It seems Nico felt that he was the winner of the Formula 1’s first night race judging by a recent interview while visiting Peranakan Museum. Rosberg Junior’s exact words were…
“Actually, I won the race because the team who finished first cheated.”
“If we had protested, I could’ve won the race last year. But it’s too late now.”
He followed up with a definitely bitter tone…
“The only thing I don’t understand is that Piquet didn’t get anything. For me, he’s just as involved as the others because he is the one who actually did it and agreed to it.”
Nico is right, if the Renault cheating had been found out at the time he would have won his first GP and F1’s first night race. Does this actually make him the deserved winner of the inaugural night race?
At the start of the race Nico was 10th and only just ahead of his team-mate Kazuki and by lap 5 was 31 seconds behind race leader Felipe Massa. This is despite being quite light with fuel. It was not an impressive start to the race. Alonso pitted early since he had caught Kazuki who was circulating fairly slowly and this would damage their early pitstop strategy.
After Alonso completed his pitstop Piquet was given the order to crash (push Nelson = crash Nelson). The two Red Bull drivers pitted just before the pitlane was closed and Nico and Robert pitted while the pitlane was closed. Nico emerged from the pits well ahead of Alonso, but more significantly he had F1’s two mobile chicanes of 2008 season Truli and Fisichella between him and the rest of the pack.
Nico only took his drive-through penalty on lap 29 – more than 10 laps after his breach of the pitlane. Due to particularly Fisichella the rest of the pack including Alonso was some 24 seconds behind Rosberg. So when Nico rejoined he was just behind Alonso the eventual winner and ahead of Hamilton. At that time every one was behind Truli who was yet to make any pitstop. When Truli pitted Alonso took the lead ahead of Nico and Lewis, a situation held to the end of the race.
What outcome given Renault fixed the race?
Nico could only have won as benefit of another team cheating and being caught out. His favourable position was contributed to by being able to building a 24 second lead over the pack caught up behind Fisichella. In reality, even lightly fuelled, Nico was not going to be in position to even win points, let alone final on the top spot.
Felipe and the Ferrari got to grips with the track best throughout qualifying and the first part of the race. Felipe looked so good that it almost seemed to be another Massatrack like Turkey and Interlagos. In the mayhem that followed Piquet’s shunt the Ferrari pit crew stuffed his pitstop together with an unsafe release. Felipe did have a spin towards the end of the race and reported a slow puncture. Even had there not been the bungled pitstop this could have harmed his chance for victory. Similarly Kimi was also in a strong position but crashed towards the end of the race. I am of the opinion that actually Lewis Hamilton was the most likely victor had there not been a safety car and Nico would have finished out of the points.
It is very unfortunate the results of 2008 cannot be revoked. Neither Alonso nor Renault deserved this win and should be disqualified from the results. This also impacted on the final standings and Alonso would not have finished ahead of Nick. In all honesty, even if the results could be changed, I do not think a winner should be awarded. I find it disappointing that Nico could consider this to be a REAL win. Although people thought he drove well his good position was really luck of the circumstances (the deliberate crash, the Truli-Fisichella dual-train, and being allowed 11 laps before taking the penalty). This was a solid but not stellar race for the young Williams driver.