Race review – Malaysian Grand Prix
Welcome to the PureF1.com race review for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
VitalF1.com and PureF1.com will be linking up throughout the season to bring you comprehensive coverage of this seasons Formula One World Championship.
With the latest news coming from VitalF1 and race analysis from PureF1, we will have every angle covered. Race review – Malaysian Grand Prix 2012
Fernando Alonso survived thunderstorms and a late charge from Sergio Perez to claim a surprise yet vital win for Ferrari at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
In a race lasting 3 hours, Alonso took advantage of problems ahead to claim a win that now lifts him to the top of the championship standings.
Light rain just before the start meant all driver’s started on wet tyres, at the start Hamilton was able to hold off Button into turn 1, while Michael Schumacher had a terrible start which got even worse after Romain Grosjean, who had a good start in his Lotus, tagged the back of Schumacher’s Mercedes sending both spinning.
Mark Webber moved up to 4th, with Vettel 5th and Alonso gaining 2 positions to 6th. As the rain intensified, Sergio Perez made an early switch to the full wet tyres and that would be a good call as the track soon became very wet and those around pitted a few laps later.
Romain Grosjean’s inexperience continued to show as he slid off the track at turn 6 taking his total number of race laps this season to 8. As the thunderstorm continued all the driver’s bar Jean-Eric Vergne, who remained on intermediates, and Narain Karthikeyan, who started on full wets, switched to the deeper tread wet tyres but even they couldn’t cope with the monsoon rain and soon a safety car was called.
Just 8 laps in to the race the 2009 scenario was replayed as the red flag was called because of the persistent heavy rain.
The order during the race suspension was Hamilton, Button, Perez moved to 3rd after his early change to full wets, Webber 4th, Alonso 5th, Vettel 6th, Vergne was 7th ahead of Massa, Rosberg 9th with Karthikeyan’s decision to start on full wets moving him up to 10th.
The 50 minute delay ended and the race resumed behind the safety car as the driver’s adjusted to what was a quickly drying racetrack.
After 3 laps behind the safety car the race began at full speed and immediately some driver’s switched to the intermediate tyres including Button, Webber and Rosberg.
Soon the driver’s on inters were faster than those on full wets. A rash of pit stops saw Hamilton delayed and resume behind Alonso who managed to jump both McLaren’s. Perez pitted a lap later and would of resumed in the lead however Alonso was able to get a run on the Sauber and passed him into turn 4.
Soon after the pit-stops Button had major drama as he made contact trying to overtake an HRT into turn 9 damaging his front wing and forcing him to replace it.
Down the field Ricciardo, Kobayashi and Senna were having a great battle with Ricciardo passing both men around the outside at the long turn 5, Schumacher was stuck outside the top 10 as the 2 McLaren’s struggled in the wet conditions.
Red Bull also struggled as Vettel and Webber both failed to make huge strides on the cars around them only waiting until the DRS was activated to overtake the Mercedes of Rosberg.
Under pressure Massa was having a decent race in the bottom half of the top 10 until several slow laps with worn tyres dropped him 3 places down the field before pitting for a fresh set of intermediates.
Team-mate Alonso however was having a great race pushing the gap out to 7 seconds, however as the track dried out Perez began to reel in the Spaniard quickly closing the gap.
With lap times continuing the tumble, the thought of dry tyres entering the heads of the teams, a spanner in the works was a large rain cloud gradually making its way towards the circuit, leaving the teams with a key decision, pit for slicks, hope it stays dry or stay on the degrading inters and pray the rain comes.
Behind the battling top 2, Hamilton was a lonely 3rd ahead of Vettel, Raikkonen had moved up to 4th with Webber dropping down to 6th. Button however was stuck a long way down the order but did have one of the best scraps of the race as he attacked Massa down the pit straight, Daniel Ricciardo closed in behind the pair and with the DRS, they ended up 3 abreast through turns 1 and 2, Button clearing Massa while Ricciardo remained behind the pair.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first man to risk the dry tyres on lap 38 and instantly went several seconds faster than those around him. Soon everybody was switching to slicks and as Perez continued to catch Alonso he missed out on the chance to move ahead by pitting a lap later than the Ferrari driver, losing some time.
Despite that however he was quickly able to get up to pace as was taking over half a second a lap out of Alonso entering the final 15 laps. The rain just held off as a light drizzle meaning we were set for a brilliant scrap for victory.
Vettel’s race was given a major setback after a right rear puncture on the Red Bull meant the 2 time champ was forced to pit taking him out of the points. That meant Raikkonen moved up to 5th, Bruno Senna drove a brilliant race in 6th, Paul di Resta also drove well to take 7th, Vergne continued his strong debut for Toro Rosso and was 8th, Hulkenberg was 9th in the second Force India, while a late engine failure for Pastor Maldonado promoted Michael Schumacher, who had a difficult day, into the final points place for Mercedes.
Up front however with Perez within the DRS zone, the question was were we set for Sauber’s first ever F1 win and first Mexican win since Pedro Rodriguez won the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix. Perez was piling the pressure on Alonso however with 5 laps to go disaster as the Mexican runs wide at turn 13 dropping over 5 seconds behind the Spaniard guaranteeing a shock win for Ferrari and Alonso.
He would however take a fantastic second for Sauber with Lewis Hamilton a distant 3rd. Mark Webber claimed 4th ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.
Outside the top 10 was Sebastian Vettel who claimed 11th after the puncture, Rosberg also had a disappointing race and ended 13th, Button’s contact with Karthikeyan and the poor wet pace meant he was 14th while Felipe Massa also had another poor race and was 15th.
In the championship Alonso leads by 5 points from Hamilton, Button is 3rd with Webber 4th, Perez’s 2nd allied to 8th in Australia means he is 5th with Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top 6.
McLaren and Red Bull remain P1 and P2 in the constructor’s, Ferrari 3rd with Sauber a brilliant 4th after 3 points finishes from 4.
The next Grand Prix takes us to another place where rain is common, Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix, and if it’s anything like today’s epic in Sepang, it can’t come soon enough.
Author: Rick McCabe
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