2011 FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX:
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING SESSION:
Practice sessions were dominated by Mark Webber of Red bull Racing Team and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Racing team. McLaren team seems to have closed their gap to the red bull racing team. The positions of other teams kept changing as they were trying various setups.
Saturday, qualifying saw the McLaren dominating Q1 and Q2 but it was Vettel who grabbed the honors of the pole position. Timings dropped from 1.36’s in Q1 to 1.35’s in Q2 to 1.34’s in Q3.
The top 4positions was occupied by Red bull and McLaren. A distant 5th place went to Alonso, who was the best amongst the rest. Schumi again couldn’t qualify for Q3.The Mercedes team performed better in the practice than in the qualifying. All the Teams qualified inside 107% rule which proved to be a great relief to Marrusia Virgin and HRT .Thunderstorms were no where to be seen, both in the practice and qualifying session.
Sebastian Vettel Lead the field as the five red lights went off followed closely by Hamilton in P2.Behind Vettel, his team mate Webber’s KERS failed at first lap itself. Due to lack of KERS power, he trickled down positions to 9th.This in turn affected Alonso who started right behind him, who lost a couple of positions in the first corner. To turn things around, Heildfeld of Renault who started in 6th went around the outside in first corner and squeezed in Hamilton pushing him to 3rd.His team mate Petrov also had a good share of advantage by following him .Schumi and Kobayashi gained positions as Rosberg stumbled down few places. Barrichelo suffers a initial tire puncture but is able to bring the car back for a tire change.
The rest of the cars behind pretty much maintained their position. Showers were expected to be 30 min away. Humidity was also very high standing at 80%.
8laps pass by, all cars are throttling full speed. At the end of lap 8, Maldonado pits due to a broken exhaust which ends his debut Malaysian grand prix. Kobayashi and Webber were seen engaged in a serious battle as they kept exchanging places. It was fun to watch all thanks to KERS and DRS. Even Di Riesta was seen nudging Rosberg. Vettel started building his lead over Heildfeld right from lap 1.
Lap 10 marks the first pit stop of the race and Webber changes on to soft. Third to sixth place positions were covered within a second or two between them. So the pit will be a deciding factor to determine their positions after the pits. Hamilton and rest of the frontrunners lap around lap12.Heidfield was caught up in traffic after the pits and hence had to allow button to get ahead of him. Slow pit stop by Massa enabled Alonso to get ahead of him and ultimately overtake button in the first corner. The Track was surrounded by dark clouds, but the only thing the clouds did was spray some droplets in some parts of track.
Lap16, Narain of HRT team retires due to safety concerns. Perez and Alguersuari battle each other and the Mexican driver gets ahead of him. Buemi of Torro Rosso receives a 10second stop/go penalty due to speeding in the pit lane. Felipe Massa of Ferrari passes mark easily for P6 with the help of his KERS unit.
Lap 23, Webber pits. The rest follow him in the subsequent laps for their second pit stop. Surprisingly, Hamilton takes hard tires on his second pit. He is the first person in the grid to pick the hard tires. He joins right behind Petrov. Seems to be a bad call by the McLaren team.
25 Laps pass by; Perez pulls to the side of the track. His race comes to an end. A bad call by the Red bull team puts Vettel behind Massa and Heildfeld after coming out of second pit stop. So Vettel had a tough time fighting the Brazilian and ultimately overtakes him with help of his DRS. Even Hamilton finds a way past Petrov. Schumi of Mercedes and kobayashi go side by side for several corners and the Sauber gets past the Mercedes.
Lap 29, Race leader Vettel is radioed by him team ordering him to not use his KERS.
Alonso struggles with Webber behind him. Fortunately for him, Webber pits at lap33.The kiwi driver picks the hard tires. Probably the McLaren’s decision of giving hard tires to Hamilton influenced this decision. Sutil passes alguersuari for P6 on lap36.Hamiton has a slow pit stop. Button senses this and immediately pits and thus enabling him to overtake his team mate. Even Alonso has a slow pit thereby demoting him to fifth.
