F1 Reaction: Malaysian GP 2012

Rain! Showers and storms were forecast all weekend yet the F1 sessions were largely unaffected until race day. With limited wet running in pre-season this was our first look at the pace of the field in damp conditions.

Stars Of The Race

F1 has a new superstar in Sergio Perez. What a drive to get a mid-grid car into second place, not only keeping it there but pulling away from Lewis Hamilton for lap after lap (himself no slouch in the wet) AND catching Fernando Alonso. I think we all expected him to drop back after the stops for slicks, surely there was no way a Sauber could stay with a Ferrari. Especially a Sauber on hard compounds and a Ferrari on mediums. Yet that’s exactly what he did, after the stops the gap began to fall again! Very, very impressive. You can certainly see why Ferrari are so interested in him.

Such a shame that two small mistakes cost him the win. The first was the mistake in not slicks early enough, it was becoming clear slicks were up to 5 seconds per lap faster and so it turned out – staying out an extra lap lost him 5 seconds. I assumed that was a team decision but it could also be inexperience on his part. The other was a minor mistake in the final laps when he got a wheel on a wet kerb which sent him into the (thankfully tarmac) runoff.

Some idiots on the internet and maybe even the media (and Martin Whitmarsh come to that, perhaps jokingly) suggested it was a conspiracy, that he was asked to do it to allow Alonso to win in return for swapping with Massa later in the year.  I thought it was a joke, all good fun at the expense of the team buying engines from the leaders. Ha ha, fair enough. Yet others were being totally serious! Absolute nonsense of course, it was a straightforward error from a driver on the limit. We’re talking about a guy on the verge of his first Grand Prix win – he was never going to give it up.

The other star driver was Alonso himself, who insists this car is bad even though he leads the Championship. He’s in danger of sounding like Nigel Mansell, or Jason Plato. If the car really is bad then it is a remarkable achievement – I’m willing to believe it because surely even Massa isn’t bad enough of a driver to finish 15th just because it is raining, without having hit anyone as Button did. Mind you, Massa has done this before.
The conjecture on the Sky coverage was that this car overheats its tyres in the dry hence it is slow, yet that very same effect means it keeps the wet tyres heated and grippy and therefore fast whereas rivals can’t get the same heat into them. It sounds plausible to me, even at a hot Malaysia, and I’ve seen it happen in the past. It still doesn’t explain Massa though, unless he really is that bad in the wet!

Almost, But Not Quite

I’m sure Hamilton is kicking himself for scoring two poles in two weeks, twice converting them into finishing third. He seemed happier after this race, personally I think it was because he beat Jenson, it seems to matter a lot to him to beat his teammate.

The Red Bulls seemed to come alive in the last stint, suddenly they were on the pace and catching Hamilton. I’m not sure how Vettel hit Karthikeyan, it looks like he assumed he’d cleared the HRT when he hadn’t. Somehow Karthikeyan is the one with the penalty, I don’t know how that works as the guy was practically off the track already! For me it was a racing incident, with any blame to be apportioned going to Vettel.

Middle Order

Despite a great qualifying performance, Mercedes were absolulely nowhere in the race. Are these cars poor in the wet or is there more to it? Conversely the Lotuses were absolutely flying. Kimi Raikkonen used it to great effect to finish first of the ‘best of the rest’ (non McLaren/RBR/Ferrari), and he also set Fastest Lap. It was like he’d never been away. Sadly Grosjean was again out early, trying to pass Schumacher as the fast Lotus caught the slow Mercedes.

Congratulations to Williams for the first double points finish since.. who knows when? After two races they have already scored more points than in the whole of 2011, and this time it was Senna who impressed. 6th place was well-deserved and came with 4 stops, more than anyone else in the top ten (although Vettel also had had four and was on course to finish 4th). It remains to be seen what effect the surprise resignation of Adam Parr will have on the team. It can’t be helpful.

Good to see the two Force Indias in the top ten as well, not that I remember seeing anything of them on the TV coverage. They split Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso who scored his first F1 points. Rounding out the top ten was Michael Schumacher scoring Mercedes’ first and only point of the 2012 season, an incredible stat given their qualifying pace over the last two weeks.

At The Back

Credit too to Marussia and HRT for registering finishes with both cars. Marussia’s cars are still slow but have gained reliability, a trait sorely lacking in their first two cars and a change I welcome. After HRT’s double-DNQ in Melbourne this was their first full race of the year – a slow start but making noticeable progress. They even ended up 10th for a time but only because they hadn’t pitted before the red flag. If they’d remained 7 seconds down on the frontrunners serious questions would have to be asked, as it is they picked roughly 1.5-2.0 seconds if you compare times in Q1 between the two events. Another slight improvement puts them on a par with Marussia, the battle for the wooden spoon is just as fraught as the one up front.

Championships

1. Alonso 35
2. Hamilton 30
3. Button 25
4. Webber 24
5. Perez 22

Alonso’s lead has to be considered temporary unless Ferrari are able to make some progress in dry-weather pace before China, or we get a string of wet races. The easy money says this year’s WDC will go to a McLaren driver – but which? Who would’ve put money on Vettel lying 6th after the first two races, with Perez ahead of him?! Worth noting that Kimi is 7th, and the Mercedes drivers will probably look very glum in Shanghai.

1. McLaren 55
2. Red Bull 42
3. Ferrari 35
4. Sauber 30
5. Lotus 16

Early days in the WCC but I think we already have our two title contenders up front. In fact given their race pace I’d almost be surprised if McLaren doesn’t walk the WCC in the way RBR has of late. Alonso has scored all of Ferrari’s points so far, Kimi has done the same for Lotus. Sauber will be very happy with 30 points given they only scored 44 all last year, and I’ve already mentioned Williams already up on their 2011 tally. We all expected Mercedes in that 4th spot, and Sauber 7th or worse. As I say, early days.

Next Race

April 15th: Chinese GP, Shanghai, China

A strange decision to open the year with a back-to-back pairing before a three-week gap, it strikes me as being an unnecessary loss of momentum, however I can see why the team personnel would appreciate a chance to go home after a couple of weeks away – particularly if any of them went to Australia straight from pre-season testing.

