/ 26 September 2010

Alonso edges Vettel as title race hots up


Fernando Alonso produced a masterful drive on Sunday to win an incident-packed Singapore Grand Prix ahead of a charging Sebastian Vettel to put the world championship title race on a knife-edge.

Starting from pole position, the Ferrari star led from start to finish for the second race in a row to take the chequered flag in 1:57,893, just 0,2 seconds ahead of the Red Bull tyro.

It was a measured performance from the two-time world champion Spaniard, who outpaced his title rivals under floodlights for his fourth win of the season and the 25th of his career.

In hot and humid conditions but on a dry track, the other Red Bull of Mark Webber came third to keep him atop the championship standings, with McLaren’s Jenson Button in fourth.

But it was another disastrous day for Lewis Hamilton in the other McLaren, failing to finish his second Grand Prix in a row after colliding with Webber on lap 36, dealing his championship hopes a potentially devastating blow.

Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes came fifth, with Rubens Barrichello in a Williams sixth, Robert Kubica’s Renault seventh and Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg eighth.

Hulkenberg was elevated after Adrian Sutil’s Force India got a post-race 20 second penalty, pushing him down to 10th.

“It was very good stuff. The race was very long and with the safety car problems I just tried to control the gap as much as I could and not take a risk,” said Alonso.

“The win means a lot. It means a lot in the championship and means we can be competitive at any track.”

It leaves the championship finely poised with four Grands Prix to go, starting in Japan next month.

Webber leads with 202 points ahead of Alonso on 191, Hamilton on 182, Vettel a point further adrift and Button on 177.

“I’m very happy with third place. It’s been a difficult week for me, probably the toughest of the year for me,” said Webber.

“To get third, I had to stay composed and not panic. Fernando is still hanging in there for the championship and I need to get rid of him somehow.”

Vettel also remains in contention and is confident his car can perform at the final four Grands Prix.

“We now need to keep our heads down and try as hard as we can,” he said. “But it’s looking good for us. Japan, Korea, Brazil, Korea and Abu Dhabi — we have a strong car.”

The front row of the grid was always going to be decisive on the tight Marina Bay street circuit, and Alonso made the most of starting on pole, as he did in Monza two weeks ago.

Driving with aplomb on a track that demands precision, nerve and confidence, he came through the opening corner scramble in prime position ahead of Vettel.

The top five off the grid went through the first lap in the same position, with Alonso first, followed by Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Webber.

But disaster followed for Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India, which collided with Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber and the safety car deployed on lap three.

Webber took the opportunity to pit early and switch from soft to hard tyres, with the Australian coming out in 11th.

Alonso was steady at the front and had a three-second advantage on Vettel by lap 20.

Hamilton was the first of top names to pit, on lap 29, with Alonso, Vettel and Button all following him in.

When they came out Alonso had a 1,2 second lead on Vettel, with Webber up to third as his early pit stop strategy paid off.

Then the safety car came out again when Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Hispania’s Bruno Senna hit the wall.

It was a sensational restart with Hamilton trying to pass Webber on the outside, and they made contact.

Webber survived but Hamilton was forced to retire, throwing his steering wheel to the ground in disgust.

Minutes later and Michael Schumacher and Heidfeld collided.

Heidfeld’s race was over and Schumacher had to pit for a new front wing.

Alonso and Vettel went wheel-to-wheel at the front but the experienced Spaniard held on to win here for the second time in three years. – AFP