Alonso resists Vettel to win in Singapore

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso took his second successive victory – his fourth this season – after resisting a race-long challenge from Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull Racing’s team-mate Mark Webber finished in third after surviving a clash with Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to retire with damage to his McLaren.

That crash at Turn 7 on lap 36 with the championship leader has dented Hamilton’s title ambitions dearly. Lewis tried to snatch a position off Mark after a lapped Virgin Racing car of Lucas di Grassi held up his Red Bull Racing rival.

Hamilton slipstream past Webber on the run down to Turn 7 and took an outside line – but his left rear wheel was tagged by his rival on the exit of the corner and he was pushed wide.

Although Webber was able to continue and finish on the podium, the impact damaged Hamilton’s car enough to force him out of the Singapore Grand Prix. Another disappointing result especially when he retire from the previous race at Monza.

For Mark Webber, finishing in third was the best reward following a row three qualifying spot. The Australian still leads the drivers’ championship with 202 points, eleven ahead of race winner Alonso, twenty over Hamilton and twenty-one from team-mate Vettel.

Alonso’s win proved to the relatively straightforward – lights to chequered flag – but with two safety car periods and Vettel never far behind the Spaniard, it was a great result for the double world champion after nearly two hours of intense racing.

The pair even came into the pits at the same time for a single pit stop and their track position remained unchanged to the flag.

Webber’s third place owed much to a tyre gamble when the safety car came out on lap three to remove Tonio Liuzzi’s stricken Force India from the circuit. The Red Bull Racing pitwall decided to gamble and bring in the Australian from fifth to change to the harder Bridgestone tyre – with Webber being the only one of the frontrunners to do so.

He returned to the track in P11 and over the laps that followed regained enough lost ground that Webber was able to leapfrog the McLarens in the pits. Hamilton later had an opportunity to get the position back on a race restart – following a safety car appearance caused when Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna collided at Turn 18 – but heading into Turn 7 the Red Bull and McLaren made contact.

The only consolation for McLaren was Jenson Button finishing in fourth, ahead of Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg. As for Rosberg’s team-mate Michael Schumacher, he had a difficult race after clashing with both Saubers and coming home a lap down in unlucky P13.

For Williams, both Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg finished in the points with sixth and ninth respectively. The pair being split by Renault’s Robert Kubica – who made some spectacular overtaking moves in the final laps thanks to fresh tyres – and Force India’s Adrian Sutil.

After starting last on the grid, Felipe Massa drove a solid race to claim the final point for Ferrari in tenth.

In the battle between the second division of Formula One, Lucas di Grassi finished two laps down in P15 for Virgin Racing while Heikki Kovalainen was classified P16 even though his Lotus burst into flames on the main straight near the end.

Alonso’s victory means he is now within 11 points of Webber with four races remaining. The 15 points the Australian scored on Sunday should be credited to the strength of his front wheel and could be the factor in the outcome of this world championship.

Race result from Singapore, 61 laps:

1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    1h57:53.579
2.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +0.293
3.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +29.141
4.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +30.384
5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +49.394
6.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +56.101
7.  Kubica        Renault                    +1:26.559
8.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1:52.416
9.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +1:52.791
10. Massa         Ferrari                    +1:53.297
11. Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
12. Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
13. Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1 lap
14. Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
15. Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
16. Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +3 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:47.976

Not classified/retirements:
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              51 laps
Heidfeld      Sauber-Ferrari               35 laps
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes             34 laps
Klien         HRT-Cosworth                 30 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               29 laps
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 28 laps
Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth               26 laps
Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes         1 lap

World Championship standings, round 15:

1.  Webber       202
2.  Alonso       191
3.  Hamilton     182
4.  Vettel       181
5.  Button       177
6.  Massa        125
7.  Rosberg      122
8.  Kubica       114
9.  Sutil         49
10. Schumacher    46
11. Barrichello   39
12. Kobayashi     21
13. Petrov        19
14. Hulkenberg    18
15. Liuzzi        13
16. Buemi          7
17. De la Rosa     6
18. Alguersuari    3

1. Red Bull-Renault          383
2. McLaren-Mercedes          359
3. Ferrari                   316
4. Mercedes                  168
5. Renault                   133
6. Force India-Mercedes       62
7. Williams-Cosworth          57
8. Sauber-Ferrari             27
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari         10

Next race: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka. October 8-10.

Alonso beats Vettel to Singapore pole

Fernando Alonso recovered from an engine issue in Q2 to take an important pole position for Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix.