Shanghai is one of those races with a bad reputation and sometimes it is deserved, I barely remember some of the tedious races here, yet I well remember the last two events being pleasantly surprising. The unwinding corner into the long straight into a hairpin does make for a good combo even if the rest of this quite technical track promotes field spread. As with many tracks the best races here are when it rains.
It may not be a highlight of the year and being a Tilke design it is often derided, but it is not the worst among them by any means. It may not be Spa, it isn’t Barcelona either. Give it a chance.

I’m Watching.. MotoGP

MotoGP 2010 – Malaysian GP

Sepang, Malaysia – Rnd 15 of 18

3 October 2010
BBC coverage

I have a massive backlog of articles but as I’m in the middle of sorting a move to another flat things are a bit delayed.

Front row: Jorge Lorenzo starts on pole, Nicky Hayden 2nd, Andrea ‘Dovi’ Dovizioso 3rd.
Dani Pedrosa is still out with an injury sustained in free practice in Japan.

At the start Lorenzo gets away with a small gap, yet by the end of lap one Dovi had got side by side with him at the last corner – Lorenzo fended him off and the battle continued. Just as they were dropping the Ducatis one of them, Stoner, found himself in the gravel thus enlargening the gap between the leaders and the other Ducati of Hayden, who had about 6 bikes on his tail.

Valentino Rossi had dropped from 6th to 11th at the start and immediately set about re-passing people. After just a couple of laps he was in 6th again, two laps more and he was up to 3rd! Incredible even for him, if you consider he’s still carrying an injury from earlier in the season. We’re told his leg has fully healed, his shoulder has not.

Capirossi parked up and limped away, he’s still carrying an injury from a few races before. A pit report from Matt Roberts later in the race confirms he retired due to an electrical fault on his Suzuki, it wasn’t down to his injury.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGP+Sepang&iid=10016264″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/10016264/motogp-malaysia-race/motogp-malaysia-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=10016264″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Dovi hassled Lorenzo for lap after lap as Rossi slowly, slowly closed in on them, before Dovizioso was able to make the move on lap 8 with a great pass! Edwards retired from 8th somewhere here.

Rossi passes Lorenzo for 2nd, I don’t think Lorenzo worked TOO hard for it because he wants to secure the title in this race. In the same place one lap later Rossi takes the lead! He dove into the tight left-hander and darted away into the lead, immediately opening a little gap. Simply brilliant.

Hayden slipped to the back of the fairly big pack running in the upper midfield as Spies and Simoncelli fought to head this group. Suddenly on lap 15 Dovizioso seems to come from nowhere to retake the race lead from Rossi! Half a lap later Vale retakes the place in his favourite overtaking spot. This is really fantastic stuff!

Wow, great scrap between Simoncelli, Bautista, Hayden and Ayama. Bautista passed two guys in one move! It continued and Simoncelli and Aoyama bumped and bruised until they run wide (Simoncelli’s fault) allowing Hayden to pass both.
Up front, Rossi and Dovi dropped Lorenzo by a big margin, the trio miles ahead of the rest. That’s how it finished.

Podium: 1. Rossi, 2. Dovizioso, 3. Lorenzo. Jorge Lorenzo confirmed as 2010 MotoGP World Champion!
Some guys dressed as Mario and Luigi meet him on the cooldown lap and he holds up a Game Over sign to the bike’s onboard camera! Massive cheers from the crowd, and it is a big crowd.
Spies finished 4th, Bautista, Hayden, Aoyama, etc.

What a stunning race. After several really boring GPs the series has regained its old form in style, well done to all concerned.

Well done to both race winner Rossi and champion Lorenzo, who’s run of race wins and other podium positions were going to be incredibly hard to beat even if the opposition hadn’t struggled with injury, there’s no false title here as Lorenzo worked for every result.

Points:

Lorenzo 313 (C), Pedrosa 228, Rossi 181, Stoner 180, Dovizioso 179, Spies 152

The next round is Phillip Island, Australia, for which there will be a post up in a few days.

Photo credit:  Andrea Dovizioso leads after passing Jorge Lorenzo, while Valentino Rossi is closing, closing, closing. (c) Getty Images via Picapp.

Thoughts on F1: Malaysian GP

Thoughts on F1: 2010 Malaysian GP

The first ‘normal’ race* of the 2010 season wasn’t any different to a normal race of the 2009 season.

The fast cars at the front raced away at the start. It just so happened they wore the same livery. Those fast cars stuck down the order made up places in the first couple of laps before settling down, stuck in traffic. Then we waited for the pitstops while nearly everyone essentially held station, just like last year. The stops changed the midfield order a bit and a tyre miscue ruined one of the front-runners’ chances of a win. There was a bit of strategy, it was just with tyres instead of fuel. Fine. Whatever. Same difference, same result. Red Bull would still have walked away with it. McLaren and Ferrari would still have been caught in traffic.

I tell you, just like any race of the last decade. The stops were just a tiny bit shorter.

It was interesting that Button and Hamilton were on opposite strategies (Button starting on hards and Hamilton on softs) yet after the pitstops they were running togther, even side by side as one left the pits. I sensed Ron would’ve been pleased the strategy put them in the same place and allowed the two to sort out who led.

It was a great drive from Vettel and mostly from Webber. Mark cost himself the race when he allowed a gap for Sebastian to nose through at the very start. We saw good runs from Rosberg, Kubica and Sutil too. You could legitimately argue those three would’ve been behind the Ferraris and McLarens had they started in their normal positions and you’d probably be right – but we’ll never know.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=malaysian+grand+prix&iid=8431362″ src=”f/9/0/c/F1_Grand_Prix_6536.jpg?adImageId=12103228&imageId=8431362″ width=”380″ height=”255″ /]

I was going to praise Button, Hamilton, Massa and Alonso as a collective unit for their progress up the field but I can’t do that. Button made the wrong tyre call twice in as many days – that’s fine, we’re all fallible and that’s the way it goes sometimes. Massa and Alonso did a good job – scratch that, Alonso did an exceptional job to run that quickly with an ailing gearbox that eventually let go.

