Classic Singapore GP: Revisiting Fernando Alonso's Controversial Win In Inaugural F1 Night Race
Background and opening exchanges
The 2008 Formula 1 season is remembered by most for the rivalry between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, and it was the latter that claimed pole position as Singapore made its debut on the F1 calendar. Hamilton was six-tenths of a second behind Massa and found himself in a Ferrari sandwich as Kimi Raikkonen was starting third.
For the start of the race, the weather was typically Singaporean, hot, humid and with very little wind, which ensured the drivers would have an extreme physical challenge ahead of them. Even without any sunlight shining down on them, two hours of navigating the tight and twisty Marina Bay Street Circuit for the first time would prove to be a real test.
When the five red lights turned off, the front three got away in formation, with Massa leading Hamilton who was ahead of Raikkonen, and surprisingly all 20 cars got around the first lap without incident. The leading pair soon dropped Kimi and appeared to be in a class of their own at over a second a lap faster than the rest of the field.
Further back, Jarno Trulli had a queue forming behind his Toyota. The Italian veteran had a lot more fuel on board than most drivers and it was showing, as he was heading what had been coined as a 'Trulli Train' around the track. Soon enough though, the Williams cars of Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima made it through before proceeding to lap 3 seconds faster in clean air. Fernando Alonso was next up, passing Trulli with ease at the end of Raffles Boulevard.
Alonso was up to 11th after starting 15th due to a fuel issue in qualifying and was beginning to show his true speed. Renault had started him on the faster 'option' tyres and fuelled him lightly, which meant he was the first car into the pits after just 12 laps. A couple of laps later though, Alonso's team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. spun and slammed into the barriers, bringing out the safety car as a result. It didn't appear to be a strange crash at the time, but this 'accident' would send shockwaves through the sport almost a year down the line.