Having stated pre-weekend that he was aiming for a points position in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, Formula 1's newest winner Sebastian Vettel proved to be every bit as good as his word, producing an impressive performance around the demanding Marina Bay Street Circuit to seal fifth place.
Beginning the sport's first-ever night race from sixth on the grid following countryman Nick Heidfeld's 'blocking' penalty, Vettel gained a further position on the opening lap when Heikki Kovalainen got tangled up with Robert Kubica, and from thereon in drove assuredly to clinch his fourth straight points-scoring finish – and fifth in six grands prix – and move past Jarno Trulli into eighth spot in the drivers' world standings.
“Overall this was a good race for us,” the 21-year-old Italian Grand Prix star affirmed, “even if the safety car didn't help. It was a difficult race for everyone, but the important thing is we have scored some more points. The hardest elements in the race were dealing with the heat and concentrating to not make any mistakes, as it could be very easy to clip a kerb.
“I tried to keep the car on-track but still push like crazy. It was one of the toughest races of the season, but I think with everything that happened, this was the best result we could get. Maybe fourth might have been possible if I hadn't lost a place to Timo [Glock] when I missed a braking point, but we can be happy with this fifth place.”
Vettel's race, however, contrasted somewhat with that of team-mate Sébastien Bourdais, who found him unable to replicate the kind of form that had seen him take such a step forward in the top flight in the European Grand Prix around the similar Juan Carlos I Marina Circuit in Valencia a month ago.
Having lined up just 17th on the starting grid, the French record-breaking Champ Car king was unable to make any significant progress, caught up in the 'Trulli Train' early on and grappling throughout with braking woes.
“It was a tough race,” the 29-year-old reflected afterwards. “When I was running on my own my brake balance was fine, but once I was in traffic I kept losing the front end, even with all the brake bias on the rear. I know it was difficult to pass here, but I was even having difficulty following other cars and didn't know where my limit was.
“It was a really tough race physically too, given how long it was and the lack of air coming through the cockpit, and with a long last stint I was running a heavy fuel load, which meant my tyres were suffering towards the end. It's been a long night.”
Having now moved three points clear of 'parent' concern Red Bull Racing in the constructors' chase, however, STR continues to go from strength-to-strength in the latter stages of the 2008 F1 campaign – and the small Faenza-based squad's technical director Franz Tost reckons a lot more is still to come.
“Once again, a strong performance from Sebastian Vettel,” the contented Austrian remarked. “Until the first safety car he was a solid fifth, but really the SC came out two laps too early for us. After that he drove a fantastic race, and in his second pit-stop the team did a very good job as we were able to keep Heidfeld behind us.
“Sébastien Bourdais did what he could given his grid position. We feel the characteristics of the next circuits on the calendar should better suit our package, so we are really looking forward to racing in Japan in a fortnight.”