Red Is The Colour For Alonso Victory At Malaysian GP

Safety Cars , a stoppage, rain and and a challenge for the win from an expected source. It had it all.

Fernando Alonso took his twenty eighth career win after a stunning drive in treacherous conditions. His win was somewhat fortunate, the Ferrari car being in no shape to come close to winning in regular dry weather. This was something the Spaniard recognised in the post-race press conference:

“A big surprise today,” he said. “I think we were not competitive in Australia and not competitive here, and the goal was to score as many points as possible, and today it was 25 – so an unbelievable result.

“A great result for the team – good result in Q3, and today keeping calm in extreme conditions. Congratulations to team, who deserve this victory.

“This is a tough time at the moment, but for sure we will remember this Sunday.”

Perez produced a fantastic performance

The big story of the day was Sauber’s Sergio Perez putting Alonso under pressure towards the end and missing out on a chance to pass him for the win due to a mistake leading on to the back-straight of the circuit. The Mexican, who is in his second season, pitted for wet tyres on lap two when all but for the HRT team were on intermediate tyres. He said that the win was on, but was happy to come second whilst congratulating the team for calling the right strategy:

“I think the win today was really possible,” said Perez, who is fifth in the championship with 22 points. “Obviously the team did very good work to call me in at the right time. We lost just [time] at the end a lot of second pitstop, which did not go well with the clutch, but then I managed to catch him [Alonso] lap by lap.”

Perez with the first trophy of his Formula One career

While chasing down Alonso and bringing the gap to under three seconds, he lost control of the car, catching the wet slippery kerbs which forced the car wide. He regained composure to take more time out of Alonso’s lead, but ran out of laps.

“I lost control of the car and lost the fight for the victory. Even so, it has been a great day for the team. They called me at the right time. The conditions were difficult to keep the car on track, and it has been incredible. They were focused as well, calling me at the right time, which was crucial.”

Hamilton lead the pack for the opening laps

Lewis Hamilton had reason to be disappointed after another race where he started from pole ended in third position, but the Englishman was pleased with his result:

“I won’t complain. I think the car has been good all weekend and the team did a good job and I’m on the podium again, which is my target, to have consistency,” said Hamilton.”

He admitted that with everything that went on, it was good to finish on the podium and admitted the team were late in making the right tyre call:

“It was an interesting race. Obviously we would have been much happier if we had finished where we started, but the other two drivers did a fantastic job,” he said.

“I tried my hardest to catch them. It was just a very eventful race, really. Trying to find the right time to change from the extreme tyres to mediums. We were probably a bit late with that, and then to slicks.

“Making the call is down to whether you take the risk or not, and the others went a little bit earlier. We lost a bit of times in our pitstops, so I lost a bit of time there. Trying to close a 12-second gap was pretty tough.”

Under dry weather, the McLarens were expected to get a victory, which was what team boss Martin Whitmarsh repeated, but maintained that it could have been worse and that they were leading the Constructor’s Championship – a title the Woking-based squad haven’t won for 13 years:

“In the dry, if nothing had gone wrong, then we had the pace to be 1-2 and we should have been,” he explained. “I think we take away from this weekend that we are leading the Constructors’ Championship, and we are second and third in the drivers’ championship.”

Lining up on the grid, Jenson will have expected better

Jenson Button had been looking good for a strong race after getting the timing right when switching to intermediate tyres, but lost the rear of the car when attempting to pass the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan for the track position of tenth place:

“I was struggling to keep the tyres up temperature and it was totally my fault,” Button admitted.

“I hit the brakes, I lost the rear. I was struggling to get the car slowed down. I tried to get around the corner but I couldn’t do anything but hit him really.”

Like others, Jenson’s race went from bad to worse due to two unscheduled pit-stops – one to repair his damaged front wing and another to change tyres with which he struggled:

“A tough, tough afternoon, and then it just spiralled out of control,” he said. “Everything that could go wrong, did. All I could do was laugh really. It was so bad today. Sorry for the guys, who obviously expected a lot more today. I couldn’t deliver today.

“But, chin up. I won’t be looking at any of the footage from this race. I’ll be moving forward and looking forward to China, because I really think it was one of those [bad] races that sometimes happen. We’ll put that behind us and move on in China.”

Button, like Vettel, collided with Karthikeyan (R)

A man who wasn’t laughing was Sebastian Vettel. His car struggling at times in the wet, he suffered a puncture when lapping Karthikeyan’s HRT. Afterwards, he had some uncharacteristically strong words by his own standards:

“Like on normal roads, you have some idiots driving around. It seems there is also one driving here,” the Red Bull driver said. ”

Having caused trouble for two championship contenders on a day where HRT reached the giddy heights of tenth position at one point, the Indian felt the backmarkers – someone who is at the back of the field and may be about to be lapped – were  not being respected:

“I had to jink to get out of it and unfortunately he was there. What else I could I do? Some of these guys when you get lapped, they just try and bully you so much, it’s not fair. Some of these guys when they lap you, they take the Mickey out of you I won’t mention names but sometimes they overtake you and they want you to go off the road. ”

He had a strong race, benefiting from his team’s gamble to start on wet tyres when all but his team-mate started on inters.After the race restarted following the red flagged stoppage on lap eight, he fell back toward the back of the field where he stayed for the remainder of the race.