The double world champion encountered a problem with the engine mapping resulting in a loss of performance. After a system reboot, the Ferrari was back up to speed and the Spaniard rewarded the team with his second successive pole.

Alonso fended off a strong challenge from pre-race favourite Sebastian Vettel – who looked all weekend the quickest in the Red Bull – but the young German had to be content with second on the grid.

Vettel began his final flying lap in a provisional seventh place after making a mistake earlier in Q3, and despite being comfortably up on Alonso’s time through the first sector, he faded over the remainder of the lap and was left in second position, 0.067 seconds down on his rival’s best time of one minute, 45.390 seconds.

While the Scuderia celebrated Alonso’s pole, it was a complete contrast for team-mate Felipe Massa. The Brazilian will start from the back of the grid following a suspected engine problem during Q1.

Locking out the second row is the McLaren Mercedes team, with Lewis Hamilton taking third ahead of Jenson Button. Last year’s race winner Hamilton should be feeling pretty encouraged to be only a tenth of a second adrift from Vettel’s faster Red Bull.

As for the world championship leader Mark Webber, the Australian is disappointed to line up fifth in the Red Bull.

Rubens Barrichello lines up sixth for Williams ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Silver Arrows and Renault’s Robert Kubica. For Michael Schumacher – competing in his first appearance at the Singapore street circuit – the Mercedes GP driver will start in ninth with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top ten.

In the battle of the second division of Formula One, Virgin Racing took the honours with Timo Glock taking P18, with a late challenge from Lotus Racing’s Heikki Kovalainen allowing the Finn to get ahead of Lucas di Grassi.

Jarno Trulli lines up in P21 ahead of Formula One returnee Christian Klien, who left his HRT team-mate Bruno Senna behind to join Massa on the back row.

As for Nico Hulkenberg, who recorded the twelfth fastest lap time, the Williams driver will start from P17 due to a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change.

So with the five championship contenders at the sharp end of the grid, Sunday’s race around Marina Bay is going to be exciting and dramatic. There may even be a chance of rain! Only 24 points split the top five drivers and with 25 points up for grabs for the race victory, who will it be? We will find out after 61 laps under the bright lights in Singapore.

Qualifying times from Singapore:

1.  Alonso         Ferrari                1:45.390
2.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1:45.457
3.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes       1:45.571
4.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:45.944
5.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1:45.977
6.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:46.236
7.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1:46.443
8.  Kubica         Renault                1:46.593
9.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:46.702
10. Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:47.884
11. Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:47.666
12. Petrov         Renault                1:48.165
13. Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:48.502
14. Heidfeld       Sauber-Ferrari         1:48.557
15. Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:48.899
16. Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes   1:48.961
17. Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth      1:47.674*
18. Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        1:50.721
19. Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth         1:50.915
20. di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth        1:51.107
21. Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth         1:51.641
22. Klien          HRT-Cosworth           1:52.946
23. Senna          HRT-Cosworth           1:54.174
24. Massa          Ferrari                No time

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

Uprising rock show

Three years ago, I went to see a truly spectacular rock show from Muse at London’s Wembley Stadium. It was an amazing experience and even the special recorded album H.A.A.R.P. made the gig even more memorable.

Fast-forward to 2010 and with the recent success of the band’s fifth album The Resistance, it’s great to hear the new tracks like United States of Eurasisa, Uprising and Undisclosed Desires live in front of thousands of enthusiastic Muse fans.

The popularity of Muse made it quite a challenge to purchase the tickets and in fact, it was a stroke of good luck that I managed to get through straightaway at Seetickets minutes before the tickets were made available to buy!

It was a nerve-racking experience as all the hotlines were jammed and many ticket websites crashed due to the rush of tickets…

Luckily I made that important phone call just before 9.00 am and I decided to purchase a group ticket for my close friends and to attend both dates – Friday, September 10th and Saturday, September 11th.

After receiving a confirmation email, I was able to relax about the prospect of attending the gig at Wembley Stadium. Not surprisingly, the tickets were sold out in a matter of minutes and yet the event wouldn’t happen until TEN MONTHS LATER! For your information, tickets went on sale in November 2009.

Over that long period, Muse played at many festivals around the world including headlining Glastonbury and playing at the London O2 Arena.

When it was time for a return back to Wembley, you knew that the band were planning something special with rumours of UFOs flying around and playing the whole Exogenesis for the first time.

In the actual event on that September 2010 weekend, Muse put on an incredible show (see the photographs) and my close friends loved every moment of it.

