Malaysia GP 2012

With the shock win from McLaren still buzzing around the headlines, Malaysia was billed to give a clearer indication of pace as it’s a permanent circuit, however with unpredictable weather always being a factor a few surprises could be lurking around every corner. The Sepang circuit practically has it’s own micro climate, with rain appearing over small sections of track with minutes to spare and with rain comes the safety car. The Hermann Tilke designed circuit is a test of man and machine, rain my be a regular visitor but in between torrential downpours comes the sweltering heat, average temperatures in March hover around 30°C and humidity around 60%. So seeing drivers look like they’ve gone race distance before they sit in the car is not uncommon.

Super Seven Moments of the Malaysian GP

1. Surge-io Perez

What could have been? That is the big question that lingers after the race, if there hadn’t been that radio call, if he hadn’t have gone off… Sergio Perez is known for his Buttonist care of his tyres, he opened his rookie account last year in Australia with one stop and proceeded to defy the experts with similar (although not entirely successful) strategies race after race. Although there were a few more stops in this race, he worked the changing conditions to his advantage while making pit stops at the right moment. However the stand alone fact was his pace, wet conditions do tend to throw up surprise results (Vettel, Monza 2008), but taking several tenths out of whoever was in front lap after lap isn’t just down to the weather. Alonso had to use KERS to keep ahead as the young Mexican closed in during the later stages, if it wasn’t for that fateful slip in the final laps there wasn’t wasn;t a doubt that he would have claimed that top step for himself.

2. Vitriolic Vettel

Insults of choice for the Malaysian weekend, ‘cucumber’ and ‘idiot’ and both were directed at Narain Karthikeyan by Sebastian Vettel. Watching the footage of their coming together (unfortunately reminiscent of Button vs. Karthikeyan earlier in the race, Button took the blame himself) didn’t scream the Indian was to blame, at the time certain commentators took their inspiration from Vettel vs. Webber (Turkey 2010). “It’s like on the normal roads; there are some idiots driving around and it seems like there is also one driving here,” explained Vettel. Karthikeyan’s response was damning, “It’s completely unprofessional to blame me for the incident. The derogatory remark only goes to show him in bad light.” In fact the only thing left screaming was Vettel’s rather childish reactions to the incident, name-calling afterwards and a little coarse sign language during the race only served the audience distinct impression of a double world champion struggling with his car. This said, he has silenced the critics regards his ability to overtake. Because he’s had to.

3. Alonso to the Rescue

Ferrari needed a shot in the arm, stat. Who best to deliver the much needed medicine than Super Alonso! Where others showed another side of themselves this weekend, Fernando Alonso merely confirmed why he’s considered the ‘most complete’ driver on the grid. He’s got the 5th/6th fastest car out there but by utilising the conditions and natural talent he dragged that F2012 through the field and planted his scarlet steed firmly at the front. But you can’t deny a little luck helped him keep that front-runner position.

4.  Red Bull Anonymous

Red Bull, Red Bull where art thou? As the team suspected, 2011 was going to be a tough season to replicate, and so far 2012 has proved to be a tricky one. Vettel made inroads early on during the race, where Mark Webber admitted his struggled on the intermediates. But as the track dried out and the slicks went on their roles were switched, Webber found where his pace was hiding and hunted for Hamilton after Vettel went wheel to wing with Karthikeyan. Usual responses to the race were sent out, ‘progress’, ‘positive result’, ‘best we could have done’ all featured. Are they out of the hunt? No, their foundations are too strong to be shaken just yet. Are they going to have to fight for position? Oh yes!

5. Under Pressure

A Formula One hit list has already been drawn up, and for once it doesn’t include Bernie Ecclestone. It’s not just the economy that is feeling the pinch, drivers are having to show great value for money too. Webber certainly had his card marked before Australia, so did Felipe Massa, both firmly put in the shadows by their team mates. Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna also slot into the category, but whereas some have dug deep and manage to creep out from under that dark cloud others have slipped underneath. Massa’s name is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, we know he can drive and challenge for a championship, but going last season without troubling the podium and two consecutive races without a point scored has amplified his woes.

Romain Grosjean has had two great qualifying sessions, but has backed those performances up with two retirements, a story exacerbated by a resurgent Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg has barely figured in either race, leading some to question his ability to win a race, having only led his first lap last season and with five podiums to his name he makes easy pickings for vultures. However the Mercedes hasn’t yielded the result (much like the Ferrari) that was promised during testing, so criticism is premature, as long as they start racking up the points. Soon.

6. Williams oh-so-close

Both Williams driver have also had their share of criticism preceding this season, both for their ‘pay driver’ status (Rubens Barrichello losing out didn’t help them either). After the 2011 debacle the team has started strongly, and if it wasn’t for an engine failure it would have been double-point delight!

7. Well, you can’t win everything

You certainly can’t, as was proved on Sunday. You can start on pole twice and come third twice. You can lose your front wing. You can even give someone the finger. You can be a world champion and these things can still happen. Who said Formula One was predictable?

Awesome-o-meter

The first wet race of season and what a race it was, Michael Schumacher return to the qualifying press conference and a Ferrari and a Sauber battled up front until the last lap. Undoubtedly Perez should have won this, but whether it was the conditions or the pressure that got to him, he’s struck a blow to Massa’s confidence whether he admits it or not. Perez is in line for Ferrari in the future as much as Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are for Webber’s seat, that’s life. Despite only being two races in, this season is shaping up to be a game changer, bring on 2013 contract negotiations.

Race Stats

Qualifying Hamilton Button Schumacher
Pole L Hamilton 1:36.219 (McLaren)
Laps 56
Weather Wet, drying later
Safety Car 1 [red flagged race restarted under safety car]
Results 1. Alonso Ferrari 2:44:51.812
2. Perez Sauber 2:44:54.075
3. Hamilton McLaren 2:45:06.403
Fastest Lap Räikkönen Lotus 1:40.722
Retirements Grosjean Lotus [3] Spin
Kobayashi Sauber [46] Brakes
Maldonado Williams [54] Engine
Penalties Karthikeyan Causing collision with Vettel 20s added to race time
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