Singapore Grand Prix: The PUMA Perspective

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All hopes Fernando Alonso and PUMA’s partner team Ferrari had of laying claim to the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship collapsed on Sunday when the Spaniard, World Champion in 2005/6, finished fourth in the Singapore Grand Prix, thus putting him out of mathematical reckoning for the title with five (of 19) races remaining.

Ferrari had headed to the enchanting Asian city-state with high hopes, for Fernando has more than proven his worth on the streets of Singapore, being the night race’s only double winner – having won here in 2008/2010.

Alas it was not to be, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel winning by two seconds from Jenson Button (McLaren), and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull placing third. At the rate of 25 points for a win and five rounds to go, single 2011 race winner Fernando needed to leave Singapore within 124 points of the German, as Vettel’s win tally of (at least) nine this year meant the 24-year-old would take it on count-back even if he retires from every remaining race and Fernando wins through to Brazil at end-November.

With Vettel and Button on 309 and 185 points respectively versus Fernando’s 184, Jenson is the only driver still in with a mathematical shot at the title, but it is clearly an exceedingly long shot. However, Fernando can still salvage honour for the Italian team by taking the runner-up spot, and has vowed to do so.

By the same token, with all hope of the championship over, the team can now afford to adopt a different strategy by using the final five races to introduce developments aimed at next year’s car without fear of losing crucial 2011 championship points. The team has that option at least a race earlier than either Red Bull Racing or McLaren.

Work has already commenced on the new car, and although it is expected to carry over a host of components, the 2012 design will surely differ significantly in other areas, specifically its aerodynamic design. Following Pat Fry’s promotion to engineering chief in May, the experienced Briton will obviously influence the design parameters of a car the Scuderia hopes will deliver its first title since 2007.

Sunday’s race was, of course, doubly disappointing for Ferrari, for Felipe Massa eventually finished ninth after being assaulted by Jenson’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who has now made more visits to the stewards than the season has had races. During Saturday qualifying, Lewis banged wheels with Felipe when he attempted to barge his way through at the start of the third qualifying session, but on Sunday he did it properly, costing Felipe a top five place.

However, the Scuderia has great strength in depth, and will no doubt regroup during the fortnight ahead of the back-to-back Japan/Korea double-header. Certain team members will remain in Asia to prepare for the event, although management and key staff members are already en route back to base in Maranello as this is written.

Pat has promised some updates for the Ferrari F150° in both Japan and Korea, so Jenson and McLaren will not have an easy time. As for Sebastian and Red Bull: there are still five races to beat the combination in!