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Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Monday, 27 September 2010 11:44 UK

Fernando Alonso steals a march on Red Bull

Fernando Alonso

Singapore Grand Prix in 90 seconds

BBC F1 analyst Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

After an hour and 58 minutes of intense action in Singapore, Fernando Alonso beat Sebastian Vettel by 0.3 seconds.

It was his 25th victory, a tally that equals the great Jim Clark and Niki Lauda, and was undoubtedly one of his best. He stole the victory from the slightly faster Vettel/Red Bull combination.

Ferrari and Alonso deserved the win on merit in Monza two weeks ago and McLaren let them off the hook - but in Singapore Red Bull should have won and Ferrari denied them.

Red Bull promised us they would be back on form and Vettel was the class act in all three practice sessions.

It was a remarkable dogfight between Alonso and Vettel

They seemed to have recovered any downforce possibly lost by the new and more stringent aerodynamic flexibility tests with various bodywork updates.

But Vettel peaked too early. Just as at Monaco, in Singapore you have to reach a crescendo with your ultimate pace in qualifying, not the final practice session.

When it mattered, Vettel clattered the barriers, had a couple of scruffy corners on the damp, difficult surface and ended up a crucial second on the grid.

Alonso, from his 20th career Formula 1 pole, had to be very aggressive with the fast-starting Vettel to prevent him taking the lead.

Vettel bailed out early and switched to the outside but had there been contact it would have been easy to build a case against Alonso for unsafe driving.

The scene was set for a remarkable dogfight.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso

Alonso delighted after 'difficult race'

It was one of those races in which two drivers elevate themselves on to a separate plane from their rivals and as such it reminded me of the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, when Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen fought out that year's drivers' title. Schumacher has since told the BBC that it was his toughest race.

Alonso and Ferrari were perfect. The car was reliable, he didn't make any mistakes and he had the pace when he needed it, especially on the softer tyres in the first stint.

Such was the intensity of their duel that Alonso set a new lap record on lap 58 - only three laps before the end of the race. Vettel's fastest lap, only 0.165secs slower, came on the very next lap.

Red Bull chose not to pit Vettel earlier than Alonso, or even run longer in the hope of a few banzai laps making the difference. Team boss Christian Horner explained that if they had stopped earlier it would have put Vettel back out among the trailing McLarens in third and fourth.

Both Alonso and Vettel set new fastest laps when they put on the fresh hard compound tyres and so running longer most likely would not have worked.

By not orchestrating a contrary strategy, Red Bull were guaranteed to stay second after the stops, especially as Vettel pitted in second gear rather than first.

It was a bittersweet weekend for Red Bull.

They finished second and third, with Mark Webber taking the last podium spot from fifth on the grid. He leads the drivers' championship by 11 points and the team head the constructors' chase by 24 points

They took what Horner described as a gamble by pitting Webber on the first safety car. It worked because he made the tyres last to the end and had good pace but he was forced into some big overtakes on the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher to make it work.

And of course it was a robust defence against main championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

It was astonishing that Webber finished the race after his front wheel smashed against the rear of Hamilton's McLaren.

You would put money on the rear suspension of an F1 car winning against a front end any day - as Hamilton found in Monza.

Andrew Benson's blog

The impact knocked a good proportion of Webber's tyre bead almost completely off the rim, giving him a significant vibration that apparently blistered his hand.

With victory at the super-high-speed Monza and then winning two weeks' later in a street environment, both from pole position, Ferrari clearly have a very raceable car.

It is worth all the flak they took, and will continue to take, for the controversial driver swap in Hockenheim.

Alonso has a rear gunner in Felipe Massa, who is very capable of taking points off his main rivals and that is a powerful tool in this title chase.

Alonso is 11 points behind Webber now, with 100 points still on the table as we head to tough tracks such as Suzuka and Interlagos, where the drivers can make a difference.

Hamilton has been knocked for six in the championship battle.

His retirement in Singapore, following on from more of the same in Monza and mechanical failure in Hungary, is very damaging but he still has a chance.

I called his clash with Webber a racing incident and I stand by that.

Hamilton said after the race that he did not know Webber was there, telling the BBC that he was "in a daze" and did not really know what had happened.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Title is a tough call now - Hamilton

He was not pointing the finger at Webber straight away but he must have known the Aussie wasn't going to yield easily.

He should have given Webber more room, having pinched the Red Bull to the inside and then closed off his braking zone.

It was not as if Webber made a banzai move and ran out of space and talent. The stewards must have rightly debated a penalty for Webber - it was that close - but they made the right decision in my view.

We saw Renault's Robert Kubica pull off exactly the same move later on Adrian Sutil's Force India but Kubica had a clear performance advantage at that time - and he left more space.

We can only question Hamilton, not criticise him. He is an opportunist and a generally brilliant overtaker and his attitude wins him races. Sometimes it does not pay off and he should be thinking more about points now and not taking the risks.

A single-seater only has one person in it by definition, so however it gets damaged you know where to search first for possible blame.

It was another very solid drive from Jenson Button, along with Nico Rosberg, Rubens Barrichello, and Robert Kubica.

I was a little confused by the early safety car deployment.

Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India looked out of harm's way when the first was triggered but we saw Heikki Kovalainen standing on the pit straight in the closing laps personally putting out a huge fire on his Lotus as cars flashed by at 150mph, with no sign of the safety car.

Thankfully everything was fine in the end and we had a full-speed chequered flag finish.

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see also
Flawless Alonso wins in Singapore
26 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Title will be tough says Hamilton
26 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
F1 big picture
27 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Singapore Grand Prix as it happened
26 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Singapore Grand Prix photos
26 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso storms to Singapore pole
25 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Singapore qualifying as it happened
25 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Experience could be key - Alonso
24 Sep 10 |  Formula 1

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