Lap45, hamiton’s rear view mirror is covered by the Ferrari of Alonso. Alonso’s Ferrari DRS has stopped working. Since his DRS is not working, he tries overtaking Hamilton in the sector 2.He misjudges a pass and his nose hits Hamilton’s rear.
Lap 47, Alonso pits for a new nose cone. Massa and Webber battle for fifth and Webber gets ahead of Massa.
Lap 51, hamiton struggles for speed as Heildfeld overtakes him easily. He makes a pit stop again and joins P8.Webber now attacks Heildfeld.Petrov runs wide, his car is launched in the air by the kerbs and his race is over. Webber struggle to pass Heildfeld goes in vain and is forced to give up the struggle. The main reason he gave up was because spatters of tires started hitting his car and his helmet.
56 laps and the chequered flag welcome Vettel as he zooms past it. His third consecutive victory since Abu Dhabi last year. Button comes second followed by Heildfeld who achieves a stand on the podium. Webber and Massa follow the top 3 as Alonso secures p6 with Hamilton in p7 and kobayashi in p8.Schumi could settle only for p9 ahead of Di Riesta who scores points for his Force India.
16 cars finish the race. Liuzzi of HRT manages to complete 50 laps. Disappointing race for Rosberg who finishes p12.Alonso and Hamilton later receives 20 second penalty for rash driving. This demotes Hamilton to P8 whereas Alonso maintains his position.
With a week less to go for shanghai, let’s see how the teams are;
Hispania racing team must be very happy with their performance which crossed their expectations. Their next target would be to have both their drivers finish the race completely. Marrusia virgin and Lotus racing could have only one of their drivers finish the Malaysian rand prix.Both the teams need to concentrate more on their reliability than aerodynamics. Bad luck for Williams as both their drivers failed to complete the race. Their progress has been good and maybe they might find more luck in the upcoming race. Torro Rosso might look to earn some point in the Chinese grand prix.
Di Riesta drove a splendid race again and earned a point for the team. But his team mate Sutil who was good last season seems to be suffering this season. Their close rivals Sauber team are in a much better situation as Kobayashi was seen fighting neck to neck with the Mercedes.
Mercedes ‘plans for the season seem too gone all wrong. They must be under a mighty pressure and needs quick updates which will improve their performance.
The Prancing Horse continues to have a good race speed, despite their disability to fight in the qualifying. They are lacking down force and need some improvements. Team principal Stefano said they will turn to Plan B if the team performs badly in the next race also. It seems that plan B was decided before the season started and will have a completely revamped aerodynamic package.
Lotus-Renault had a good race and they be looking to continue their performance in the next race. The McLaren is quite vice versa to the Ferrari. They perform better in the qualifying than in the race. But due to their good performance in qualifying, they manage to get ahead of the Ferrari.
Red Bull is unstoppable. Their qualifying was brilliant and they set the fastest lap in the race even without the KERS. They need to solve a few issues with their KERS, then there is nothing between them and victory.
Many people who criticized the DRS unit and labeled it USELESS would have come to know about its importance in the race. It compromises the downforce and reduces the drag thereby enabling a car to go faster by almost 12kmph in the straights. It helps slower cars like Ferrari overtake faster cars like Red bull [Massa overtaking Webber].
Sepang International track was very demanding on the tires, and balls of rubber began falling in the track near the racing line. By End of the race, lots of rubber spatter were spread around the track. This is rumored to be the reason behind Petrov’s accident. Pirelli need to look into this and correct them as soon as possible.
What else??This season seems to be a replica of 2009 championship where Button of Brawn GP dominated the first half of the season. The only Team I believe who can challenge the Red Bulls is the Ferrari, as seen last year and they seem to be in a bit of struggle now. Till they recover and fight back, Red Bull Racing team can continue enjoying their victories.