“It was a new place for us, and we had never experienced anything like this. Obviously when the race restarted we knew we were going to go backwards, because the car is not so good anyway, but the first stage of the race was brilliant.”

Vergne showed control when others didn't

Jean-Eric Vergne collected the first points of his Formula One career in just his second race, finishing eighth for Toro Rosso. He started the race on intermediate tyres and benefitted from the ruling which demands all drivers to be on the wet tyre during a race restart behind the Safety Car:

“To go from 18th on the grid to eighth and in the points at the end is great,” the former British F3 champion said. “I stayed out for a long time on the intermediates after the start and then the red flag came along to help me so I was able to switch to extreme wets on the grid. If I’d had to resume behind the safety car on the intermediates it would have been very hard to stay on track!”

Raikkonen drove well but wants a dry weekend on-track

Kimi Raikkonen made it two points finishes in a row, bringing the Lotus home in fifth place. He is hoping for a clear race next time around, having had penalties and race incidents affecting his weekends. He is confident that the car is strong for the future:

“Hopefully we can get a normal race next time,” said Raikkonen. “All the time there is something going wrong or the weather changes a lot.

“It would be nice to just have a normal weekend and just see where we are. Right now, nobody really knows where anybody is. But we seem to have a pretty strong package everywhere.”

Senna had a good time out in an improved Williams

Bruno Senna recorded his highest race finish to date, a sixth position which gives his Williams team more points than they scored in the entirety of 2011. The nephew of late great Ayrton Senna hopes that this will hush those who believe he is only in the sport due to his family name:

“At the end of the day, there’s always going to be critics and I know that there were people who were criticising Vettel last year for whatever reason,” said Senna, who replaced Rubens Barrichello at the team.

“You’re never going to please everybody and for sure having a strong result takes some wind out of the critics’ sails. Hopefully we can continue having strong results and make sure that I deserve my place here.”

Massa's under pressure, and not for the first time

It was another poor showing from Felipe Massa on another occassion where Fernando Alonso’s performance highlighted the difference between the two men. Alonso may have won the race but the 2008 championship runner-up finished nearly a lap down on the leader, outside of the points. When asked if Perez’ second place in the slower Sauber put more pressure on him, the Brazilian answered negatively:

“I’m happy for him and for his team, but [how] disturbing [is it for me]? Zero. I’m looking more for myself, my driving, my work. “I’m never looking for the others and whether them doing well is a problem for me or the opposite. I’m not like that. I’m happy for him because he did a great job.”

Massa has, more often than not, been behind Alonso by varying margins

Alonso has consistently had the better of Massa since they began their time as team-mates in 2010. A good second driver can be expected to pick up 50% of the number of points that his team-mate collects in a season, but Alonso has out-scored Massa by over 60% in both of the past two seasons.

The pressure has increased on Massa following the performance of Perez, who is a Ferrari Academy driver, although there are other options available to the Italians. His links to Ferrari have sparked speculation that he will replace Massa before the end of the 2012 season, with betting website Sky Bet offering odds of 2/1 for the Brazilian to be replaced for the next race in China. However, Ferrari boss Stefnao Domenicalli rubbished such talk, saying the team will keep supporting Massa:

“We need to stay close to Felipe in this moment,” he said. “It’s a difficult moment and we need to find a way for him to get confident in his car. We saw, for example, one step that was in the right direction in qualifying because we saw there was an improvement compared to last weekend. Now we need to understand what happened today in terms of his race pace and in terms of his performance.

“The priority for me and what I need to make sure is that Felipe has around him the protection of the team that tries to work hard with him.

“And on our side we need to make sure he’s confident to drive the car on the limit, without overdriving it, where the situation could be as bad as not being able to reach the limit.”

Could Perez replace Massa sooner rather than later?

Malaysian GP Race Result

Pos Driver Team Time
 1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    2h44:51.812
 2.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +     2.263
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    14.591
 4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    17.688
 5.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +    29.456
 6.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +    37.667
 7.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +    44.412
 8.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    46.985
 9.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +    47.892
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +    49.996
11.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +  1:15.527
12.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:16.826
13.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +  1:18.593
14.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +  1:19.719
15.  Massa         Ferrari                    +  1:37.319
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
17.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +     1 lap
18.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
19.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +    2 laps
20.  Pic           Marussia-Cosworth          +    2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
22.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps

Retirements
Driver Team Lap
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari              47
Grosjean      Lotus-Renault                4
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