Malaysian GP - Race
Sepang, 5th April 2009 - No points for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers at the end of a totally chaotic Malaysian Grand Prix. Felipe Massa was classified ninth and Kimi Raikkonen fourteenth. The only slight consolation is that because the race was stopped before three quarter distance, those drivers who did finish in the points will only be awarded half points.
Brawn GP driver Jenson Button repeated his Melbourne performance of a week ago, winning from pole position and was joined on the rain soaked podium by second placed finisher, Nick Heidfeld in the BMW, with Timo Glock third for Toyota.
All weekend, the talk, apart from the politics and protests, had been about the possibility that a typical Malaysian rainstorm would disrupt the race and before the start, the black clouds were already approaching. Kimi and Felipe were seventh and sixteenth respectively on the grid. As the lights went out, Rosberg took the lead off the second row, followed by Trulli, Alonso, Button, Kimi, up to fifth, Barrichello, Webber, Glock, Heidfeld, with Hamilton tenth and Felipe up to twelfth already. Kubica bogged down on the grid. Kovalainen spun into the gravel while Kimi was passed by Button and Barrichello. By lap 3, Kubica had stopped while Barrichello passed Alonso to go fourth.
By lap 8, Kimi was now over 22 seconds behind the leader and the gap would grow as Alonso in fifth place had a queue of cars waiting to pass his Renault and on lap 11, Kimi got past the Spaniard. One of the best battles of the race then took place between Alonso and Webber, with plenty of side by side action.
The clouds were still threatening but still there was no rain, as Vettel was the first driver to pit on lap 14, followed two laps later by race leader, Rosberg and Glock. Kimi waited until lap 19 to come in for tyres and fuel and the team took the big gamble of putting him on extreme wet tyres, as it seemed inevitable the storm was not far off. Finally, two laps later the rain did come, but it was more like drizzle and by lap 23 when everyone came in for wets, Kimi’s gamble had evidently not worked out as those few laps in the dry on the rain tyres, meant they were already suffering. One driver who had not gone for the extreme rain tyres was Glock and the Toyota man, running intermediates was climbing up the order. On lap 30, Felipe was part of a group, including race leader Button, who all made the switch to intermediates. By this stage, Glock’s climb saw him pass Webber for second and then Button to go in the lead briefly.
Felipe was desperately unlucky with his pit stops in that he first took on intermediate rain tyres as the rain was so light, but no sooner had he rejoined that the heavens opened so an additional stop was called for.
Finally the rain reaches its usual tropical full force and most of the field including the two Scuderia drivers pitted for full wet tyres with cars spinning off all over the track around lap 31 and one lap later, the Safety Car was deployed, when the order was Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Trulli, Barrichello, Webber, Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa, ninth, Bourdais, Alonso, Nakajima, Piquet, Raikkonen fourteenth and Sutil fifteenth.
Then the race was red flagged, with cars lining up on the grid, apart from Kimi’s F60, which was pushed into the garage, with an isolation problem on the KERS system. After much consultation, even though the rain eased slightly, Race Control decided to abort the race, with the result put back to the order before the red flag was waved, which meant Heidfeld was promoted back to second place.
After this first rush of two races in two weekends, the Scuderia can now pause to catch its breath and assess its bad start to the year. As Massa said, it’s not as though the team has become stupid, it just needs to change its approach and it will have a chance to prove it can recover from difficult situations, when the F1 championship moves on to Round 3 in Shanghai, China in a fortnight’s time.