24 March 2008

F1 Malaysia - Raikkonen Back In The Hunt

After the nightmare that was Australia, world champions Ferrari were very much in command in Malaysia. One-two on the grid and what should have been one-two in the race. Only a costly error from Felipe Massa prevented him following Kimi Raikkonen home for a perfect result.

The consolation was that arch rivals McLaren were unable to take full advantage, thanks largely to their qualifying grid penalties. The worry for both squads was BMW Sauber, who claimed second place and the fastest lap. We take a team-by-team look at the Sepang outcome…

Kimi Raikkonen, P1/1m 35.405s
Felipe Massa, retired, spin/1m 35.914s
No problems at all for Kimi Raikkonen, in a race that he dominated. And none for Felipe Massa, until an expensive mistake spun him out and cost the team eight crucial championship points. Ferrari had a torrid time in Australia, but Malaysia proved conclusively that they are back, and will be formidable opposition to McLaren from now on.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, P2/1m 35.921s
Nick Heidfeld, P6/1m 35.366s
A second consecutive second-place finish was another great result for BMW Sauber, and maintains their second place in the world championship for constructors. Kubica had a relatively easy ride once Massa had spun, neither able to challenge Raikkonen, nor challenged by Kovalainen. Heidfeld got hung up at the start by a run-in with Jarno Trulli, and dropped back to 10th. Thereafter he fought back superbly, and while chasing Trulli and Hamilton set the race’s fastest lap. Raikkonen might have been on cruise control by then, but the BMWs had the legs of the McLarens here, so the progress continues.

Heikki Kovalainen, P3/1m 35.922s
Lewis Hamilton, P5/1m 35.462s
A faulty wheelnut locking mechanism cost Hamilton third place during his first pit stop, after a brilliant start had all but negated his qualifying penalty of five grid places; he had jumped up from ninth to fifth. He also lost a lot of time behind Webber’s Red Bull early on, which inevitably hampered him further. A charging drive nevertheless earned him four valuable points which maintained his world championship lead. Kovalainen did a great salvage job for the team, taking third place after a decent drive in which, unlike his team mate, he was usually running in clean air. The lap times show that McLaren finally got the pace in Sepang; the problem was that they didn’t get it as often or as consistently as Ferrari did. Or BMW Sauber, for that matter.

Jarno Trulli, P4/1m 36.068s
Timo Glock, Retired, accident damage/No time
Another strong performance from Trulli, and great pit work, was this time rewarded with a hard-won fourth place that suggests the team really is beginning to make some serious progress this year. Glock, however, was unlucky to be taken out by Rosberg on the opening lap.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, P7/1m 36.696s
David Coulthard, P9/1m 36.206s
When Webber was running fourth early on Red Bull must have entertained hopes of better than a seventh-place finish. But good strategies and pit work, allied to a bad second stint in which he struggled for grip, moved McLaren and Toyota ahead of them. Coulthard ran into graining on his first set of tyres and lost a lot of time as a result.

Fernando Alonso, P8/1m 36.288s
Nelson Piquet, P11/1m 36.956s
Alonso drove the wheels off his R28 all afternoon, for a single point, while Piquet came away feeling much more confident after finishing a Grand Prix for the first time. Otherwise, there was little to cheer in the Renault camp.

Jenson Button, P10/1m 35.715s
Rubens Barrichello, P13/1m 36.693s
For a car that was going to run at the back of the field, Honda’s RA108 looked respectable enough in Malaysia. Button drove strongly to a 10th-place finish, despite a late off-course moment, while Barrichello lost time in the pits again having to serve a drive-through penalty for speeding. Almost unnoticed in all the other action of the race, the Briton set an encouraging fourth-fastest lap.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, P12/1m 36.962s
Adrian Sutil, Retired, hydraulics/1m 40.330s
Fisichella found his Force India understeering horribly on the softer Bridgestones early on, but was much happier after the switch to the harder compound and was able to hound Barrichello and move ahead when the Brazilian was given his drive-through penalty for pit lane speeding. Sutil, however, lasted only five laps before a hydraulic failure obliged him to switch off and park.

Nico Rosberg, P14/1m 36.782s
Kazuki Nakajima, P17/1m 37.711s
Lowly placings were certainly not what Williams expected as they travelled from Australia’s podium. The general lack of grip left them in the midfield, and Rosberg’s necessary risk-taking didn’t come off on the opening lap. The FW30 was better in the race than it was in qualifying, but that wasn’t saying much. Nakajima made the most of an aggressive strategy, but it was compromised when he picked up a puncture and had to stop early. Later a spin dropped him to last place.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, Retired hydraulics/1m 36.870s
Sebastien Bourdais, Spun off/No time
Another tough race. Bourdais spun off on the first lap, and after running strongly in the midfield, Vettel quit with a hydraulic/electronic problem that killed his power steering and gearshifting mechanism, before setting the back of the STR2B on fire.

Super Aguri
Takuma Sato, P16/1m 38.504s
Anthony Davidson, P15/1m 38.171s
The SA08s were reliable, if not quick. That was the good news down at Super Aguri, where they continue to tread water until the full effects of the Magma buy-in are felt. After trailing Sato all weekend, Davidson beat him in the race after Sato made a trip into the gravel bed.


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