Sunday, 25 March 2012

Rain, Heat, and The Ice Man Melteth

For the second weekend in a row I'm having a break from university work having dedicated a few days to F1. This week's action came from Malaysia, a race known for its extremes of weather. After the spectacular race in Melbourne, Malaysia held high hopes for us race fans, to see whether the racing in 2012 would be staying exciting or whether Australia was a fluke. As it turns out, if these two races are anything to go by then we're in for one hell of a season.

In qualifying it was the McLarens who were the big winners once again, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button locking out the front row. The surprises started with the occupation of the third grid slot. Red Bull? No. Lotus? No. A silver Mercedes. However, this wasn't the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, but rather Michael Schumacher; a man who many in the media have criticised since his comeback. I was delighted that Schumi managed to get this grid slot; I've always been an advocate of Schumacher's return, as is highlighted in a previous blog post of mine (as discussed on 5 Live F1 too I believe). It's nice to see that Schumacher still has the ability to drive these cars. So with the Red Bulls losing out again and the Mercedes powered cars at the front after qualifying, today's race was set to be an interesting one.

As Malaysia is another early race, I set my alarm for 7:30 (the start time of Sky's F1 coverage) after moving the clock forwards an hour due to British Summer Time. I'd thus prepared to get up that extra hour earlier - I often sacrifice my sleep for motorsport. Sadly, my phone decided that it would add an extra hour advance to my phone's clock, so I ended up getting up even earlier than planned... Something I feel I will probably pay for when at uni tomorrow. No matter, eventually the race coverage began and I can safely say that this one was a treat, and worth the sleep deprivation.

The Malaysia weather wasn't disappointing, with a shower 5 minutes before the start of the race. This brought back memories of 2009's race - yep, the one where Kimi Raikkonen abandoned his car during the red flag to wander off and have an ice cream. While rainy races are always exciting, there's a fine line between the weather making things interesting and making things dangerous. At the start of the race things weren't so bad, and so the race started as normal. However, the safety car soon came out and 9 laps in the race was stopped. For those of you who aren't so clued up on the rules of F1, when red flags are given the cars line up on the grid in race order. At this point of the race, we had a couple of surprises in the top 10: the Sauber of Sergio Perez and - please believe me when I say this - the Hispania of Narain Karthekeyan. After half an hour of halted running, the race finally resumed under the safety car, and it was from there on that things got really interesting.

Fairly soon after resuming, the track had dried sufficiently to move back on to intermediate tyres. The pit stops led to a lot of confusion on the timing screens, but when things eventually settled down we had our leaders: Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton. Honestly, I knew we would have a surprising race, but this was completely unexpected! Perez's pace in the Sauber had to be a highlight of the race for me - at one point it looked as though he was going to take the race lead. No doubt Perez would have won the race had he not gone wide in the closing stages of the race.

Sadly, the races of the Mercedes cars didn't turn out as promised, with Schumacher claiming the last point and Rosberg finishing behind in 13th. To my disappointment, the Red Bulls also had a bit of a poor race, with Webber finishing fourth (ok, not so bad but considering last year's performance it could have been better) and Vettel finishing 12th after sustaining a puncture when lapping the HRT of Karthekeyan (yes, he sadly lost his 10th place). To be honest, Vettel was lucky to finish the race at all: radio messages from his engineer in the last couple of laps told him first to retire, then stay out, then retire again due to a serious problem. I can only hope that Red Bull work out where their problems are for the next race in China. Jenson Button also finished outside of the points, after again colliding with another car and having to have a front wing change. After this change, he couldn't get the intermediate tyres to work, and suffered through the remainder of the race.

There's no way I can do justice to the entire race here, you'll just have to go and watch it. It was one of the best I've seen in a while. After the chequered flag fell, we had the most surprising podium for a long time: Alonso, Perez and Hamilton (ok, the last one isn't so surprising). So, despite the speculation of the pace of the Ferrari, Alonso didn't get a bad result at all. In fact, he was probably as surprised as we were. However, I don't think anyone can argue that the driver of the day is Perez, and there are a lot of us who eagerly await to see what he can do in the future.

blogs. Until next time...