The 2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (Mar 23-25) was once again predictably unpredictable. The daily torrential downpours did not disappoint the crowd at the Sepang International Circuit. The only predictable part of the weekend were the qualifying results, where the McLaren team scored its second consecutive front row start. Lewis Hamilton took his second pole of the year, but once again could not convert it into a victory and finished the race in third place. Michael Schumacher notably qualified third, which was his best qualifying result since his return from retirement.
The Sunday race started to a light drizzle which quickly intensified and caused very frantic pit row action just a few laps into the race. Teams were guessing the right time to switch from Intermediate to Full wet tires, but McLaren boys were still in control after the first pit stops. The increasing amount of water on the track caused the race to be red flagged after just 9 laps. Upon the restart, Alonso was able to tiptoe around two competitors and quickly took third. He then used the next pit stop to leap into the lead.
At the same time, Jenson Button’s race took a turn for the worse as he bumped into a car ahead of him and damaged his front wing. Jenson’s car was shaken and he never recovered as he finished fourteenth. Lewis Hamilton had a few issues with timing his pit stops and also with loosing some time during the stops. In the end, Lewis was generally happy to take third place in this difficult race. While Alonso was able to open a small gap to Sergio Perez, who was running in second, his lead was never comfortable. Perez was gaining during the latter part of the race, when the track dried out a bit and they switched to dry weather tires. Nonetheless, Alonso was able to cross the finish line in first with Perez just two seconds behind.
Where were the Red Bull boys? Mark Webber had a relatively consistent race and finished forth overall. While Sebastian Vettel, who was struggling most of the race with no radio contact with his team, ended up out of the championship point in eleventh spot after his incident with an HRT car. Where was Kimi? Kimi Raikkonen started in tenth position after a five spot gearbox change penalty. The Iceman had a relatively clean and strong race that landed him in fifth spot overall, even considering that he had no testing time with the wet weather Pirellis. How about Sergio? Sergio Perez had an amazing race with a good chance to fight for the lead. He and Kamui Kobayashi are continuing to display the strength of the Sauber team this year.
Not many would have predicted that Alonso would be leading the championship after two races, but he finds himself in the lead after two carefully executed races. Also, we have not seen any one team dominate this year as we have gotten used to with Red Bull over the last couple years. There are already fourteen out of twenty four drivers and nine out of twelve teams with championship points. It’s refreshing to see all these great drivers competing on a relatively even playing field. (However, I am against Formula 1 becoming a series where all cars are identical.) Also, the Malaysian rain makes me wonder: why don’t they install a randomized sprinkler systems at all Formula 1 tracks to make all races this exciting?
Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.