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Sepang: the Malaysian Grand Prix in 10 quick bytes



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016


Pole Position:

Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1:36.219 = 207.389 km/h

1st: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 2hrs 44m 51.812s

2nd: Sergio Perez (Sauber), 2.263s down

3rd: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 14.591s down

Fastest Lap:

Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), 1:40.722 = 198.117 km/h on lap 53

1. Press ‘Reset’: what was all that fuss about Ferrari’s F2012 being a flop as soon as it hit the track in Spain? It carried Alonso to his 28th career victory, now out on his own in outright fifth place overall, and the Spaniard now leads the title race on 35 points. Several drivers suffered in the wet opening stages before the Red Flag came out on lap 9, but Fernando kept his head while several around him were losing theirs, pitted at the perfect time for dry tyres near the end and held off a fast-finishing Perez for an outstanding win.

2. Okay, the conditions played their part: pre-race rain meant all bar the two HRT cars started on Pirelli’s Cinturato Green intermediate tyres, then there was a Safety Car on lap 7 and a red flag to stop the race on lap 9, the restart coming on full wets after a 51-minute delay. Then it was a question judging when to go back to inters or on to slicks…

3. Yes, Sergio Perez: the 22-year-old Mexican scored his own first podium and the best result ever for Sauber in their own right with a mature, confident drive. Perez came in after one lap to change to full wets and that was the key: at the restart he was th ird on the reformed grid and one of the key players in the race. ”I think victory was also within reach,” he said ruefully after closing dramatically on the Ferrari in the last laps but running wide through Turns 13 and 14 to give Alonso breathing space.

4. Lewis Hamilton started from pole and Jenson Button made it a McLaren front row lock-out for the second race in a row. Button made contact with Karthikeyan’s HRT soon after the restart and wiped off the front wing, putting him on the back foot from that point on. “Pretty much everything that could go wrong in the race did go wrong,” he admitted.

5. Hamilton was the early leader but a poor pit stop for intermediates soon after the restart – he missed his marks and then the rear jack didn’t function properly – meant he had to wait for Alonso to go past in pit lane and was never in the hunt after that. He was, however, less petulant than after the Melbourne opener, calling it “a tough but fascinating race”.

6. Mark Webber overcame a difficult stint on intermediates that inspired no confidence in the driver to bring his Red Bull home fourth for the second race in a row. Twice in the race he had to fight back against team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who started behind him on the grid again and tried to bully his way past. But the Aussie was having none of it. “There were some great strengths to take from this weekend,” said Webber, now fourth in the standings, just a point behind Button.

7. Lotus again suffered mixed fortunes: for the second race running Grosjean saw a great grid position squandered in a first-lap argument with Schumacher’s Mercedes. While the German pitted and continued, Grosjean had to wait while Raikkonen pitted before he could go in and was soon aquaplaning into the gravel at Turn 5 and out of the race. Raikkonen meanwhile showed enough pace to secure his 36th fastest lap in F1.

8. Mercedes repeated their Melbourne form: strong in qualifying, vulnerable in the race. After Schumacher’s early incident he ran in 16th and was never much in the picture until he came through for the final point in 10th; Rosberg was a sitting duck on a first set of inters which, he claimed, degraded unexpectedly fast. Head-scratching time if they want Saturday pace to carry over into Sunday…

9. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo lost ground in the chaotic opening laps and was 12th, with Toro Rosso team-mate stealing the limelight this time with his own maiden World Championship points in 8th place. “I think there were moments in the race when I ran at quite a good pace,” said Dan, “but I didn’t have that extra edge to move up the order.”

10. Last but not least, a cheer for Williams: Bruno Senna survived an early incident to come home 6th, his eight-point haul being three more than the beleaguered former greats managed in the whole of 2011.

Next race: round 3, China, April 15

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