Click above for high-res gallery of the 2008 Singapore GP

Opening night can be the worst time to see a new production. But it can also be the most painfully entertaining, watching all the actors trip over their toes and forget their lines with the pressure to perform bearing down and the bright lights glaring in their eyes.

This weekend's Singapore Grand Prix wasn't just the first race on a new track and in a new host country. It was also the very first Formula One race held at night. No problem, you might figure, for these are the most professional drivers in the world. Well, not quite. But opening night was still highly entertaining; probably more so as a result. If you've recorded the race and haven't watched it yet, move along. But if you haven't, or even watched part and skipped out before the end, you'll want to follow the jump to see how Formula One's foray into the nocturnal panned out for this year's crop of championship hopefuls.

As the F1 circus rolled into Singapore, the pundits predicted that the qualifying order would prove most important as overtaking would be difficult on the unfamiliar street circuit in the Pacific city-state. How wrong they turned out to be.

Saturday's qualifying placed championship runner-up Felipe Massa on pole, with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen right behind him in P3 and title front-runner Lewis Hamilton in the second slot. BMW's Robert Kubica, third in the title standings heading into Singapore, placed fourth in qualifying, with McLaren's number two Heikki Kovalainen in fifth. But once the lights turned green, it was pandemonium.

Turns out the actual race start was only one of three that would occur throughout the evening, as the safety car had to be brought out twice, leading the race for about as long as anyone else did. Evidently unaccustomed to the night-time conditions, an astonishing six drivers failed to reach the finish line.

A third of the way into the race, Felipe Massa looked to have it locked up. His lead continued to open up ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton, and with Kimi Raikkonen is the second scarlet rocket closing in fast on the McLaren between them, it looked like Ferrari were possibly headed to a one-two finish. That was until the first major accident took an apologetic Nelson Piquet (Renault) out of the race on the 14th lap and the safety car out of the pits, and proceeded to completely scramble the order.

Both Nico Rosberg (Williams) and Robert Kubica (BMW), eyeing empty fuel tanks, ignored the closed pit lane and went in anyway, for which they both received ten-second start/stop penalties. Ferrari waited until the right opportunity, then brought both their boys in one after the other. That's when disaster struck.

With his wing-man waiting to enter behind him and the fuel hose still attached, an apparent error in the signals saw Massa gun it and took the hose with him to the end of the pit lane, where he had to wait for the crew to switch hoses and tend to Raikkonen before they could run down to the pit exit and manage to remove the nozzle from Massa's car. The unfortunate incident dropped Massa way down the order as he waited for the all-clear, and delayed Raikkonen significantly as well. To make matters worse, the race marshals later penalized Massa for the error, putting the last nail in the coffin from which the young Brazilian would not escape.

Massa ultimately finished a disheartening 13th while he watched his team-mate work his way up the order to third place, then dropping down after pitting only to re-emerge and fight his way up to fifth behind Toyota driver (and 2007 GP2 champion) Timo Glock. Pushing hard in the closing laps to get past the rookie, Raikkonen shimmied over the curbing on the S and smacked into the wall, ending his race along with the chance of regaining ground in pursuit of a repeat championship. Yet another fastest lap was surely of little consolation for the Finn, as the F1 rulebook awards the achievement no points.

While the Ferraris faltered, championship front-runner Lewis Hamilton kept himself calm and collected to climb up the order and onto the podium with a respectable third-place finish. Though he might have stood a decent chance of getting around Nico Rosberg in second, with Massa out of the points and held up behind Hondas and Force Indias, there was little point in risking a DNF. Hamilton took a well-earned third and smiled one smile closer to the title.

Rosberg, meanwhile, pulled off a miraculous performance to take the second stop on the podium. The son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg did his papa proud by overcoming the same penalty that debilitated Kubica to take his best result and second podium in his career (after his third place finish in Australia at the start of this season) since winning the GP2 series in 2005.

But the real hero of the day night was Fernando Alonso, who took his first win of the season – indeed his first podium this year after a quartet of fourth-place finishes – with a remarkable checkered-flag performance. The accomplishment was all the more notable as Alonso had only qualified 15th, yet managed to pick his way through the wreckage to take the win. The second outing of the safety car had eliminated his lead over the rest of the field, but Alonso proved his championship meddle by re-taking an astounding six-second lead in only two laps once the Mercedes SL went back to the garage. The victory was the first for Renault since Alonso left after his second championship nearly two years ago, and a jubilant Flavio Briatore stepped up to the podium to collect the constructors' trophy.

The victory will undoubtedly affect Alonso's chances of staying with Renault for another season, as the double world champion has been tipped to do.

The results leave Hamilton seven points ahead of Felipe Massa's 77 with 84 points. Robert Kubica, who likewise finished outside the points in 11th, continues with 64, as Raikkonen does with 57. As a result of having scored no points this weekend, and despite having two title challengers in its ranks, Ferrari lost its lead for the first time this season in the constructors' championship, dropping to 134 points to McLaren's 135 and BMW Sauber's 120. Tune in October 12 for the Japanese Grand Prix from the Fuji Speedway, followed the next week by the penultimate Chinese GP from Shanghai and the Brazilian season-closer at the start of November.

2008 Singapore Grand Prix

1. Alonso Renault
2. Rosberg Williams-Toyota
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
4. Glock Toyota
5. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari
6. Heidfeld BMW Sauber
7. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault
8. Nakajima Williams-Toyota
9. Button Honda
10. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
11. Kubica BMW Sauber
12. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13. Massa Ferrari
14. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari
15. Raikkonen Ferrari

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:45.599

Not classified/retirements:
Trulli Toyota
Sutil Force India-Ferrari
Webber Red Bull-Renault
Barrichello Honda
Piquet Renault

World Championship standings
after 15 rounds

1. Hamilton 84
2. Massa 77
3. Kubica 64
4. Raikkonen 57
5. Heidfeld 56
6. Kovalainen 51
7. Alonso 38
8. Vettel 27
9. Trulli 26
10. Glock 20
11. Webber 20
12. Rosberg 17
13. Piquet 13
14. Barrichello 11
15. Nakajima 9
16. Coulthard 8
17. Bourdais 4
18. Button 3

1. McLaren-Mercedes 135
2. Ferrari 134
3. BMW Sauber 120
4. Renault 51
5. Toyota 46
6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 31
7. Red Bull-Renault 28
8. Williams-Toyota 26
9. Honda 14

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