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.



Hooter sounds again and the engines fire up on cue.

Mechanics clear the grid.


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.


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.


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!


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:

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.


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.


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

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
F1.com track map
Live timing (Java required, free registration required, worth it)

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.

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?


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.


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;