We turn to Mr Hamilton. He was doing reasonably well but seemed to get desperate and started blocking and weaving against Vitaly Petrov. I am very disappointed in the race stewards for not awarding him a drive-through penalty or worse. They deployed the ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ warning flag, a flag I personally feel is underused across the whole of racing, yet in this case was not the right response in my view. I would like to know why that action was taken. Weaving is completely out of order.

New Rules

I was in favour of the ban on refuelling. To my mind the fuel strategies of the last couple of years haven’t varied a great deal from team to team. They all pitted within 2 or 3 laps of each other – what’s the point in that? The interesting tactical decisions of most of the previous decade or more,  and that you still see in the likes of IndyCar and ALMS, they seemed to have disappeared from F1 as everyone ran broadly the same ideal strategy as computed by their expensive software. If everyone is going to run the same fuel throughout, why not just run the same fuel throughout by having them not refuel? It makes ’em think. Gives ’em something new to figure out, for a while anyway.

I miss the 1-stop vs 2-stop (not so much 3-stop) as much as anyone but I genuinely don’t remember seeing a good race like that in quite a while. To me the period from roughly ’98 to roughly ’07 was the best for that sort of racing. If they aren’t willing to think out of the box any more on fuel strategy let’s give them a different challenge.

On Friday when I talked about the Australian GP I suspected people would complain about the Sepang race. I was right, there hasn’t been as many people criticising it as Bahrain but what I have seen has been quite vocal. I perhaps uncharitably said these people were goldfish because they forget that past dry Sepang races are mid-range in terms of excitement – neither turgidly dull or spectacularly fun.
They also seem to forget the very large amount of criticism of the 2009 races in general, the season itself was fine but the races weren’t great unless you were a team superfan. If the races are still not great under very different competition rules then surely that points to a larger more fundamental problem with F1? It isn’t refuelling or not-refuelling that is the problem. There is something else at play. It might be aero, it might be the tyres, it might be something else – I have my suspicions but I don’t know for sure.

If the races were processional and boring with refuelling and processional and boring without refuelling, then surely it has nothing to do with whether or not they are refuelling?

Is that too simplistic? I don’t know. It just seems obvious to me but what do I know?

Future

So we go to Shanghai in China in two weeks. Woopidoo. If anyone calls that race boring because of the new rules I will personally shoot them. This race is almost always boring. Barcelona after that isn’t great, either. Bernie’s decision to stack the first half of the year with rubbish racetracks may yet decide the outcome of the refuelling / non-refuelling debate.

Anyway where was the rain today? I was promised rain. I like rainy races.

* I call this the first ‘normal’ race because Australia was rain-affected, and in Bahrain it seems clear to me that every team was taking it easy as they explored the new rules. At Sepang they stepped up a gear.

Race Review: GP2 Asia Sepang ’09

GP2 Asia Series 2008/09
Sepang, Malaysia
Held: 4&5 April 09
Commentary: Martin Haven & Gareth Rees

Continuing my Race Review catch up series, this was the primary support event to the Malaysian GP and is the penultimate round of the series.

Points coming in:

Kobayashi 39
Valsecchi 29
Hülkenberg 27
Perez 25
D’Ambrosio 23

Feature Race – 33 laps
(the Sprint Race is noted below)

Qualifying:
1. D’Ambrosio (DAMS)
2. Nunes (Piquet GP)
3. Jakes (Super Nova)
4. Kobayashi (DAMS)
5. Villa (Super Nova)
6. Petrov (Campos)

The top 22 are covered by under 1 second, which the guys say is a surprise, and as Gareth says “this isn’t Mallory Park this is a proper Grand Prix circuit”.

Drama as the coverage begins as D’Ambrosio has NOT taken his pole position! His car broke down on the warm-up lap and he had to pit, he won’t take the start, could rejoin later but will be many laps down.

The other omission is Nico Hülkenberg who is not racing this weekend, Pastor Maldonado has reclaimed the seat.

START

Several slow starts and the cars fan out wide, Villa stalls it from 5th on the grid. Lots of bumping and contact through that twiddly bit at the start of the lap.

Lots of side-by-side action throughout the first lap, but Mortara is out on lap one.
Nunes leads Petrov, Kobayashi and Maldonado.

32 to go – Parente passes..someone. Hard to tell. These liveries aren’t easy to ID.

30 – Perez started 18th but is already up to 10th.

27 – Nunes leads, in 2nd and 3rd Petrov and Kobayashi are all over each other!

26 – Early pit stop for Kobayashi. He was sort of caught behind Petrov.
Ooh, Petrov runs VERY wide and allows Jakes into 2nd place.

25 – Maldonado pushing hard runs wide, scoots across the grasscrete or whatever it is, rejoins with dirty tyres and some positions down. Gareth: “Typical Pastor”. The guys say he’s a charming chap but he’s a rough diamond.

Nice move by Yelmer Buurman on Vitaly Petrov, who is really struggling to get his car stopped yet still made Buurman work for it.

23 – Petrov loses another place as someone drafts him down the back straight, so he dives into the pits for new rear tyres.
Slow car on track: Razia crawling in 1st or maybe even coasting.

22 – Maldonado pits.. he’s got damage on the nose. He’s out in 15th with more yet to stop.

Shots of F1 personnel on the pit stand watching the race, including Nelson Piquet Jr and Felipe Massa. Remember this race happened shortly after F1 qualifying. Parente takes Gonzalez, who then pits..

20 – Nunes pits from the lead, as does Valsecchi who has a very slow stop with a sticking right rear.

19 – Perez has stopped in the pit entry, nearly blocking it. Dark clouds are approaching!
Perez has been pushed to his pit – replay and it looks like his radiator has been holed.

17 – Jakes is pushing Kobayashi for what will end up as 2nd after the pitstops.

15 – Al-Fardan finally makes his stop, the last to do so.

8 – Jakes is still close behind Kobayashi but can’t seem to do anything about it.

7 – Maldonado smokes his tyres in an attempt to pass Petrov, can’t make it by at the hairpin, tries it again at turn one and still can’t do it! Couple of flat-spots on those tyres now, Valsecchi watching on.