The band opened with Uprising, a thrilling hybrid of glam-rock guitars. Muse front man Matthew Bellamy was brilliant. He was certainly enjoying himself in front of an enthusiastic crowd. As for Chris Wolstenholme (bass guitar) and Dominic Howard (drums), the pair even had a jammin’ session on a small, moveable platform with flashing lights!

There were many highlights including Stockholm Syndrome, Time Is Running Out and the brilliant Knights of Cydonia. The huge crowd in the ‘mosh pit’ went crazy with the guitar riffs from Plug In Baby. In addition, the magical trapeze artist suspended from a UFO when Muse performed Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture).

It was an incredible gig, complete with two encores, spectacular lighting from the giant stage with superb video projections made this rock show so memorable.

The complete set list played on Friday, September 10th:

Supermassive Black Hole
New Born
Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)
Butterflies & Hurricanes
Guiding Light
United States Of Eurasia
I Belong To You (+Mon Cœur S’ouvre à Ta Voix)
Feeling Good
MK Jam
Undisclosed Desires
Time Is Running Out
Unnatural Selection

Encore 1:
Soldier’s Poem
Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)
Stockholm Syndrome

Encore 2:
Take A Bow
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia

And this is the set list on Saturday, September 11th:

Supermassive Black Hole
MK Ultra
Map of the Problematique
Guiding Light
Citizen Erased
United States Of Eurasia
Ruled by Secrecy
Feeling Good
MK Jam
Undisclosed Desires
Time Is Running Out
Unnatural Selection

Encore 1:
Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)
Stockholm Syndrome

Encore 2:
Take A Bow
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia

Alonso takes dream victory at Monza

Fernando Alonso took his third Grand Prix victory of the season at Monza, a fantastic result for the Spaniard (pole position, fastest lap and win) and the Ferrari team (home victory). McLaren’s Jenson Button finished in second with Felipe Massa taking the final podium spot.

By winning in front of the passionate tifosi, the championship standings means Alonso is now up to 166 points, only twenty-one points behind new leader Mark Webber with 187.

As for Lewis Hamilton, he tried an ambitions move on Massa’s Ferrari on the first lap, which damaged his right-front suspension. That mistake might play an effect in the remaining five Grands Prix of the season.

As the five red lights went out, Button made a better start from the dirty side of the grid. Alonso tried to block him by squeezing the reigning world champion but the McLaren was through. Even a slight tap from the Ferrari at the Rettifilio – which did minor damage to both cars – didn’t affect Jenson desire to lead.

As Alonso jinked around behind the McLaren, both Massa and Hamilton tried to take advantage. Hamilton took a look down the inside of Massa into the Roggia chicane, but was only partially alongside the Ferrari, and as Massa turned in on the racing line, contact was made that broke Hamilton’s steering, sending him off into the Lesmo gravel and out.

The only consolation for Hamilton was that his main championship rival Webber had been shoved back to ninth on the opening lap, two position behind Red Bull Racing team-mate Vettel, as fast-starters Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg filling the top six.

The top three easily pulled away from Rosberg’s Mercedes, with Alonso hanging on to Button’s gearbox and taking the odd look at passing. The pair took turns setting fastest laps around Monza as they tried to make a break, with the gap never getting larger than 1.5 seconds, and generally much smaller, with Massa close behind.

That all-important pitstop would decide the outcome of the race and Button was the first to change tyres at the end of lap 35. Alonso stayed out just one lap longer, but it was enough to overcome Button’s advantage, rejoining just ahead of the McLaren and taking the inside line through the Rettifilio to hold on to the lead, setting a new fastest lap to escape from Button.

Despite reporting engine problems earlier, Sebastian Vettel emerged in a surprising fourth. In the early part of the Italian Grand Prix it looked like he was set to retire, as the German was reporting the technical problem over the radio and lapped two seconds off the pace for a while, which allowed team-mate Webber past. But some system tweaks appeared to solve the issue, and by virtue of staying out until the penultimate lap before finally pitting, Vettel beat Rosberg to fourth position.

Webber had to fight hard to take sixth position, scrapping past Hulkenberg with three laps to go, having been enraged by the Williams cutting chicanes and defending firmly to stay ahead. Kubica lost out to the Williams in the pits, then to Webber as Hulkenberg came out right in front of him and cost him momentum, pushing him back to eighth.

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello completed the top ten for Mercedes and Williams respectively. As for the 2009 race winner, Rubens Barrichello lost ground on the first lap and only gained the final point when Renault’s Vitaly Petrov – on a similar strategy to Vettel – finally pitted on lap 51.

