F1: Singapore Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, September 28th, 2008

 
 

It’s Sunday afternoon again – but things are a bit different this time around. Formula One is about to stage its first ever night race around the streets of Singapore.

While it’s a brand-new event on an untried circuit, some things remain the same – title contenders Felipe Massa for Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton for McLaren will be squaring up on the front row.

Challengers Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Robert Kubica (BMW) will be hot on their heels on row two. Fernando Alonso, in a car that was fast enough to put him among the leaders during practice, is towards the back of the field after it failed in qualifying. One to watch.

Or maybe the circuit itself will be the star – for the right or the wrong reasons. Red Bull’s David Coulthard has described it as like driving over the cobbles in a Paris street, while his team-mate Mark Webber said he’d had to remove his tongue from between his teeth before doing a lap for fear of biting it off.

Problems with the entry/exit to the pit lane, which have already seen Nick Heidfeld come to grief with a three-place grid penalty, and his sparring partner Rubens Barrichello landed with a 10,000-euro fine, could bring us further penalty controversy – or worse.

Fans may be a little wary, given the debacle that was the Valencia race, and it may be sensible to expect little in the way of overtaking opportunities. Which could mean Massa leads the World Championship at the end of this race.

Will that happen? Or will Lewis fight back? And can Sebastian Vettel, being followed around by journalists to the extent where he possibly can’t even take a leak in peace and privacy, surprise us again?

Stay with us to find out. Keep hitting refresh to get the latest, don’t forget you can comment on this post, and you can also email us with your thoughts on the race.

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Podium: A civil handshake exchanged between Alonso and Hamilton, which we suppose is an improvement. None of the usual celebrating – they’re all exhausted after this very gruelling race.

It’s just, just possible that Alonso’s having a little cry on the podium as the Spanish national anthem plays out.

We envy the French their anthem – it’s such a stirring, dramatic tune, unlike the anti-Scottish dirge that we’re saddled with.

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Results:

  1. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 10 points
  2. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 8 points
  3. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 6 points
  4. Timo Glock, Toyota: 5 points
  5. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 4 points
  6. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 3 points
  7. David Coulthard, Red Bull: 2 points
  8. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1 points

Drivers’ championship:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 84 points
  2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 77 points
  3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 64 points
  4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 57 points
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 56 points
  6. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 51 points
  7. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 38 points
  8. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 27 points
  9. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 26 points
  10. Timo Glock, Toyota, 20 points
  11. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 20 points
  12. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 15 points
  13. Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 13 points
  14. Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 11 points
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 9 points
  16. David Coulthard, Red Bull: 8 points
  17. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 4 points
  18. Jenson Button, Honda: 3 points

Constructors’ championship:

  1. McLaren: 135 points
  2. Ferrari: 134 points
  3. BMW Sauber: 120 points
  4. Renault: 51 points
  5. Toyota: 46 points
  6. Toro Rosso: 31 points
  7. Red Bull: 28 points
  8. Williams: 26 points
  9. Honda: 14 points
  10. Force India: 0 points

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Lap 61: Renault’s mechanics are sprinting for the pit wall to cheer their man home. And he wins the race, with Rosberg second and some much-needed points for the beleagured Williams team. Hamilton home third. The remaining scoring positions go to Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, DC, Nakajima. Button just misses out on some points for Honda.

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Lap 60: Two laps left and Alonso set for victory, Hamilton set for six points in a race when not one of the other serious world championship contenders is going to score so much as a point.

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Lap 59: The race is going to be seen out on laps rather than switching to timings.

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Lap 58: speculation that Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton are having a disagreement about the virtues of overtaking versus holding station. However this seems a bit too convenient a narrative to be believed without some actual evidence. Whoa! Raikkonen has seriously binned it. Straight into the wall at the so-called “Mickey Mouse” chicane and his car’s an absolute wreck. No pressure either, he just lost it. That’s no world championship points for him for four races in a row and, as long as Hamilton does nothing equally stupid McLaren takes the constructors’ lead. DC is up to seventh.

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Lap 57: James Allen praises the race “from soup to nuts.” ???? WTF?? We just don’t want to go near James Allen’s nuts.

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Lap 56: Alonso’s lead up to six seconds. Glock is hassling Hamilton a bit, in remembrance of their GP2 battles.