4 – Discussion on the merits of KERS and how GP2 could have it if F1 develops it to be cheap enough. Hmm, hindsight.. 🙂

3 – Maldonado makes an error and allows Parente to draw alongside, both have patience and Parente takes the position. Comment from Gareth that the Maldonado of old would’ve taken Parente out there and then.

2 – Maldonado and Valsecchi are close together as they lap a backmarker, both are just a little behind Petrov.

Diego Nunes wins!

Result:
1 Nunes (PiquetGP) 33 laps
2 Kobayashi (DAMS) +8.36s
3 Jakes (Super Nova) +9.15s
4 Rodriguez (PiquetGP) +13.87s
5 Buurman (Ocean) +16.81s
6 Petrov (Campos) +41.46s

Summary:
Pretty flat end to the race. Lots of drivers in little close groups but not seemingly able to do anything to make a pass. Good job from Nunes and Jakes, complete change of fortunes over previous form, well done. Amazingly, Al-Fardan came 9th after looking utterly hopeless back in Qatar.

Sprint Race – 22 laps

It is wet for Sunday’s race, which was held a couple of hours before the F1 race. As ever the grid is the result of the Feature with the top 8 reversed.

1 Valsecchi
2 Maldonado
3 Petrov
4 Buurman
5 Rodriguez
6 Jakes

As it turns out this race has been delayed by 30 minutes by the wet conditions and we will have a Safety Car start (and no formation lap).

START

Yamamoto has stalled at the start and so has one of the FMS cars, could be Chen. Both cars are pushed into the pitlane. Yamamoto gets fired but stops at the end of pitlane, while they are taking the engine cover off Chen’s car. I’m not sure why Yamamoto stopped, he has a green light which now turns red as the field comes by behind the SC to complete lap 1.

18 to go – Safety Car is in, green flag!
Contact on the last corner between Maldonado and Valsecchi.

A couple of spinners at turn two including James Jakes – that’s a shame after his race 1 run.

No rain but the track is very wet, the cars are kicking up spray so it is hard to see who is close behind someone.

17 – Maldonado tries several times and makes it by Valsecchi, Petrov’s coming with him. Meanwhile Buurman runs wide and loses a couple of places. I was doing the same at that corner on the Wii last night..

16 – Kobayashi brakes far too late and runs into the wide runoff at turn one, loses a position.

15 – Maldonado leads, followed by Petrov, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Buurman, Parente and Gonzalez. Kobayashi is 11th, D’Ambrosio 17th.

12 – The DPR cars are off course and out of the race.

Nice dive from Petrov at the final corner to pass Maldonado for the lead! Interesting to see Petrov is quite a bit faster today, relative the rest of the field.

11 – Petrov, Maldonado, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Gonzalez, Kobayashi, Buurman. Points only go to the top 6 in the Sprint though.

Petrov just set the fastest lap of the race. Apparently Jakes got the point for FL yesterday (Villa was faster, Jakes was fastest of the top ten finishers, a rule to prevent pitting for tyres and going for a time).

Replay of D’Ambrosio running off track into an area where several marshalls and a tractor were working on two cars already – dangerous stuff, he should’ve backed off under yellow and he didn’t. Commentary guys are saying he should get a penalty, I agree.

9 – Rodriguez off course, too much speed and into the gravel. I think he recovers eventually.
Pics of Razia walking back to the pits.

The track is drying now and there’s not much spray. Due to the Safety Car start and the wet conditions this is now a timed race and there are 11 minutes to go.

D’Ambrosio does indeed get a black flag, hooray for the stewards! Replay again, the car in front checks up and Jerome just drives by and off course. He pits and shuts down the engine – looks like a straight black flag and not a time penalty!

8mins – Replay of Al Fardan running wide at turn one, same way Rodriguez did.

Perez vs Gonzalez – Perez makes the pass through turns 1 and 2 but loses out at the switchback, he makes it stick a few corners later.

5mins – Nunes sets Fastest Lap. The guys are talking about setups, some of those who have gone for dry or intermediate setups should be getting faster than the guys with wet setups now.

2m30s – Parente is now fastest. Kobayashi is pressuring Al Fardan for 4th, he’s closed up but doesn’t seem to be able to make the move.

The clock hits zero, last lap.

Vitaly Petrov wins!

Kobayashi and Perez cross the line side-by-side!! Who got it? How did Perez get up to Kobayashi?
Replays: Perez gets the position by half a nose! Fantastic, and it was the final points place as well..

Result:
1 Petrov (Campos) 22 laps
2 Maldonado (ART) +2.91s
3 Valsecchi (Durango) +4.34s
4 Nunes (Piquet GP) +6.36s
5 Al Fardan (iSport) +21.54s
6 Perez (Campos) +24.49s

Summary:
A drying race track saw some desparate moves, some worked and some didn’t and it was fun to watch both those and the struggles to control the cars on the slippery surface.

POINTS:
1 Kobayashi 47
2 Valsecchi 34
3 Petrov 28
4 Hulkenberg 27
5 Rodriguez 27
6 Perez 26

Next up is final round of this GP2 Asia season supporting the Bahrain GP, and with 22 points available for two wins and two fastest laps it isn’t over yet.

Race Notes: Malaysian Grand Prix 2009

2009 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix
Circuit: Sepang International Circuit
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Coverage: BBC One *live*
56 laps

Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts in the paddock: David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan
Race commentary: Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle
Pit and paddock reports: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

** Disclaimer – These are notes taken during the live broadcast of this race. They may or may not make any sense and I have only edited them for brevity, punctuation and grammar. **

BBC coverage is GO at 9am, 1 hour until race start.
I’ll only take a few notes while I fix breakfast etc.

Quick opening chat with Coulthard and Jordan (DC & EJ).

Feature on McLaren’s “motorsport equivalent of perjury” from Ted Kravitz. Says McLaren have been paranoid of mid-race penalties ever since Spa last year. Whitmarsh admits they made a big mistake, Ryan is suspended and Hamilton is still racing.

Qualifying report – Ferrari were overconfident, they thought Massa had done enough but he dropped to 16th – knocked out in the first session. Otherwise just your normal report similar to what you can watch/read anywhere.

