In formula one's first-ever grand prix held under floodlights Fernando Alonso showed that he deserves the honour of being a double world champion. Felipe Massa , on the other hand, proved that he might never join that exclusive club. Given that Massa's initial Singapore drama was not his own fault, this statement is going to annoy a few people. So let's get the Alonso bit out of the way first. There will have been some Spanish obscenities echoing around Alonso's helmet yesterday when he climbed out of his stationary Renault, his Q2 qualifying session wrecked by a fuel supply problem.
He started the race proper from 15th on the grid and, with Renault undecided on his strategy, took his first stop very early. His team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr turned this uncertainty into good fortune when he crumpled his car against a wall, bringing out the safety car. Although Alonso was fifth on the road when racing resumed, those in front either needed to make a stop or would be penalised for illegally pitting. So if the Spaniard could maintain his pace, safely negotiate any incidents and avoid all errors, he would win his first race in a year.
But there were 40 long laps to go. Initially sceptical about the point of F1 holding a night race you can blame that on my love of the Le Mans 24 Hours I changed my mind during the race, and not just because the cars looked delicious shimmering under the lights. It was the two-hour, turn marathon it posed for drivers, during which they had to concentrate harder than ever before. People describe Spa and Monza as being tracks that sort the men from the boys — we can now add Marina Bay to that list.
On lap 45 we heard Alonso's engineer telling him not to panic, but that seemed the last thing the man from Oviedo — whose confidence is often interpreted as arrogance — was going to do, and he duly won. Further down the grid — way, way further — Massa crossed the line in thirteenth. His race wasn't supposed to turn out like that. A truly special final flying lap in qualifying yesterday had given him pole by more than sixth tenths from Hamilton.
He kept the lead at the start, pulling away from the McLaren. Then during his first stop the Ferrari light system failed, for the second time this season, and he exited with the fuel hose still attached. He parked up at the end of the pit lane with the hose dangling like entrails, while the mechanics sprinted down and yanked and pulled until it came free. Back out on track he was given a drive through penalty for being released from his box into the path of another car.
Under these circumstances you'd expect the red mist to come down and for him to charge to salvage a point or two. Instead, he trundled around, got spooked by a slow Toyota into spinning at Turn 18 - causing Sutil to hit the barriers and bring out a second safety car — and dropped his pace dramatically at the end. Unless he had a problem with his car that we don't know about this performance was unworthy of a man fighting for the title. Hamilton had similarly lost advantage by having to pit during the first safety car period, but he stormed back to third — benefiting, it has to be said, from problems hitting both Red Bulls.
But I would always bet my money on Hamilton being the man to claw back points that are seemingly unobtainable. He did it last time out in Monza when an awful qualifying left him starting in fifteenth, but he fought up to seventh at the flag. Massa started that race from sixth… and finished in sixth.
Every formula one fan has their own personal criteria for determining the great from the good. I don't just consider the number of wins a driver manages — and Massa has the edge so far with five to Hamilton's four — but how they perform when things don't go well, whether of their own making or not. Based on that often more illuminating factor, it is the man in the silver bullet who deserves to take the crown this year.