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Lap 55: Alonso has built a 3.7 second lead in the space of a lap. Bourdais has taken Fisi and Massa to gain two places. Hamilton was catching Rosberg at the rate of a second a lap – but tyre temperatures have dropped and Hamilton really cannot afford to take risks with Raikkonen only a couple of places behind him. Likely this race is going onto timings with just 10 minutes left until the two-hour cut-off.

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Lap 54: Order is Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock, Raikkonen, Vettel, Heidfeld, DC, Nakajima, Button, Kovalainen, Kubica, Fisi, Massa, Bourdais. Safety car comes in. And we’re racing. Alonso is heading down the road and already starting to build a new lead. Rosberg is in Hamilton’s sights but no opportunity for overtaking. DC is battling – but we think he’s saved himself a position rather than taken one. Hamilton shown fighting for control of his car.

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Lap 53: Warning from race control about problems at turn seven where the kerb has disintegrated. Safety car due to come in, which leaves eight laps of racing. DC in eighth, and therefore set to realise his ambition of scoring more points for Red Bull. Commentators pointing out that Rosberg and Hamilton are very good friends.

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Lap 52: Order behnd the safety car is Alonso, now relieved of his 18-second lead, Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock, Raikkonen, Vettel, Heidfeld. Trulli is pictured in his garage looking like one of those little ornamental dogs being given a bath. He looks remarkably philosophical – and gives us, the viewers, a thumbs down. Bad news from your Brits on Pole team who have invested in the Toyota veteran in the McLaren Grand Prix League, and who rely on him as a nice, regular points-scorer.

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Lap 51: Sutil has come badly unstuck and gone straight on into a barrier. A definite safety car which will help Hamilton in the business of catching Rosberg – it’s happened in a particularly narrow bit of the track. Trulli has a gearbox problem and has had to retire. Massa spun at round about the point that Trulli slowed down and Sutil got into problems. Sutil nearly hit him there, which certainly does make a change. Track at this spot is wet.

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Lap 50: Possible problems with Trulli’s car, which has slowed right down. Alonso still leading from Rosberg. Raikkonen pits, Hamilton is in a podium position as a result and will now be looking to close in on Rosberg. Raikkonen comes out in fifth, which means he’s had a pretty successful afternoon, considering how badly his race was compromised by Massa’s refuelling incident.

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Lap 49: Alonso leads Rosberg by 17-and-a-half seconds. Raikkonen, a pitstop down, is in third.

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Lap 48: Coulthard is slowing and may well not finish the race. Piquet’s safety car incident means that this race might not clear the two-hour limit, which means a timed end.

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Lap 47: Glock pits. Alonso has a 15-and-a-half-second lead over Nico Rosberg at present. Coulthard reporting on his radio that he’s losing his brakes – on a highly concrete-walled bit of the track. He may only be the first of many since brake wear is reportedly worse than anyone had planned for.

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Lap 46: Raikkonen is in fourth with a pitstop left to make. Hamilton is fifth with is final stop behind him. Can he catch Rosberg and get on the podium? Glock is in among them but has yet to stop. Coulthard rejoined after his little drama in ninth

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Lap 45: Alonso’s mechanics telling him not to panic. Eh? Have they confused him with Piquet, or some other rookie?

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Lap 43: Both Hamilton and DC pit. Hamilton looks to be getting out ahead – but then there’s a problem with DC’s stop as he tries to take off too quickly with the fuel rig still in. The lollipop man stops him (unlike Massa) and that’s lost him a position to Jarno Trulli. Order is Alonso, Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, Trulli. Can we just point out how the dependable Nick Heidfeld is going to get some points in the bag for BMW Sauber despite his low profile in this race?

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Lap 42: Alonso comes out of the pits ahead of DC. DC has a go at him but Alonso holds the place. Then Hamilton does a cracking overtake on the Red Bull driver, wrong-footed by Alonso’s timing coming out of the pits. He’s already charging off down the road and challenging Alonso – “he may well need to take a sensible pill,” says James Allen.

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Lap 41: Rosberg pits for softer tyres which shouldn’t help him too much at this stage in the race. Now DC is second and Hamilton third. Rosberg comes out seventh. Alonso’s mechanics out. Is McLaren’s strategy based on Hamilton being able to outlast DC?

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Lap 40: Hamilton still behind DC. Raikkonen up to ninth. Massa 16th and lapping in the 1:49s. Alonso 22 seconds clear of the DC and Hamilton battle, which equals a free pitstop.