LeeMcK talking to Button, they are actually using her this weekend! Very nice to see Jenson ‘in a happy place’. He says he hasn’t yet driven the car in the wet so he’s hoping it won’t rain today.

Shots of Bernie in the paddock signing autographs for kids, now we go to Eddie Jordan talking to him (recorded). Bernie says he had a little hand behind the scenes in making it happen, the buying of the team. He says they’ve done a good job.
EJ says the relationship between BE and Mosely last year wasn’t as good as it was.
BE says last year he was a little out of order, Max had the courage to stand up and say ‘this is what I do privately’ and now he’s fighting for privacy for other people.

Back to the paddock and EJ says he hasn’t seen Bernie so happy and chirpy in a long time. He’s a bit down on his medal thing not being adopted and some other things but otherwise ‘up, up, up’.

40 mins to go.

Martin is talking about the ‘Overtaking Working Group’ who designed the new rules for the car designs – but only very briefly for some reason.

Jake says we DO expect rain.

Feature with Williams on how the cars affect the drivers. Heat, g-forces, etc. Seen all this before if I’m honest..

Martin doing a track guide, he’s comparing the different lines of drivers in qualifying. Kimi couldn’t take the same line as Button which sent him off track.
Button took a lot of kerb to set himself up nicely for the long backstraight.
He points out how Trulli took the racing line for his pole lap, whereas most others took a direct route alongside the pitwall – you don’t need to set yourself up for the first corner when you’re on your final lap.

30 mins to go, pitlane opens.
Engines fire up right next to the boys talking in pitlane as Hamilton leaves his pit. Drivers have 15 minutes to do ‘recon’ laps, passing through pitlane to complete the lap. As soon as they go past pit entry and on to the grid that’s it, no more until the start.

Michael Schumacher is in the house again, walking on the grid for Ferrari. Adrian Newey taking a look at cars.

Martin Brundle is on the grid!
He’s standing by the Safety Car at the head of the field, says when the light and numberplate turn green that’s the signal to let traffic past it.

With Button: We were good in qualifying on the harder tyre so we’ve saved two sets of the soft tyre, but hearing the weather forecast it doesn’t look like we’ll use them, it’ll rain at 5 o’clock. I want it to be dry if possible

Loads of wet tyres being prepared alongside the grid, just in case! Here’s Timo Glock, mechanics surrounding the back of the car to stop people looking at the new diffuser! They move around to stop him – he backs off then dives in again ‘because it’s good fun”. HA!

Glock doesn’t want a chat, got his iPod in.
Jarno Trulli? Seems to be away from the grid. Finds a random Toyota guy for a weather forecast, he says they expect rain some time during the race.

Hamashima-san of Bridgestone. When the track is drying and they are within 15 seconds of a dry time they should switch to dries. Nervous? Yes!

Sam Michael doesn’t want to look at the Toyota, “you’ve got one just like it but a bit different haven’t you?” Sam just nods.

Martin Whitmarsh – “We haven’t got a car that’s quick enough at the moment. We all used to have our different weather prediction systems but F1 got wise to it and we now all use the same system provided by them.”

We throw back to Jake.

Shots of Bernie walking around the grid with the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Malaysian national anthem begins, which I have never heard before in a decade of watching races here. Let’s be honest, in sport you’re not likely to hear it anywhere else. No flyover today.

Ooh, Ted has a graph predicting the first pit stop. It shows Vettel clearly much earlier than Vettel. Then a CGI grid showing the cars separated by the qualifying time gaps – which they then fuel-adjust! Brawns are still fastest but the field seems further apart generally.

Lee is on the grid where they are changing the front wing on the Brawn. They seem pretty calm about it.

10 mins to go.

Jay Kay of Jamiroquai is on the grid, they have a concert after this rac.e

The clouds are rolling in and getting darker.

We cross to Jonathon Legard and Martin Brundle in the commentary box above the pits for a quick chat – Martin is expecting to be very busy today!

Montage leading into the F1 official intro.

Timing monitor has reset. If you’re not watching live timing during F1 races you’re crazy, it makes such a difference to your understand of it. For the next race go to Formula1.com and hit the live timing link on the main page.

Hooter sounds to tell the mechanics how long they have left. I think 3 minutes.

Ted: The reason Button changed nosecone was because Brawn left the nose out in the rain and water got into the electronics which operate the all new driver-adjustable front wing. They’ve switched it for the one used in Australia.

GRID

BUT, TRU
GLO, ROS
WEB, KUB
RAI, BAR
ALO, HEI
NAK, HAM
VET, KOV
BOU, MAS
PIQ, FIS
SUT, BUE

Hooter sounds again and the engines fire up on cue.

Mechanics clear the grid.

GREEN LIGHT

Formation lap.

Mechanics flee!

Kubica radio: Very strange noise from the engine.
Legard: I think that was in Polish because I couldn’t understand it.
Brundle: Me neither.
Legard: Quick translation, ‘very strange noise from the engine’.

I swear I did understand it,…

We’re on the back straight. Pass the med car stationed in the support paddock, it’ll line up and follow the field for the first lap.
Final corner. Grid.

LIGHTS – OUT!

Rosberg!
Madness through the wide turn one. Kubica slow away.
Rosberg takes a huge lead, pushing Button down.

Kovalainen is off track and out AGAIN.

Button up the inside of Alonso into 13, nice move.

Lap 1: Rosberg, Trulli, Button, Alonso, Barrichello, Raikkonen.

Brundle says Kubica’s BMW sounds ‘sick’ as it goes past them. Also says they believe Alonso has 25 laps of fuel and Button 18, which helps.

Very dark clouds in the background.

Replay of start: Button went much too wide.

Buemi has pitted already, they fit a new nose as the wing was damaged. Didn’t see why.
Kubica has pulled in and the car is starting to catch fire.

Barrichello tries it on Alonso, too wide but gets a very nice run down the main straight and makes the pass in turn one.

Lap 3 of 56

Rosberg, Trulli, Button setting quick laps, Barrichello, Alonso, Raikkonen< Webber, GLock, Heidi, Hamilton.

