In Malaysia, when it rains, it pours…at least on Sundays. It at least livened up the happenings which meant Ferrari scored an unlikely win with Fernando Alonso finishing first ahead of the fast-charging and mightily impressive Sauber (yes, a Sauber) of Sergio Perez in second. McLaren pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton had to be content with another 3rd place finish.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished fourth with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen fifth, Williams’ Bruno Senna sixth and Force India’s Paul Di Resta seventh. Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne finished eight ahead of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg in ninth. Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher picked the last point in tenth place.
The result was in much due to the changeable weather conditions at Sepang as it was due to the teams’ strategies, driver errors, backmarker blues and tyre wear in equal measures. It was drizzling at the start but not enough to warrant a Safety Car start and both McLarens had a good start and were steadily pulling away at the head of the pack. Michael Schumacher and Romain Grosjean were involved in a coming together which saw the Mercedes card drop down the order and a few laps later, Grosjean spun into the gravel trap and into retirement.
Whilst the HRT team started on full wets, most of the others were on intermediate tyres. Sergio Perez & Bruno Senna changed to full wets at the end of the first lap and by lap six, all of the field was on full wets as the rain increased in intensity. The Safety Car was deployed on lap seven and after a couple of laps, it was decided to red flag the race as the rain was continuing and it was deemed unsafe to race around any more. Order was Hamilton & Button at the head, with Perez, Webber, Alonso, Vettel, Vergne, Massa, Rosberg & Karthikeyan in the top ten.
McLaren continued their superb qualifying form this season as Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang with teammate Jenson Button a shade behind in second place. Mercedes GP had a good showing at their title sponsor’s home grand prix as Michael Schumacher set the third fastest time.
Red Bull had a lacklustre qualifying with Mark Webber starting fourth and Sebastian Vettel sixth – but will start from fifth place on the grid. Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen set the fifth fastest time but will drop down to tenth on the grid as a result of a gearbox change. Romain Grosjean will start sixth ahead of a disappointed Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes in seventh. Ferrari got into the top ten for the first time this season with Fernando Alonso starting eighth as Sauber’s Sergio Perez will start ninth.
He might have started from P2 on the grid but that didn’t stop Jenson Button from storming to victory at the season opening Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. Reigning Champion Sebastian Vettel finished second, ahead of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton in third.
Button took the lead on the first corner itself and never looked like relinquishing it as he kept the gap to those behind him and controlled the race pace. It was a lucky break with the Safety Car for Vettel on lap 38 as he took second spot and Hamilton ended up behind him in third place.
Mark Webber finished fourth ahead of Fernando Alonso who had started from 12th but drove a good race to finish fifth. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi finished sixth with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen in seventh & Sergio Perez in eighth. Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth for Toro Rosso and the last point in tenth place was taken up by Paul Di Resta of Force India.
The vroom of the engines is back for another enthralling year as the Formula 1 season kickstarted off in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. And it was McLaren and not Red Bull at the head of the order as Lewis Hamilton headed a McLaren lockout at the front of the grid with teammate Jenson Button. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean will be a surprising third place starter.
Mercedes showed good pace as Michael Schumacher clocked the fourth fastest time in Qualifying with the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Champion Sebastian Vettel in fifth and sixth places ahead of Nico Rosberg in seventh and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado in eighth. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg & Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the top ten.
It was a disastrous qualifying session for Ferrari as Alonso could only muster 12th fastest and Felipe Massa 16th. They clearly are struggling to come to terms with their car as was evident throughout the pre-season tests and earlier practice sessions. It was also not a good comeback for former Champion Kimi Raikkonen as he could only muster 18th place on the grid with Lotus as he complained of steering issues with his car and a miscalculation from his team denied him another lap to get into Q2.
Though it is still early days, McLaren seem the team to beat but remains to be seen if Hamilton or Button score points off each other and allow the other drivers to take advantage. Red Bull & Mercedes seem to be playing catch up and although the Mercedes looked quicker throughout the first practice, there have been murmurs of irregularities with its DRS wing & how it handles the aerodynamic air flow around the car.
My prediction is Jenson Button for the Race win with Schumacher second and Vettel third.
The draw for the 2012 UEFA Champions League was held earlier today and as usual, one of two interesting ties were thrown out. Holders Barcelona would take on Serie A champions AC Milan whilst the lone remaining English side Chelsea were handed a trip to Portugal against Benfica.
Real Madrid were handed an easy match against Cypriot side APOEL, whose fairytale run in this season’s tournaments continues. Bayern Munich take on French side Marseille in the remaining QF.
First legs of the matches are on the 27th/28th of March with the return legs on 7th/8th of April. The Semi Finals’ first legs are scheduled for 17th/18th of April and return legs on 24th/25th of April. Final is on the 19th of May at Bayern’s Allianz Arena.