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Lap 38: Piquet pictured on the pit wall looking extremely glum. Ironically, it was him that put the events in train that may allow Alonso to win. Najakima is past Trulli. Order is Alonso, Rosberg, Coulthard, Hamilton, Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, Nakajima, Trulli, Raikkonen – and this is where the battle is.

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Lap 37: Hamilton is lapping two seconds a lap slower than his fastest lap this race, thanks to being caught up behind DC. Raikkonen is sneaking up towards the points. Don’t we always tell you never to take your eyes off him?

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Lap 36: Alonso leads Rosberg by 5.6 seconds and is gaining half a second a lap. Order behind them is Coulthard, Hamilton, Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, Trulli, Nakajima and Raikkonen who appears to have just gone past Button. Nakajima trying to get past Trulli but is unable.

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Lap 34: Trulli has finally pitted from the lead. He’s come out eighth. Alonso has been freed up at the front with Rosberg second, then a presumably dehydrated DC, Hamilton, Glock. Brundle says Rosberg had a 23-second lead going into his penalty, which shows how he managed to minimise its impact. Hamilton’s fate is likely to be decided in the second pitstops. After all would you back that Red Bull to a) stay out of trouble and b) stay running until the end? No-one likes to see DC on a podium more than we do, but still…

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Lap 32: Kubica has cruised past Massa who doesn’t appear to have got much fuel into his car during that incident and so needs to pit again. Stop around 7 secs, soft tyres, reserve rig used, no problems.

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Lap 31: At the half-way point. The commentators are very sceptical that Rosberg has served his penalty properly, since he got out so high up the order, and Kubica who did the same is so far behind him. Presumably he didn’t mistake a stop-go for a drive-thru…

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Lap 30: Fisi pits and Alonso is up into second. The Italian goes onto soft tyres. Order is Trulli (yet to stop), Alonso, Rosberg who has served his penalty, DC, Hamilton, Glock, Vettel, Heidfeld, Nakajima, Button, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Sutil, Bourdais, Massa, Kubica, Fisichella.

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Lap 29: Rosberg comes out in fourth, ahead of Coulthard. Order is Trulli (yet to stop), Fisi (yet to stop), Alonso, Rosberg, DC and Hamilton. Webber is out of the race with mechanical problems, probably an engine failure. We know that moments of glory are brief in F1 but that really was spectacular.

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Lap 28: Rosberg comes in to serve his penalty.

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Lap 27: Not even half-way through this 61-lap race, and we’ve had enough incident for two regular grands prix already. The second- and third-placed cars are one one-stoppers and will be out of Alonso’s way quite soon. With that and with penalties the Spaniard will shortly be leading this race with Red Bull’s Mark Webber second and DC third. Whoops – Webber goes wide and is quite a long way further back, suddenly. DC is now second and Hamilton hassling him in third. Go DC! Show the kids how it’s done…

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Lap 25: Rosberg and Kubica have both been awarded 10-second stop-gos. Alonso looks to be the man who will benefit. But Lewis Hamilton is the winner in championship terms, with both his major rivals felled like tall trees in the Canadian wilderness. *If** he can keep it on the road for a few more laps. Of course, this is the perfect time for more ads…

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Lap 23: Back to the racing. Cars 4 and 7 – Kubica and Rosberg – are under investigation for pitting under the safety car. Sit down and prepare yourselves for a major shock. Massa – in last place, where nothing can save him – has a drive-through penalty for his messed-up pitstop. Let us not claim that there’s any pro-Ferrari bias around here. He serves it straight away.

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Lap 22: Massa is under investigation for cutting up Sutil in the pitlane. Rubens Barrichello is walking back to the pits. He tries to throw his gloves to the crowd – and they get blown into the river instead. Rubinho, we love you.

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Lap 21: Red Bull, having anticipated the safety car, got their cars in and refuelled them. So the race is anybody’s. Here at Brits on Pole we never pretend to be impartial – we’re cheering for Hamilton, DC and Button as our masthead suggests. But we fully subscribe to the theory that Ferrari and McLaren wouldn’t be able to fuck about like and still be in the championship hunt this if Alonso was in a decent car and keeping their drivers honest.