Tonio Liuzzi recovered from his disastrous qualifying to chase Sebastien Buemi and Barrichello home in P12. But Liuzzi’s Force India Adrian Sutil could only finish P16 following a first lap incident.

Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock narrowly beat Heikki Kovalainen to new team honours in P17, as the latter’s Lotus team-mate Jarno Trulli retired in a cloud of smoke late on, having led the second division for most of the way.

Webber now leads the world championship again with 187 points to Hamilton’s 182, but Alonso’s great drive vaults him to third on 166, just ahead of Button on 165 and Vettel on 163. Red Bull have 350 points to McLaren’s 347 and Ferrari’s 290.

Race results from Monza, 53 laps:
1. Alonso        Ferrari                    1h16:24.572
2. Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +2.938
3. Massa         Ferrari                    +4.223
4. Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +28.193
5. Rosberg       Mercedes                   +29.942
6. Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +31.276
7. Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +32.812
8. Kubica        Renault                    +34.028
9. Schumacher    Mercedes                   +44.948
10. Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth         +1:04.200
11. Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +1:05.00
12. Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes      +1:06.100
13. Petrov        Renault                   +1:18.900
14. De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari            +1 lap
15. Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +1 lap
16. Sutil         Force India-Mercedes      +1 lap
17. Glock         Virgin-Cosworth           +2 laps
18. Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth            +2 laps
19. Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth           +2 laps
20. Yamamoto      HRT-Cosworth              +2 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:24.139

Not classified/retirements:
Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth               47 laps
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 12 laps
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes             1 lap
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               1 lap

World Championship standings, round 14:

1.  Webber       187
2.  Hamilton     182
3.  Alonso       166
4.  Button       165
5.  Vettel       163
6.  Massa        124
7.  Rosberg      112
8.  Kubica       108
9.  Schumacher    46
10. Sutil         45
11. Barrichello   31
12. Kobayashi     21
13. Petrov        19
14. Hulkenberg    16
15. Liuzzi        13
16. Buemi          7
17. De la Rosa     6
18. Alguersuari    3

1. Red Bull-Renault          350
2. McLaren-Mercedes          347
3. Ferrari                   290
4. Mercedes                  158
5. Renault                   127
6. Force India-Mercedes       58
7. Williams-Cosworth          47
8. Sauber-Ferrari             27
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari         10

Next race: Singapore Grand Prix, September 24-26.

Alonso takes Ferrari’s first pole this season

Fernando Alonso takes his first pole position as a Ferrari driver at the Italian team’s home race at Monza. It has been two years since the Scuderia started from the front and this result is a great achievement for the Spaniard, the team and especially for the passionate tifosi.

Felipe Massa could not quite make it an all-Ferrari front row, but will start in third, with Jenson Button’s McLaren splitting the red cars. It’s interesting that Button has opted the F-duct system while team-mate Lewis Hamilton decided to go without in a hope for better straight-line speed. The differences between the pair is 12kph, without the aid of the F-duct but meaning loss of stability under braking.

For Red Bull Racing, this was the worst qualifying performance of the season, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel back in an unaccustomed fourth and sixth.

As for the championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who has decided to run without the F-duct system, the McLaren driver could only manage fifth.

Seventh went to Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg, while his team-mate Michael Schumacher had another mediocre qualifying run and will start in a disappointing P12.

It was a solid performance for Williams with Nico Hulkenberg taking eighth and Rubens Barrichello only two places behind, split by Renault’s Robert Kubica.

In the battle between the new Formula One teams, Lotus and Virgin Racing were evenly matched throughout the qualifying session before some strong last laps earned Jarno Trulli the so-called ‘division two pole’ in P18.

Qualifying times from Monza:
1.  Alonso         Ferrari                 1:21.962
2.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1:22.084
3.  Massa          Ferrari                 1:22.293
4.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault        1:22.433
5.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes        1:22.623
6.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault        1:22.675
7.  Rosberg        Mercedes                1:23.027
8.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth       1:23.037
9.  Kubica         Renault                 1:23.039
10.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:23.328
11.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:23.199
12.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:23.388
13.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:23.659
14.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:23.681
15.  Petrov         Renault                1:23.819
16.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:23.919
17.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari         1:24.044
18.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth         1:25.540
19.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth         1:25.742
20.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes   1:25.774
21.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth        1:25.934
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth        1:25.974
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth           1:26.847
24.  Yamamoto       HRT-Cosworth           1:27.020