Malaysian GP Ė The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although Iím sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
Well, well. I made the point after the Australian Grand Prix that I donít think anyone could have matched the Spaniards performance in the same car. I feel entirely justified in making the point again. Could anyone else have brought that Ferrari home in those conditions in 1st place? No. A lot has been made of the fact that his lead was being eaten into and he could (perhaps should) have been beaten. Very true, but he built that lead in the first place. After the restart, when everyone pitted for intermediate tyres, Alonso came out behind Sergio Perez, overtook him and then built a commanding lead. In conditions where some of the best drivers made simple errors, Alonsos calm, ruthless persona allowed him to secure a precious win for him and his beleaguered team.
A superb drive from the young Mexican. But it was so much more than that. Difficult conditions, good tyre choices, an awareness of the situation and the conditions that belied his years, this was the race where Perez really came of age. His pursuit of Alonso in the second half of the race was as exhilarating as his running wide at turn 14 was disappointing. I for one, was on the edge of my seat watching him eat second after second of Alonsos lead away with ease. What was also impressive was his attitude post race Ė he had just secured the first podium of his career, yet his disappointment at not having taken the chance to win the race was tangible. Following a week of speculation about where young Sergio would be plying his Formula One career in the future, he did himself no harm with a performance any driver would have been proud of.
44 points in the entirety of last season, 30 already in this. The teams decision not to pit Perez with Alonso was questionable, but perhaps the thought that a busy pit lane could cause unnecessary problems coupled with the belief that Perez could close the gap for a second time saw that decision vindicated.
An excellent showing from the Brazilian which confirmed the pace we saw from the Williams team in Australia. When the race restarted behind the safety car after 9 laps, Senna was bringing up the rear in 23rd place. A combination of pace, good strategy and excellent overtaking saw him bring the car home in 6th, and it could have been even better for the Williams team had more bad luck not befallen his teammate.
When I saw that Vergne had got himself into 7th place by the time the red flag waved, I was pleasantly surprised. When I realised that he was still on the intermediate tyres, that surprise turned into pure shock. While more experienced drivers were on full wets and struggling to keep the car on the road, Vergne managed to tiptoe around whilst maintaining track position. An incredible feat, well played young man. The Bad:
The reigning World Champion had a pretty miserable time of it in Sepang, and eventually limped home in 11th. His Red Bull had a coming together with Karthikeyan, a punctured left rear and an argumentative gearbox to contend with at various points during the race, and Vettel will probably want to just put this one down to experience and move on. Although, he did raise a few smiles after the race when in the midst of his anger he labelled Karthikeyan a Ďcucumberí.
Ok, so it was a good result for HRT to have even qualified within the 107% time so that they could start the race. And their strategy of starting the race on wet tyres was an astute one. However, it put Narain Karthikeyan in 10th place at the restart and therefore demonstrated why the HRTs should not be allowed to race. Karthikeyan spent the entire middle section of the race acting as a mobile chicane, one which first Button and then Vettel failed to navigate. Whilst Karthikeyan himself was not to blame, a car should not be allowed to take part if it poses a distinct danger to other drivers and teams.
His season just hasnít panned out as planned so far. Just like in Australia, the Malaysian Grand Prix started so well. Grosjean squeezed his way past both Red Bulls and Michael Schumacher up to 3rd at the start, and all looked positive for the Frenchman. However, a lapse in concentration saw him first tag Schumacher, then visit the gravel and bring his race come to a premature end. He is the only driver to have failed to finish both races of the season so far.
Start time of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Would it really have hurt to have the race start two hours earlier, so as to avoid the rain which halted the race for nearly an hour? Would it really have lost Bernie Ecclestone his precious European viewers if the race had been at 7am rather than 9am European time? Had the rain stoppage been any longer, the race would have been in serious danger of not finishing due to the sudden darkness that descends on Malaysia in the early evening. The Ugly:
If Australia was a frustrating race for Massa, then Malaysia was just embarrassing. At one point, Massa slipped down to 18th position whilst his teammate blazed a trail in the lead. That new chassis didnít really help at all. What makes matters worse for Massa, is the brilliantly adept performance from Perez, who would appear to be his replacement in waiting. Sergio. Is. Faster. Than. You.
Not a good race from one of the masters of these type of conditions. Button struggled throughout and his coming together with Karthikeyan was a mess of his own making. In truth, it masked the issues he seemed to have throughout the race as the focus was more on the battle up front, but Button had no way of fighting his way through the midfield and brought the car home in a lowly 14th place. Need some perspective? His teammate ended up on the podium.
I am the first to admit to not being a fan of Maldonado, but to have no points after the two races he has driven is just plain unfair. His only consolation is that everyone knows this, and that Williams have clearly produced something resembling a car this year.
Safety car starts
I know Charlie Whiting had no choice and safety must always be paramount, but leave that aside for one second. It would have been a hell of a lot of fun. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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