Well, that was eventful. If there’s one thing Malaysia can often provide it’s rain, thunderstorms and, courtesy of these, action. Plenty of surprises grew out of the unfolding events of the race and despite their negativity of the car Ferrari managed to survive with a solid victory for Fernando Alonso – but only just. It was the big hero of the day in Sergio Perez who looked destined to pick up a huge, huge victory for the young driver but sadly it was not to be. The two had a fantastic battle with Perez constantly pulling back the seconds on the former World Champion but alas, it was Luca’s favourite new son who came in for the 25 points. That was good enough – there was more!
It was all about the weather today as a predictably unpredictable (it makes sense in my mind) climate brought showers-into-heavy-rain-into-thunderstorms-into-unsure as we had all kinds of rain. That fine rain, that heavy rain, that rain that people keep feeling but can’t actually see rain, narain karthikeyan too. Goodness me was he involved in a few big moments today but more on that later. The climate and downpour of water brought out the safety car and a red flag, delaying the race for almost an hour producing many gazebos and bored drivers. Gazebos on the grid is just one of many things I didn’t expect to see when I woke up this morning.
From the get go the race oozed interesting moments. Grosjean and Schumacher got a bit mixed up in the wet from Grosjean’s over-enthusiasm but it ultimately cost him as he soon beached his Lotus. The two leading McLarens’ had a great scrap for the lead in which a slow pit stop provided the lead to Button but, in a moment way out of character for Button, he completely misjudged a move past Karthikeyan and had most of his front wing munched off. Sadly his day went downhill quite rapidly from there, and it wasn’t a great day for the Australian GP winner. Not fun when you’re a Button fan but all great drivers have these days. The elusive Kathikeyan got mixed up in another moment later in the race as Vettel swiped across him causing a puncture and to effectively end his chance of points at Malaysia too. Extremely odd to see Vettel so far down the championship after 2 races but I shalln’t complain.
It was ultimately all about the Sauber of Sergio Perez though as the race went on and on. What a drive it was! Ferrari have complained many times over the pace of their car and how it can eat up tyres but it couldn’t have been more obvious with Perez’s ruthless hunt for Alonso’s lead. I mean the guy was taking out 7 tenths and more a lap towards the end – that Sauber was FAST under his control. It was a stunning drive and I know I wasn’t the only one absolutely gutted when he went wide with a few laps to go, ending the chase for his and (non-BMW) Sauber’s first victory. So exciting and really fun to watch but he should be incredibly proud to finish 2nd after such a good race. Of course the conspiracy theorists have already devised that a radio message telling Perez that he should concentrate on 2nd was a call from Ferrari telling them to back of (with Sauber having engines from the Italian giants) but this is complete nonsense and I’ll have none of it in this blog. It was a team wanting to make sure they at least got second and that’s about it.
To add to this, it was very much a race of the rookies as several relatively new drivers occupied the points in the final race classification. It fills me with much happiness to report that Bruno Senna got a solid 6th place finish and 8 points, meaning he has already scored more than Williams did in 2011. If anyone is going to upstage Rubens like that and it’s not Jenson, then it can only be Bruno so I shall allow this. Furthermore, both Force India’s managed to score themselves some points too and even Jean-Eric Vergne, who pulled out a few very impressive moves throughout the race in difficult conditions may I add, got a very rewarding 8th place finish. Good on him.
The final real question I want to ask coming out of Malaysia is this – when are Ferrari going to think about possibilities with Felipe Massa? I do like Massa. He’s lovable and he can clearly be fast otherwise I totally misunderstood 2008. Today though he wasn’t even a shadow of his former self but just an non-existent entity. I know it must be hard with your team-mate being Fernando Alonso taking an un-winnable car to victory but I just can’t understand how he’s managing to be so poor for the team. Massa eventually finished in 15th after seemingly constantly falling backwards in the race. The same can be said for Mercedes who seemed to lack any kind of pace whatsoever – Rosberg found himself constantly being overtaken for position with no defence at all and Schumacher never did really recover from his early clash with Grosjean although his point finish, the first point of his season, is minor consolation. Their car is strikingly fast in qualifying though – they need to work out the answers to why it seems to under perform so much in race conditions.
So, two races down. Eighteen more to go and we have a lovely spread out championship with no one running away already. Marvellous! It was a frantic morning of races with its ups and downs but Sepang seems to have established itself quite nicely into the sport and it produces some great races every so often such as this. I’m still a little amazed at how fast Perez was today and I really hope it was his big moment to show what we can do. IT was also really sweet to see Peter Sauber in tears and clearly displaying just how big of a result this was for him and his team. Let’s just hope the surprises and good races continue onwards to China!