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Lap 20: How will Massa be refuelled on his next stop? Presumably using any kind of irregular rig will get Ferrari the sort of penalty McLaren got in Germany – oh, wait. Oh, Ross Brawn, how sorely are you missed in Maranello? Rob Smedley, is this a ‘silly little incident’ as well?

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Lap 19: Blame is put squarely with the Ferrari garage and its pit light system rather than with Massa personally. Rosberg is leading under the safety car but his drive-through penalty will put the one-stopping Jarno Trulli in the lead. Oh dearie me. Fisi, also on a one-stopper, is third. Then Kubica, Alonso, Webber, DC, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock. Raikkonen and Kubica are 16th and 18th.

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Lap 18: pit lane opens and expect everyone to dive in. Massa is first, then Hamilton. Massa has gone off with his hose and left a mechanic rolling about on the floor. He’s had to pull up in the pit lane – after nearly hitting Sutil, again – waiting for someone to come and retrieve the hose, and it’s taken about 20 seconds for anyone to notice. Raikkonen was queued up behind this. Massa has about 20 metres of hose hanging out of his car and his race is over. Massa is looking furiously angry and his visor is up. The hose cannot be freed from his car. Where are Hamilton and Raikkonen in the midst of all this?

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Lpa 17: Barrichello has stopped out on the circuit and his car’s being pushed. Kubica has had to pit under the safety car so he’ll get a 10-second penalty. The McLarens appear to have hung on – so far. Order is Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Glock, Kovy, Heidfeld, Nakajima.

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Lap 16: Safety car is out. Piquet is OK – he spun and hit the wall, even though his car is a dramatic mess it was a relatively minor incident. He is seen getting out of the car and then sprints across the track. This could mess up McLaren’s pit strategy as some cars got in before the pitlane closed – they did not. Rosberg has to go in and will be penalised. Will Hamilton face the same thing? Let’s find out – after the ads (a pox on the heads of ITV). Naturally I’d much rather be sold insurance than watch a sequence of events that could make or break Hamilton’s race.

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Lap 15: Kimi Raikkonen is running half a second faster than Hamilton, who is nevertheless hanging on in front of him – his lead is around two seconds. Massa’s 4.5 seconds ahead in the front. Hang on a mo – Nelson Piquet’s car is totalled and this looks like a serious incident. Yellow flag, expect the safety car.

– – – – –

Lap 14: So far we’ve had discussions from the commentary box about game theory, scaffolding and the Singapore national grid – which should tell you something about the racing. Massa’s lead four and a half seconds. Bourdais loses the car, ends up in a run-off area but recovers.

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Lap 13: Another terrible race for Kovalainen who is tucked up behind Glock in seventh and lapping a second and a half slower than Hamilton. Alonso is the first to pit – 9.6 seconds and he goes onto the harder tyres. Could be that Trulli and his fuel load wrecked his strategy.

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Lap 12: The Raikkonen remote has been triggered around an hour earlier than usual and Hamilton is under real pressure. The news that Ferrari want a one-two to disadvantage the McLaren driver as much as possible is surely an admission that Raikkonen is now the rear-gunner for Massa?

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Lap 11: Reports from the McLaren garage says they are happy with the circumstances – but Raikkonen is catching their man by half a second a lap right now, so they probably shouldn’t be.

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Lap 10: Brundle is talking about the track being “remarkably consistent”. The camera is on Hamilton’s face – “eyes the size of saucers,” says Allen, who is trying to count how often he blinks.

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Lap 9: Alonso is past Trulli and Webber’s next in a queue that’s like the one you get behind a tractor on a narrow country road. Massa 3 seconds ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen, behind him, is knocking out fastest laps at around 1:46.1. Kubica is six seconds back from him.

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Lap 8: James Allen back after the ads and Alonso has got himself onto the back of Trulli. Rosberg has eventually got past. The ITV commentary team is busy doing an infomercial for the Singapore Tourist Board. Massa has a big lump of debris stuck under his car, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting his lap times in the slightest.

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Lap 6: Meanwhile, at the front, Massa is 2.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton, 8 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. Trulli 30 seconds behind the leader and everyone else irretrievably stuck behind him. Yellow flag is out, debris on the track at turn 10. Webber has clipped it but seems to have escaped.

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Lap 5: Rosberg madly, deeply, into another corner – but can’t take Trulli who is lapping whole seconds slower than Massa.

