The Malaysian Grand Prix

I spent the better part of yesterday watching what ended up being, one of the most exciting Formula 1 races in recent memory. No one could’ve predicted the spectacle that unfolded, at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

The weekend started off in a similar fashion to Australia, with McLaren as the favorites to win. After another promising day of practice on Friday and a fantastic front row lockout in qualifying, it seemed likely we’d see Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, on the podium. Hamilton got his second pole of the season and seemed a bit more relaxed and confident than he did, the previous weekend in Melbourne. Then everything went terribly wrong.

After an hour long rain delay, following lap 9, McLaren’s luck quickly ran out. Jenson Button locked up under braking and made contact with Narain Karthikeyan, damaging the car’s front wing. This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, which included some of the most horrendous pit stops I’ve seen, in professional motor sports. Heads must certainly be rolling today at the McLaren paddock, as the crews still appeared to be hung over, from last weekend’s celebrations. Hamilton nursed his MP4-27 to a lowly 3rd (considering he started in pole), while Button finished 14th and out of the points. McLaren have been rather vague about their disastrous race in Malaysia. I’d like to see Martin Whitmarsh show a little passion once in a while. His responses to the press were in vain of the finest politicians. Hey Marty, loosen up that collar because your guys sucked.

McLaren had a bad race, though I don’t expect to see them making the same mistakes again. Speaking of bad weeks, how about Red Bull? Sebastian Vettel qualified 6th and finished 11th. Not much of a result from last year’s fastest car World Champion. Vettel’s afternoon wasn’t without incident either. He also made contact with Narain Karthikeyan, a driver who seemingly has no apparent place in Formula 1. Karthikeyan’s accolades include 5 career points, 0 fastest laps, 0 podium finishes and 0 race wins. So I ask, what the hell is he doing in Formula 1?

Red Bull’s afternoon wasn’t all tears. Mark Webber, who I think is a damn good driver, got a respectable 4th. He also out-qualified his teammate for the second week in a row. Not bad for a number 2.

There were more unexpected results from Mercedes, who were also favorites going into the weekend. Michael Schumacher who amazingly, qualified 3rd, botched his race and finished 10th. Nico Rosberg, who’s never quite lived up to expectations, finished 13th. The W03 certainly looks good in qualifying, but no sort of F-duct sorcery from Mr. Brawn, can save them during racing.

Despite all of Sundays disappointment the Malaysian Grand Prix had its heroes.

Throw all of your predictions out the window because they’re worthless.

Coming into this weekend, Ferrari were a team that no one was counting on. With one driver headed for the boardroom and another barely able to get through the second round of qualifying, it was anybody’s guess, as to where Fernando Alonso would end up. But on Sunday, the F2012’s lackluster performance didn’t seem to matter. Alonso completed a spectacular drive, securing his first win of the season. It’s a copout to say races are won by the best technology. Alonso’s win just proves that skill outweighs even the ugliest, most unpredictable chassis.

Felipe Massa is struggling and could be on his way out, as early as mid-season. This weekend he was given a brand new F2012 chassis, after complaining about the car, last weekend in Melbourne. Once again the driver was unable to perform. His teammate however, finished the race in spectacular fashion, using the very same chassis. While technology certainly plays a major role, it’s not the end all.

Then there’s this man, Sergio Perez. Another driver in another car, that no one was expecting anything from. Sauber seem to have all their ducks in a row this season and they’ve apparently built a car, that’s superior to their rivals at Ferrari. Perez and his C31 where on the hunt and did an astonishing job, closing the gap between Alonso. If it hadn’t been for an off in turn 14, Perez likely would’ve won the race. He’s rumored to be next in line at Ferrari, taking over for Massa. Some may call it luck, but I don’t think this is the last we’ll see from Sauber this season. I think they’re just getting started.

Lastly, hats off to Kimi Raikkonen. He’s been away from the sport for 2 years. Could you tell? Raikkonen also had one hell of a drive on Sunday. He qualified 5th on Saturday, but started 10th, after receiving a 5 grid spot penalty because of a transmission swap. The penalty didn’t seem to phase him, as he finished 5th; ahead of 3 former World Champions, who have all been competing (and winning) in the sport, during his absence. Kimi even treated the entire press tent to ice cream, before the race. It’s only a matter of time before his first podium and win, this season.

In a nutshell, that’s everything interesting from the Malaysian Grand Prix. As a piece of literature, not my best effort; but there’s so much to discuss, following a race no one could’ve predicted and a season, that’s just getting started. Shanghai is in 3 weeks, get ready.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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