L4 Vettel passes Hamilton for 10th

VERY DARK CLOUDS, you can hear the tension music in the background. It’s coming but you don’t know when.

Ted: It will rain in 12 minutes, the forecast from Meteo France. Button was told to ‘go for it’ by the team.

Glock tries to move at Webber and they just about avoid contact, Webber retains position.

Vettel who is light is now working hard on Heidfeld for 9th. Tell you what if it rains when he needs fuel he’s sitting pretty.

Brundle says the track is green and slippy.

L6 Legard says the GP2 Asia race was delayed by half an hour this morning and started behind the SC, it was so wet.

Raikkonen on-board, he uses KERS out of turn 2. Nice low-slung camera!

L7 Rosberg is setting very quick lap times, fastest man on track and leads by 2.7 seconds. Go Nico! I would LOVE a Williams win.

L8 Vettel still behind Heidfeld, Brundle suggest the KERS is keeping Nick ahead. Oh Heidfeld throws it wide and both Vettel and Hamilton pass him!

L9 McLaren expect rain in 10 minutes. Shots of weather radar!
Martin says if it gets too bad they could use the safety car or red flag it.

Raikkonen passes Alonso for 5th and Webber is all over Alonso now, while defending from Glock! They’ve got Vettel on their tail as well.

L11 Button sets fastest lap of 1:37.579
Gap to leader:
Rosberg, Trulli 3.0s, Button 4.2s, Barrichello 10.3s, Kimi 26.5s, Alonso 28.3s, Webber 28.8s, Glock 29.5s, Vettek 29.8s, Lewis 33.2s, Heidi 35.9s, Massa 37.3s, Piquet 39.1s, Naka 40.1s, Bourdais 40.4s, Sutil, Fisi, Buemi

L12 Webber passes Alonso but compromised his line, Alonso repasses him but he inside in the last corner! They race side by side, Alonso passes again, all the way to turn 2, great stuff! Martin thinks Alonso was on the KERS to repass on the pit straight.

L14 Vettel pits, the gamble didn’t pay off and he’ll have to pit off-strategy if it rains soon.
Brundle thinks Rosberg is in shortly.

Button FL 1:37.555

Alonso has been slowing everybody down since the start, he’s running heavy. Kimi and Mark must be very happy to be clear of him!

L15 Rosberg pits from the lead. He puts on the softer compound tyre – but it isn’t the same as the soft tyre last week. There are four compounds, if you number them 1-4 from soft-hard last week we had 1 and 3, this week we have 2 and 4. The softer of the two has the green stripe.

Glock and Sutil pitted also.

We’re on lap 16 and 30 minutes in, the rain has stayed away so far.

L16 Webber pits. He also stays on the softer tyre which seems to be the one that works this weekend.

L17 Trulli is in as Rubens sets new FL 1:37.484.

Martin is talking about who is good in changeable conditions: Button, Trulli, etc.

Massa radio: “a lot of people coming in so we’ll benefit if it rains.”
He’s right. The longer strategy has to be the choice today.

L18 new FL! 1:36.641 from Button! Hell of a lap.

Ferrari are getting ready with wets!

Kimi pits and takes wet tyres! The track is too dry guys! It’s a hell of a gamble. Martin has already told us a wet will be destroyed in two laps of dry running.

L19 Button pits and takes the softer dry tyre, he’s out miles ahead of Rosberg!
Kimi is dropping like a stone.

L20 Barrichello pits. He’s on slicks and comes out 4th.
Ted: Bourdais has taken wets as well. There is rain coming in at turn 8.

L21 Hamilton radio, he says it’s coming at turn 15.

It has started! The rain has started and Alonso has thrown it off the road!

Replay: he was at full speed on a dry track then encountered some rain.

L22 Button pits again already, he’s taking wets. Rosberg, Trulli, Rubens are in.

Everybody is pitting for wet tyres but it is dry on the pit straight.

L23 Kimi radio: my tyres are completely destroyed.

Holy crap it’s dark on Lewis’ onboard camera.

A Red Bull steams past a cautious Hamilton. Webber?
Hamilton hits KERS on the pit straight and takes the place back again.

Race order: Button, Rosberg, Trulli, Rubens, Heidfeld, Webber, Hamilton, Massa, Piquet, Glock

Webber going for the pass again but he’s off, rejoins. Massa is catching both rapidly.

Heehee this is fun between these two, for the whole of that lap they were fighting, brilliant. Webber seems to have cleared a small gap now.

L24 Laptimes dropped to 2:03 or so.

There isn’t very much water though. Webber just drives around Heidfeld as if he’s in a GP2 car!

Ted says Glock is on the intermediates while everyone else is on full wets, which seems to have been a good choice – he’s 8 seconds faster than everyone else.
Hamilton radio: his engine won’t hit the limiter.

L25 Glock flying up to 6th passing Heidfeld even quicker than Webber did.

We’re told there is a lot of lightning.

L26 Barrichello passes Trulli as Vettel pits.

Replay: Massa speeds by Hamilton.
Barrichello has caught Rosberg and passes him, Rosberg pits.
Trulli is very slow as Webber and Glock pass him. Trulli is supposed to be good in these conditions, must be on the wrong tyres.

L27 Hamilton pitted and taken inters and fuelled to the end. Barrichello goes off-roading.
Glocks moves on Webber and takes 2nd! Barrichello and Trulli pit for intermediates (the one with no green stripe).

Big gap between Button and Glock but then the cars are close together.

L28 Button pits from a 25-sec lead over Glock. Button takes a bit of front wing and a set of inters. We didn’t see where he emerged relative to Glock.
Webber is in, so is Massa.

L29 replay of Vettel takes Piquet.
Finally we see where Button is – right on Glock’s tail!
Jenson takes the inside line into the final corner and makes the pass, as Glock hits pitlane. There’s more water on the track now – and Glock takes the full wet!

L30 Loss of picture! Electrical storm! Massive bit of lightning apparently hit the main grandstand! The rain is coming down heavier now. LOTS of pitting.

Fisichella slides around on inters, seems to get going again.

Lots of spray now, full wets are the things to have. Onboard camera – can’t see a thing.
Ahh no, Vettel is out.