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Lap 4: Massa picked up half a second on that last lap – he’s six and a half seconds up on Raikkonen and 1.7 on Hamilton. Rosberg is playing boy racer to Trulli’s elderly gent in a cloth cap and a Nissan – and disappears off the track as a result. The Trulli traffic jam is no joke at the moment – especially for Fernando Alonso.

– – – – –

Lap 3: Raikkonen now 5 seconds back from Massa and Hamilton did a fastest first sector in the previous lap. Kovalainen appears to have lost ground thanks to contact with Kubica.

– – – – –

Lap 2: Massa has 1.2 seconds on Hamilton and 3.5 seconds on Raikkonen. Hamilton seems to be opening up a bit of a gap on Raikkonen. Dead leaves blowing all over the track – better than wildlife, we suppose. The Trulli traffic jam has formed – charitable people say that’s due to a heavy fuel load. It would be fair to say that Massa has scampered off down the track and Hamilton’s the only one who can stay with him.

– – – – –

Lap 1: Raikkonen has a go at Hamilton but doesn’t manage anything. Massa easily away in the lead. Kovalainen looked to have taken Kubica but has suddenly lost three places. Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Vettel, Glock, Kovalainen. Some side-by-side racing and Vettel is doing very nicely and has got himself into fifth. The Williams cars have managed to hang on. Alonso has gained three places already, and is in 12th.

– – – – –

Parade lap: we are hearing how DC has forgotten to install his drinks bottle. A fairly good prospect of him not finishing the race on the back of that, given how hot and physically demanding it is set to be. We hear that the chances of a safety car during this race are rated pretty high.

Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella is starting from the pitlane after his two accidents in qualifying, on the strength of having to have his car rebuilt.

Everyone has got away, on hard tyres – except Fernando Alonso who is on the softer one. Discussions of the prospect of really heavy tyre wear during this race.

Weather forecast up – no rain expected during the race.

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ITV is running adverts about reducing your carbon footprint by not leaving your telly on standby in among the shots of the brilliantly-illuminated Singapore circuit. Can nobody see the irony?

– – – – –

Grid walk: Brundle, in an ocean of empty Tarmac says: “There’s a brilliant atmosphere.” Massa has a chat and says he’s glad to have the advantage of pole in this difficult race. Blown out by Mika Hakkinen, he’s reduced to talking to Renault’s sponsors who are right on the ball with their product placement.

Bernie Ecclestone says: “No complaints” – this is even more of a genuine first than the night race. He tries to get Brundle to chat to some politicians, and he mutters: “You’ve done me before on Prime Ministers.” He also tells a Daily Express journo to clear off – something we all wish we could do.

Top pick is the always-informative Ross Brawn who says he’s expecting an eventful race, especially around turn 7 where there’s only one line. If you’re off it, you’re off. Bernie’s daughter says she won’t be taking over the empire when Daddy decides to retire. About time someone started asking this question.

Champ Car veteran Mark Blundell says Singapore is very much like an American street course and tips Bourdais on the back of that, although his qualifying was poor.

Will it be won in the pits, asks Rider. It’ll be won on the first corner replies Blundell. Stand by for an exciting couple of hours, then…

– – – – –

Pre-race: Mark Webber pays fulsome tribute to future team-mate Sebastian “this is what happens when you put f***ing schoolboys in Formula One cars” Vettel. Nice to see the man’s big enough to change his mind.

Lewis Hamilton harnesses The Power Of Belief: “It looks like we’re on the back foot – but I don’t think we are. I think we’re in a strong strategy position.” Simple fact is that Massa got it together better than he did in qualifying and is now inconveniently in front of him as a result. Let’s hope the Boy Wonder doesn’t do anything stupid before the first corner…

Commentators on the telly are saying the McLaren doesn’t look hooked up – but that was Mark Blundell, who, we have often observed, is a bit of a Ferrari fan. Fair dos – Brundle is more of a McLaren man, so editorial balance is achieved. And we’ve often remarked on Louise Goodman’s partiality for Honda and ‘our Jense’.

The sheer length of this lap is going to make for interesting strategy in this race – there are something like 24 corners for the drivers to tackle and it comes in close to two minutes.

Formula One, busy proving once more in the courtrooms of Paris that it’s not run as a sport, now looks like a videogame too. Sorry for this relentless cynicism. A new can of dewy-eyed wonder is overdue to be opened here at Brits on Pole HQ.

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