Following an exciting round 1 in Australia, there were plenty of high hopes and expectations for round 2 in Malaysia, which got off to a soggy start.
The drivers were faced with the dilemma of the first half of the track being wet and the second half being dry, and decided to play it safe and stick the intermediate tyre on.
As the lights went on out in Malaysia, Mark Webber surprised everyone by making a good start off the line and stormed up from 5th to 3rd. As usual we saw another brilliant start from Fernando Alonso, who in a push to pass Sebastian Vettel, damaged his front wing on the back of Vettel’s Red Bull.
Ferrari decided to risk bringing Alonso in, hoping to combine a pit stop with a front wing change when he was ready to switch to dry tyres. The risk didn’t pay off at all when at the start of the second lap Alonso’s wing broke free and became lodged under the car, making him a passenger as he veered into the gravel at Turn 1, ending his race.
Meanwhile at the front Webber was leading the race with teammate Vettel in second with a fight for third going on behind them between Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, whose car seems to have improved greatly since the Australian Grand Prix.
On lap 5 Vettel’s race engineer reported that lap times were beginning to reach the cross-over point for dry tyres and brings Vettel in for the medium tyres at the end of the lap leaving Webber out in the lead.
Action hots up in the pit lane as a hoard of drivers followed the lead and chose to pit for dry tyres. Amidst the pit lane action, Toro Rosso release Jean-Eric Vergne into the path of Caterham’s Charles Pic, who loses a front wing in the contact. The stewards investigated the incident after the race and awarded Toro Rosso a 10,000 Euro fine.
Crazy pit lane action continues as we see Mercedes Lewis Hamilton briefly stopping in the McLaren box before releasing he’s at the wrong team and drives around to the Mercedes box.
Back in 10th place, last weeks race winner Kimi Raikkonen was battling Sergio Perez for 9th, in a car that looked like a bit of handful, certainly not the same car we saw storm to the win in Australia.
On lap 14 Pastor Maldonado ran wide and went off-roading losing half of his front wing in the process.
Disaster occurred for Force India on lap 21 when an issue with the wheel nuts caused Paul di Resta to sit in the pit box for a couple of minutes. He then retired a few laps later as the long pit stop had caused some components on his car to overheat.
Unfortunately for Force India the pit stop disasters didn’t end there when Adrian Sutil’s pit stop was ruined after the team again suffered with wheel nut issues. He was also forced to retire as the team could not be sure his wheels were safely attached.
Out front Webber was leading a frustrated Vettel, who was heard asking his team to let him pass Webber as he felt he was too slow. Earlier on in the race Webbers engineer had told him that he wouldn’t be attacked from behind by Vettel.
When Webber pitted on lap 31 for fresh tyres many thought Red Bull were using strategy to help Vettel pass Webber, however one lap later Vettel pitted only to return to the race track in 4th place.
As the fight for the lead was heating up between Webber and Button, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg were scrapping with Raikkonen being heard losing his cool on the team radio as he believed Hulkenberg was changing direction too often while blocking, something which is now against the rules in Formula One. It didn’t end when the pair pitted as they came out of the pits two by two, with Raikkonen having to concede to ensure he didn’t cross the white line and incur a penalty.
The pitlane wasn’t finishing with it’s share of drama as we saw Jenson Button’s McLaren stuck in the pitlane as the front right tyre was not attached properly, something Button unfortunately suffered from at the 2011 British Grand Prix. He returned to the race however with three laps to go the team made the decision to retire Button.
We were then gifted with some of the best driving we’ve seen in a while as the battle for first heated up between the two Red Bulls and the two Mercedes began scrapping for third place.
After three laps of fighting, Vettel passed Webber around the outside, something which did not please Team Principal Christian Horner who told Vettel it was ‘silly’ after telling the two to hold their positions.
Williams’ Maldonado ran wide yet again and this time found himself firmly embedded in the gravel trap, it was race over for him for the second race in a row, something he’ll be happy to forget about.
As if one teams team order drama isn’t enough, Nico Rosberg was heard ranting on his team radio for permission to overtake Hamilton, who was in fuel saving mode. Team Principal Ross Brawn stepped in giving Rosberg a resounding ‘no’, something Rosberg was less than happy about.
With three laps to go Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo was seen pulling into the pits and retiring with what was later confirmed as an exhaust issue.
Massa, who spent most of his race in the lower end of the points, seemed to come from nowhere towards the end of the race passing Romain Grosjean with ease for fifth place.
Rosberg isn’t done with trying to pass Hamilton and we hear Brawn asserting his authority again telling Rosberg to maintain the gap and drop back, again despite Hamilton being in fuel saving mode.
Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to take a controversial win at the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Webber in second and Hamilton completing the podium in third.
Although we didn’t see much of the rookies at all (thanks again FOM) Marussia driver, Jules Bianchi is making quite a name for himself and finished in 13th place, ahead of his team mate and the two Caterham drivers.
Fellow rookie Valterri Bottas also had another great race finishing in 11th place, just one place away from scoring points.
The atmosphere on the podium was nothing short of frosty with Webber commenting that Vettel would be ‘protected as usual’, something which Team Principal Christian Horner later claimed he knew nothing about.
Lewis Hamilton showed some humility and admitted that he felt it should have been team mate Rosberg on the podium instead of himself, or maybe he was just wishing he was as far away from the frosty Red Bull atmosphere as possible.
With two weeks until the next race in China, Webber told Sky F1 that he would spend some time surfing and see if ‘the medicine was enough’, suggesting he’s nothing short of seriously unhappy at the team and is considering leaving or not signing with them for the 2014 season, something a lot of fans can surely understand.
- Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing-Renault
- Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing-Renault
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
- Felipe Massa – Ferrari
- Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault
- Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus-Renault
- Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber-Ferrari
- Sergio Perez – McLaren-Mercedes
- Jean-Eric Vergne – STR-Ferrari
- Valterri Bottas – Williams-Renault
- Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari
- Jules Bianchi – Marussia-Cosworth
- Charles Pic – Caterham-Renault
- Giedo van de Garde – Caterham-Renault
- Max Chilton – Marussia-Cosworth
- Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – Wheel
- Daniel Ricciardo – STR-Ferrari – Exhaust
- Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Renault – Incident
- Adrian Sutil – Force India-Mercedes – Wheel Nut
- Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – Wheel nut
- Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – Accident