L31 Button pits for full wets as the thunder rages in the background.

Look at this track! Covered in water.

SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

The conditions are far too wet for racing. Button is halfway around the lap. Brundle says Whiting called it spot on.

Bourdais: They should red flag the race, it’s undriveable!

RED FLAG RED FLAG

Race has been suspended under the new red flag rules. It used to be that was it, race over. Now we’ll have the cars line up on the pit straight in position order until conditions improve.

Legard says the cameras aren’t doing the darkness justice, it’s much worse than it looks.

Replays of spinners: Heidfeld, Fisichella.

Cars are lining up on the grid but some have driven past it, what are they doing??

If this one is called they’ll only get half points because we haven’t reached 75% distance.

Drivers are out of their cars and mechanics are on the grid. There’s a Force India sat at the end of pitlane, timing shows it to be Sutil.

Massa radio: get me the white visor or I can’t see anything!! Engineer: Felipe stay cool, we’re getting it!

Thunder, lightning, water everywhere.

We are held on lap 32.

Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber, Massa, Bourdais, Piquet, Alonso, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Sutil (pit).

Martin says the clock keeps running even under a race suspension so we will hit the two-hour maximum – however on their timing they are saying the clock has been frozen.

Webber is leaning into Hamilton’s cockpit for a discussion. Webber is the head of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, the safety body founded by Jackie Stewart and others and made up of current F1 drivers only. Webber is now with Alonso, he’s canvassing opinion.

Ted is with Christian Horner of Red Bull: The conditions are far too dangerous to drive at the moment, it’s down to the race director to decide what to do. Rain is set in for the next half an hour, a great shame, we got ourself into a good position.

Ted finds Mark Webber: You cannot see anything. The safety car can’t go that quick so you can’t get heat into the tyres. I nearly hit Nick and I was doing 15k’s an hour. (asked if he gets one point, half a point) Points don’t matter, what we get out of it is we don’t want people hurt.

We’re back to Jake Humphrey hiding in the BrawnGP pit.
Coulthard: These cars are not designed for these conditions. Mark has gone round for a ‘sanity check’ with the other drivers. You can’t risk 150mph with no visibility.

Jordan: Glock drove a good race.

They are in pundit mode now so I’ll leave them to it.

A Ferrari is being wheeled back into pit lane for some reason. We can hear an engine on the grid, most drivers are out of their cars.

Coulthard says he’s seeing a whole other side to F1 now he’s out of the car. When in the car you wonder why the team makes such and such a decision – now he can see the lap times and strategies etc.

Fernando, do you think we should restart? “I hope not. The visibility is nothing. With the amount of standing water we could have a serious accident. It is completely dark on the circuit.”

The two-hour limit would be 12pm UK, it is now 11:25am and we’ve been held under reds since a touch after 11am.

Giancarlo: “Difficult conditions, we made a wrong call and came in too early for wet tyres. We did 3 laps and destroyed the tyres. There was a lot of aquaplaning and the tyres were slicks because they were destroyed. Not a good race for us.”
He’s very downbeat.

Patrick Head, Williams: “(Whiting) is very experienced, he knows the conditions. I’m sure the drivers will race if the race restarts. Nobody’s thrown any tantrums but it’s very difficult conditions.”

It’s getting dark out there.

Trulli radio: Mark Webber came to see us and said the drivers think it is too dark to race. I think that was Toyota team radio generally, not to Trulli.

The cars are being positioned in order but Eddie Jordan thinks they are just going through the motions. He says Jenson Button should be declared the winner and call it a day.

Ted Kravitz with Martin Whitmarsh: “No news at the moment, we’ll get at least ten minutes notice if we restart but we’re running out of light.”

Jake says we need another 12 laps to reach 75% distance and full points. Even his waiter last night said they were crazy to hold a race in Malaysia at this time!

11:38am We’ve just had some radio saying three cars will have to let everyone else through. It looks like they gained a lap on everyone else in the Safety Car confusion and the Red Flag.

11:44am Raikkonen is out of the car and out of his overalls, he’s not restarting. The cars have been put all on one side of the grid apart from two on the other side. Those two will be held for 90 seconds when the field is released, to allow them the field to unlap themselves. The field lost a lap on them when they should not have done. I think this has more to do with the timing system than the actual positions of the cars.

Kimi has an ice cream!

Luca Colajanni, press officer, Ferrari: “We have a KERS issue. We are checking the car to take the decision to retire the car or not. If it starts it’ll be from pitlane.”

11:50am BBC talking to John Button, Jenson’s dad, but you know what he’s going to say so I’ll not write it down. This is filler.

Message on screen:
RACE CONTROL: RACE WILL NOT BE RESTARTED

Jenson Button wins! Applause in the Brawn pit where the BBC are stationed at the minute.

The timing screens have updated itself to lap 31, not lap 32 – it seems we’ve been waiting all this time for the FIA to sort out the timings which were current as the red flag flew.

Finishing order after 31 of 56 laps:
1. Button
2. Heidfeld
3. Glock
4. Trulli
5. Barrichello
6. Webber
7. Hamilton
8. Rosberg
9. Massa
10. Bourdais
11. Alonso
12. Nakajima
13. Piquet
14. Raikkonen
15. Vettel
16. Buemi
17. Sutil
18. Fisichella
DNF Kubica
DNF Kovalainen

Whiting is trying to explain it to the top three finishers in the waiting room behind the podium.

Drivers on the podium!

National anthem of Great Britain for Button/Brawn.

Trophies. Andrew Shovelin, Button’s race engineer, is up to represent BrawnGP.

Champagne!

Martin says the results are set at the last time the winner completed a total lap before the red flag dropped.

Button drops the champagne bottle from the podium, smashes it on the pitlane!

Ted with Nico: “Fantastic start, I did well also and it felt nice. I was able to push. It was going really well and the weather came down, I’m not really sure what happened. I was aquaplaning on full wets doing 30 kmh.”

Rubens: “That’s the unfortunate thing of starting the race at 5 o’clock. Visibility, not from the rain but from the sky. Bit confused calls from pitlane and dodgy pitstops, the car was good to race, it was racy. It another win for JB, pretty good.”

