It was a day of Ferrari resurgence at the Sepang circuit in the Malaysian Grand Prix as the scarlet team came storming back after their disappointing showing in Australia. And the victor was Kimi Raikkonen who started from P2 behind teammate Felipe Massa and who led the race from the end of his first pitstop onwards. But it was a bittersweet victory for Ferrari as Massa spun out on lap 31 into the gravel while trailing Kimi and that put paid to a 1-2 finish that looked so likely. The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen were penalised 5 grid places for impeding other cars in qualifying and though they tried hard to fight their way back up the grid, they had to rely on superlative pitstops and other teams’ misfortune to move up the grid. BMW had another strong race as Robert Kubica finished in 2nd place and the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen finished 3rd. Jarno Trulli managed to hold off Hamilton towards the last laps take the 4th place. Nick Heidfeld finished 6th and also had the fastest lap of the race in the last lap! Mark Webber finished 7th and taking the final point was the Renault of Fernando Alonso.
The start of the race was incident-free as both the Ferraris made a clear getaway and Massa just about held onto the lead leading into the first two corners. Third placed Jarno Trulli couldn’t hold off the other cars and he dropped down into 6th place behind BMW’s Robert Kubica, the Red Bull of Mark Webber and a marauding Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Bourdais was the first casualty and so was the Toyota of Timo Glock, who clashed with the Williams of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg eventually pitted for a new nose wing and rejoined at the back of the grid. Hamilton meanwhile was trying hard to get past Webber but it was only after Webber pitted that the McLaren could move ahead. The first pitstops came around in the lap 17-20 range and it was Massa who pitted first and while he was in there, Kimi banged in the fastest lap and also managed supra-fast in and out laps and when he pitted on the 18th lap, he could come ahead of Massa and into the race lead.
The middle segment of the race saw the retirement of Felipe Massa, who spun out into the gravel trap in what looked more like a driver error than car failure. It also saw the end of the race for the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel, whose engine blew up on the 41st lap. After the second round of pitstops were done, Robert Kubica eased into the second place, some 20 seconds off Kimi and behind him in 3rd place was the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen. Hamilton did manage to leapfrog Webber and Heidfeld with his second pitstop and he hounded 4th placed Jarno Trulli in the final laps of the race but could not pull off a passing move and in the end settled for 5th place finish. He does lead the drivers’ championship and McLaren extend their lead in the constructors’ table.
Force India had a lacklustre race as Giancarlo Fisichella could manage only a 12th place finish and teammate Adrian Sutil had to retire. Honda and Super Aguri also had a forgetful race. Most affected were the Toro Rossos as both of their cars failed to finish the race. BMW and Red Bull had a strong race and so did Toyota, though only one of their cars finished the race. Renault still have room for improvement as Alonso finished 8th and Nelson Piquet could only finish 11th. But it was Ferrari and indeed Kimi Raikkonen who are the toast of Sepang with their victory. If only Massa didn’t spin off, they would have been celebrating a 1-2 finish.
Image Courtesy: AP/BBC Sport