Having supremely mastered demanding conditions in Formula 1's inaugural night race in Singapore, Fernando Alonso has registered his first grand prix victory in a year, and Renault's first in almost two – and then admitted that the magnitude of his achievement may take some time to fully sink in.
The former double F1 World Champion was distraught after qualifying, when a fuel feed problem at the beginning of Q2 had cost him what he reckoned could have been a spot on the front row of the grid around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit, a venue that he contended was the Régie's
strongest track of the season to-date.
His performance in the grand prix corroborated that belief, but ironically he may never have found himself in a race-winning position had he not suffered the problem that left him only 15th on the grid, as being further down the order drove Renault to place him on an aggressive, early-stopping strategy in the race – meaning he was in the perfect place when, again somewhat ironically, the safety car came out for team-mate Nelsinho Piquet's crash on lap 14.
After the flurry of pit-stops had shaken out, Alonso found himself sitting in fifth position and – with two of the drivers ahead of him facing stop-and-go penalties for having pitted before the pit-lane was officially open, and the other two on heavy one-stop strategies and soon to come in anyway – very much in the driving seat.
From thereon in the 27-year-old pulled away, lapping the challenging circuit with inch-perfect precision to prove that his practice pace had been no flash in the pan, and drawing upon all of his experience and guile to expertly manage the race's late second safety car period ten laps from home and take a largely untroubled win – the 20th of his F1 career.
“This is a fantastic result – my first podium of the season, my first victory and I'm very happy,” he enthused afterwards, “although I think it will take several days for me to realise what we have achieved.
“Winning a grand prix here just seemed to be impossible because we missed our chance yesterday in qualifying, but we were very fortunate today and it's a superb result for the team. We chose a very aggressive strategy and we had a bit of luck, but we had the pace and the car was fantastic throughout the weekend.”
“From the start of the race things were complicated and I had a lot of graining, and the situation got worse and worse,” contrasted Piquet, whose accident quite possibly won his team-mate the race.
“The team asked me to push, which I tried to do and finally I lost the rear of my car. I hit the wall heavily but I'm okay. I am disappointed with my race but obviously very happy for the team this evening.”