Sepang: Race Day

If this season was a meal, the race in Australia was merely you wiping your feet on the mat before entering the restaurant, by the end of this emphatic race, it proved to be the amuse bouche. A tiny taste of what was to come, something to tickle the tastebuds, to amuse the mouth. Oh boy did it deliver! The new additions to the regulations debuted to a lacklustre reception in the land Down Under, in honesty this should have been expected due to the nature of the track, however the Sepang circuit nurture them and allowed DRS, KERS and Pirelli to flourish. For some anyway.

Parade laps are usually just an excuse for the drivers to get weaving out of their system and perform a couple of burnouts to get their rear tyres up to temperature. This one rather ominously set alarms ringing for Mark Webber and the red Bull pit wall, his KERS was offline and refusing to work, he went from 3rd to 10th at the start and continued the race with an extra 30kg weighing him down. That aside, the other Red Bull Sebastian Vettel had no issue in staying out ahead of the rest of the field, at points gaining a massive lead of 9 seconds over the nearest driver and a superb last pit cemented his second win of the year.

But positions didn’t come as easily for some, this was a race of two halves, on driver having the time of his life when his teammate struggled to get the hammer down. Cue McLaren, Jenson Button had a solid race which was made better by the misfortunes of Lewis Hamilton’s change to hard tyres (dodgy batch?). Talking of Hamilton, his troubled day was compounded by a 20 second penalty for weaving, while Fernando Alonso’s daring push past the Brit on lap 46 landed him with the same penalty, and an extra pit to replace the front wing. Massa, on the other hand had a better race, but a sticky wheel nut in the pits cost him valuable seconds and similar to Hamilton, he struggled with the hard compound.

Renault’s drivers courteously swapped fortunes today, Nick Heidfeld was on the pace from the moment the lights went out and took the last step on the podium in the name of sparkly gold suits. Vitaly Petrov terrifyingly left the track vertically and horizontally, but remained in once piece with a potentially sore bottom to show for it. Running wide on the grass, a heart breaking 3 laps from the line, he hit the kerb and leapt skywards. The steering column was though to be broken as the gadget landed in Petrov’s lap, but it was revealed to be the mounting instead.

Other teams didn’t fare as well, Williams had another double DNF, Maldonado finding rookie life hard (and we thought he was lucky to get into the midfield team) and an engine misfire ended it for him on lap 8. Barrichello’s hydraulics stopped play on lap 22, raising serious concerns over the reliability of the car. Both Hispanias finished early down to safety issues, Karthikeyan for over heating and Liuzzi for his rear wing, but at least they qualified. Mercedes had another forgettable race, Nico Rosberg dipped out of the points altogether where Schumacher took 9th, both struggled against Kamui Kobayashi at times. Kobayashi retained his overtaking crown, but rookie teammate Sergio Perez retired after Toro Rosso carbon fibre struck the car setting a fire extinguisher off, stopping the car.

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37:39.832
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37:43.093
3 Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:38:04.907
Fastest Lap Mark Webber Red Bull 1:40.571

Read: Full Results

Best Driver:

Bias aside, I’m sticking my head out and saying Mark Webber. Four pitstops, a horrendously low position of 17 and no KERS from the start made a P4 come the checkered flag seem impossible. For a driver who is widely considered the ‘unluckiest guy on the track’, battling back after each pitstop could have ben an impossible task, but we saw resiliance that put him in contention for the title last year. If he hadn’t turned deep in to turn 9 on the penultimate lap, a result of pushing too hard, he could have taken a miraculous podium.

Best Team:

A close call between a couple of teams, many had issues with at least one car so a collective effort is hard to judge. So despite a mistake from Petrov, I’m putting Renault up for this. Another podium highlights how their interpretation of a ‘radical’ car bettered McLaren’s version. Heidfeld leapt into second off the start and had a fantastic race from start to finish.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

This could go to Martin Brundle for interrupting the Malaysian prime minister on the grid walk, the look on that guys face as he walked away could have killed. Bernie Ecclestone didn’t look impressed either.

Rookie of the Race:

Paul di Resta by a long shot, not only was he the only rookie to make to the chequered flag, he put his vastly more experienced teammate to shame. He outperformed Sutil throughout the weekend, which must have made for uncomfortable viewing for the German, especially when di Resta sneaked into the top ten. This point, he may consider his first as the one from Australia came to him via Sauber’s DSQ, something he addressed in his post race interview.

Banzaiiiii!:

The overtake king himself, Kobayashi, takes the crown today, an early battle with Mark Webber took the focus off the front with positions being traded like unwanted Christmas presents, without his sparring partner he went in search of another. He swapped an almost champion for a 7 time winner, Schumacher was his next target and as we know from the last years top rookie, hierachy means nothing. Maybe Bernie should clone him…

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

“…’its all turned to custard for ambrosia!” Martin Brundle from the commentary box following d’Ambrosio’s accident on lap 45

“It saved our…can I say…arse today.” Sebastian Vettel reflects on the merits of KERS

“The rudderless Russian.” Brundle taking point from Murray Walker when Petrov did a spot of rallying (see above)

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