Lewis: “It was impossible to drive, it was very dangerous, the most dangerous I’ve been in for sure. The first tyre change we maybe made the wrong change but the rest were okay.”

Eddie Jordan: “It’s very clear, the team bosses should have told the drivers. The result goes back to the last complete lap.”

Press Conference:
Button: “What a crazy race, it really was. My start was pretty bad, I had a lot of oversteer. I was pretty happy, our pace was good then the rain started – we went for full wet and Glock went by on the inters. A very interesting race and I still haven’t seen a chequered flag!”
Heidfeld: “A very difficult race.” He’s talking about what he did with tyre choices.
Glock: “Very tricky race. I struggled and was only P8 after first lap, I saw the clouds coming, when is it coming? I say we go for inters, take the risk and it paid off. The last two laps behind the safety car it was so confusing. I was leading then Button came out of the pits so I was P2, then I get out of the car and I’m told I’m P3 so I hope when I go downstairs I’m still P3!”

The points-paying positions will only receive half-points so for this race we have:
5 Button
4 Heidfeld
3 Glock
2.5 Trulli
2 Barrichello
1.5 Webber
1 Hamilton
0.5 Rosberg

That’s it, we’re finished on the BBC and I don’t believe they are doing a ‘forum’ this week because of this red flag. They’re closing with an acoustic cover of ‘Umbrella’, that Rihanna song, by Biffy Clyro. This means it is far superior to the original although Biffy aren’t as good as they used to be.

Championship

Drivers
15 Button
10 Barrichello
8.5 Trulli
8 Glock
4 Alonso
4 Heidfeld
3.5 Rosberg
2 Buemi
1.5 Webber
1 Bourdais
1 Hamilton

Constructors
25 Brawn-Mercedes
16.5 Toyota
4 BMW Sauber
4 Renault
3.5 Williams-Toyota
3 STR-Ferrari
1.5 RBR-Renault
1 McLaren-Mercedes

With this strange ending there is a lot of potential for debate and protests over finishing positions and don’t forget that appeal hearing next week over the diffusers! Let’s hope common sense prevails.

I’ll be back for the IndyCars later on if I can find a way to watch it, via IndyCar.com or otherwise. The next F1 action is on April 19th with the Chinese Grand Prix which switches ends of the calendar, it was only 4 or 5 months since they were last there.

Enjoy the rest of the racing weekend!

F1 Preview: Malaysian Grand Prix 2009

Welcome to the slightly delayed preview to the Malaysian GP!

* * * *
FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (2/17)
– Sepang International Circuit
– Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
www.formula1.com
F1.com track map
Live timing (Java required, free registration required, worth it)

Circuit
Check the track map link above to see the three official timing sectors.

We move from the stop/start part-street track of Albert Park to the very fast, very open Sepang, sited adjacent to KL International Airport some 20 miles from KL itself.

Sepang joined the calendar for the 1999 season and was the first of the ‘Tilkedromes’, those circuits penned by the track architect Herman Tilke who has become the F1 track designer of choice. It set the tone for his later circuits including Bahrain, Shanghai and Istanbul. Features include an exceptionally wide racing surface, a very long wide pitlane and a large central grandstand with local styling cues.

The signature corner on this circuit is turn one, an ever-tightening right-hander leading into a very tight switchback to the left. Accidents are common here and drivers will need to keep their elongated noses clean. Tilke used a similar corner design twice for Shanghai, at the first corner and at the corner on to the long straight.

The track as a whole is very fast and flowing for the most part, with a couple of harder braking areas producing potential overtaking spots, as well as the two very long straights either side of the central grandstand – these straights ought to be ideal for those running KERS.

This track was very smooth for the first several runnings but in the last couple of years several bumps have appeared – many drivers and F1 analysts have perhaps unkindly stated this brings the circuit some much-needed character!

The overbearing heat is frequently the topic of the weekend with team personnel and media alike hiding away in the air conditioning of the paddock buildings (no such luck for the spectators). This year though, the 5pm start should negate some of this but it will bring another problem: rain. Typically after the race is over, usually 5.30pm local, and the sun begins to set, the track is engulfed in a tropical rain shower – this year the race begins at 5pm and the forecast is for rain. Last time we had heavy rain at Sepang it caused utter chaos with cars off the track at all angles.

Form
BrawnGP are the clear favourites after their performance last weekend however the race pace of the Toyotas and BMWs, and Vettel’s Red Bull, should not be underestimated. Neither should Hamilton’s McLaren. There is also the question of how the various combinations of KERS and diffusers – or lack thereof – will work at a very different circuit to Albert Park. Already in practice Kimi Raikkonen’s KERS battery has come to a smoking halt, will the heat of Sepang prove too much for KERS?


UK TV

Q: BBC One will air Qualifying live at 9am BST Saturday, session begins at 10am.
R: BBC One will air the Race live at 9am BST Sunday, race starts at 10am.
H: BBC Three will air 1hr Highlights at 7pm BST Sunday.

US TV

Q: Speed will air Qualifying semi-live at 5am ET.
R: Speed will air the Race live at 4:30am ET with the race to start at 5am. Rerun at 1:30pm.
– Canada should get coverage on TSN featuring BBC commentary, you may find Speed is blacked out.

Note for US viewers: Speed builds in a delay during qualifying coverage in order to fit in as many advertisements as possible. This completely screws up your chances of following live timing as well as ensuring anyone following F1 updates on Twitter gets spoilers 10 to 15 minutes ahead of seeing it on their TV screen. I don’t yet know if they do this for the race – either way, I urge you to complain!
Live Comments
I will be at Sidepodcast.com for qualifying and the race, and probably for the IndyCar race too (if they decide to live comment it). Fire up the Live Commenting Live..Thing at the appointed time, join the appropriate thread at the top of the screen, enter your name and then just type away! You’re welcome to join us as long as you keep the sweary exclamations away.

I’ll also be commenting on Twitter from time to time, but since I’ll be focussing on writing my race notes I may be fairly quiet.

Support events
GP2 Asia Series; Formula BMW Pacific;