|An aerial view shows the illuminated Marina Bay street circuit of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at dusk. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)
Singapore - After last week's win on Ferrari's home turf in Monza, Italy, Fernando Alonso kept his Formula One championship hopes alive. Alonso notched his third win in his first season with Ferrari. The Spaniard is now 21 points behind leader Mark Webber.
Last month, Alonso tumbled in the standings when he finished 21st in the Belgian Grand Prix. He fell 41 points behind then leader Lewis Hamilton.
"I think any good result gives you extra confidence and some good motivation for the whole team, to keep working hard and try not to give up at any point in the championship," Alonso said. "We know that one race, good or bad, can change the positions in the championship a lot with the new points system."
Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, won the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, when he drove for Renault. However, his victory in Singapore came amid controversy.
Last year, F1's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), accused Renault of conspiring driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to cause a deliberate crash early in the race. The wreck forced the deployment of the safety car. Alonso, who started on a light fuel load, made his first pit stop prior to Piquet's accident. The safety car period helped Alonso move to the front of the field after he started 15th on the grid.
In what turned out to be one of the sport's biggest scandals, investigations by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council and officials from Renault found that team principal Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds planned the crash with Piquet in order to benefit the race strategy of Alonso.
Renault avoided permanent expulsion from F1 competition when the FIA handed the French team a two-year suspended ban. Renault admitted to intentionally causing the crash before the FIA handed down its decision.
Hamilton won last year's Singapore GP. The McLaren driver started on the pole and relinquished his lead briefly after pitting the second time. While Hamilton picked up his second victory of the season, Webber was eliminated from the 2009 title hunt after finishing 17th. Webber's brakes failed in his Red Bull car, causing him to spin and slam into the wall.
"I'm hoping to improve on last year's result, as it's a high downforce street circuit that should suit our car," Webber said. "It's got some similarities to Monaco and Budapest, and we did well at both those circuits, so I'm hoping for a strong result."
Webber holds just a five-point lead over Hamilton with five races to go.
Last week, BMW Sauber announced that Nick Heidfeld will replace Pedro de la Rosa in the team's car, starting with the Singapore GP. Heidfeld will finish the season with the team. He had served as Mercedes GP's reserve and test driver for the 2010 season. The German parted with BMW Sauber to join Mercedes at the end of last year.
"I can't wait to get back in the race car," Heidfeld said. "I'm not just very much looking forward to going racing again, as I regard it as a special bonus that my first race will be the Singapore Grand Prix."