Singapore Grand Prix runner-up Nico Rosberg has admitted that he thought his chances of a strong result had been ended during the first safety car period, when he was forced to refuel against the regulations.

The Williams driver had made a good start from his ninth place on the grid, using the supersoft Bridgestone tyres to make early ground, when the safety car came out to cover the recovery of Nelson Piquet Jr's smashed Renault. Unfortunately for the German, the pace car period coincided with his first fuel stop and, despite trying to stretch his load as far as possible, he eventually had no option but to pull into a 'closed' pit-lane.

Not for the first time in his brief F1 career, Rosberg thus fell foul of the current rules that require the field to pack up behind the safety car before being allowed to pit, earning himself a ten-second stop-go penalty that threatened to undo all his earlier work.

"At the time that the team said I had to have a penalty - which I thought was going to come anyway - I thought it was all over again," the inaugural GP2 Series champion admitted, "When I saw the safety car coming out on just the lap where I had to pit, I was thinking 'this is not possible, it is every single time exactly the same thing!'. The crew had already told me come in [that] lap, and then the safety car comes out. I was really annoyed and thought that was it, that was the end of it."

Pitting while the rest of the field trailed around the safety car, however, allowed Rosberg to cycle through to the front of the pack when the pit-lane finally opened, and he assumed control of the race at the restart, ahead of the one-stopping Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, and Robert Kubica, who had likewise been caught out by the timing of the safety car intervention.

While Kubica struggled to rediscover his earlier pace, however, Rosberg streaked away from the pack, which was being delayed behind the heavier cars of Trulli and Fisichella, opening out an advantage that would ultimately allow him to rejoin in a healthy points position behind only Fernando Alonso when the various strategies had cycled through.

"Although I was P1, I was trying to go as hard as I could," the German said of the lap 20 restart, "I was enjoying it while I was out front, but I still thought it was all over because I had to come in.

"It's a very, very nice view to have P1 on the pit board, but I was just pushing as hard as I could, as I had nobody behind me. I was thinking 'this is looking great' and just pushing as hard as I could because I knew that I had to stop, so I had to try and get the gap as big as possible.

"I dropped to sixth, and then [the team] said that the guys in front still needed to stop, so it was looking great again. It was me racing Fernando, and I thought I might have a chance against him. The car felt pretty good and we were definitely quite strong on this track, which is really pleasing. Everything went our way for once, which is fantastic for me and for the whole team, but Fernando was just a bit too quick today."

Having settled into second place, with a seemingly comfortable gap back to Lewis Hamilton, a second safety car period was just what Rosberg would not have wanted, but he managed to keep the championship leader at bay to go on and collect his best-ever finish in F1, overwriting the third place he took in Melbourne at the start of the season.

"It was going to be difficult for me to pass Fernando, as he was a little bit quicker than me, so I was concentrating more on behind me, trying to get a good exit out of that last corner rather than just being quick in general," he revealed of the final restart, "I struggled a lot with tyre warm up as my tyres really cool down a lot in a safety car period and it is difficult afterwards. I was just concentrating behind me as, from Lewis, there was big pressure and I thought he was going to be pretty quick. That was my main focus. I wasn't looking forward, I was just trying to stay second.

"It's been a great result for us. I think the team has done a fantastic job because we also struggled with brakes and had some problems with the bumpiness on the track too. We had some issues and they fixed up a whole load overnight in preparation for qualifying. Everything held on great, so a big compliment to them.

"It gives us a big boost, for the winter and for next year. I think [the podium] is a very good thing - and I think we deserved it. Luck was on our side for once."

The penalty, however, was not Rosberg's only scare, for he had already been warned by his crew that, if he could not pass Trulli early on, his race would be compromised.

"I had a bit of a difficult start on the dirty side [of the grid], didn't get away too well and dropped behind Jarno," he reflected, "He was pretty slow, I suppose he was heavy on fuel, so I absolutely had to get by him.

"The problem was that my only chance was at turn one, where I wasn't ever quite close enough, and turn seven where, on the inside, it is so bumpy it is simply impossible to outbrake someone, very, very difficult.

"The team told me 'either you get by him or the race is over' and, if you are in that situation, it is better just to take a risk. Okay, maybe you put it into the wall, but take the risk, otherwise you are going to finish nowhere. You might as well go for it - and that is what I did.

"It took some time, but I was literally alongside and could just brake on the inside - but, even then, it was quite a hairy moment as I locked up everything. I came through and then I was doing one qualifying lap after another because I knew it was my only chance to break clear of that group. Fortunately. it worked out well."

Along with Alonso, Rosberg was the only driver to start on the softer of Bridgestone's two tyre choices but, unlike the Spaniard, he felt that he had to take it, rather than making a conscious decision to do so.

"The only reason I started with the [super]soft was that it was the only new tyre I had left and I needed it for the start," the German admitted, "It didn't really help me much as my start wasn't great on the dirty side and I was stuck behind Jarno. I went for it a couple of times - and it was pretty close a few times - but, in the end, I locked up all the wheels and flat-spotted the tyres, so it was quite tough afterwards. Then the safety car came out....."

 

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