listen to his answer to the question of what it feels to win after a gap of two years.
"It's actually 23 months," he said - so you know he's been counting.
Symonds was one of the main architects of the victory, but another Renault employee played his part. Surprisingly, poor Piquet, who had caused that victory-making safety car by crashing out, wasn't celebrating quite as hard as everyone else in a Renault shirt.
That's Formula One - there are big-time winners and big-time losers every race. But when it came to the Singapore, the sport itself scored a massive victory.