Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Malaysian GP Winners & Losers

Sunday 5th April 2009

Jenson goes from strength to strength. A shame, then, that he will only receive half of what he truly deserves...

Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 1st

Charlie Whiting may have kept us waiting for fifty minutes, but he still couldn't overshadow Jenson as the star of the show. The former Boyband Member has the fastest car on the grid at his disposal, the upper hand over his team-mate, and a girlfriend with a dress sense that, much to our appreciation and envy, only serves to emphasise rather than conceal.

In other words, Jenson is currently F1's top man.

The only cloud on his horizon is that the dark ones over Sepang meant his victory was worth five points. Yes, everyone else scored half points too; but the disadvantage to stress is that with neither Ferrari finishing, nor Robert Kubica, and Lewis Hamilton only seventh, Button was the only viable World Championship contender to lose out. Give it a few months and that five-point shortfall might be critical.

From Button's perspective, that's unfortunate as well as undeserved. Having made a sticky start off the line and then got stuck behind Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso, his took full advantage of a clear track and two laps more of fuel to hammer down a couple of outstanding laps that turned third into first.

Let's give those moments the ultimate accolade: it was Schumacheresque.

Lap 2: Jenson Button, Brawn, on Fernando Alonso, Renault

Even if he was capable of going a second quicker than the rest, Button may still been unable to catch up and pass Nico Rosberg and Jarno Trulli at the first round of pit-stops had he not found an immediate way around Alonso.

Rubens Barrichello, in the sister Brawn, took few laps to get round the KERS-protected Renault and lost more than five seconds in the process. That was the difference between him and Jenson and ultimately proved to be the difference between a place on the podium and some tedious moaning.


Brawn GP
If the Brawn does have a deficiency then it looks to be its starting system. Barrichello's was dreadful in Australia and Jenson's wasn't great this Sunday.

That might explain why the team seems to prefers to be heavy in qualifying; if your car is carrying a relatively big load of fuel then a stodgy start off the line doesn't matter as much. A bad start with a low fuel-load, on the other hand, can spell misery.

Charlie Whiting
Sent out the Safety Car and waved the red flag at exactly the right time. Moreover, Bernie would have appreciated his efforts to keep everyone hanging around for another forty minutes - and, in F1, Bernie's appreciation counts for a lot.

With a monsoon bucketing down and the Sepang circuit looking like Glastonbury on tarmac, a restart was inconceivable. So why the delay in the inevitable? Because we can't have transmission ending early, can we?

Well done, Charlie.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 2nd
Somehow. It should almost be a source of embarrassment that Heidfeld still finished twenty-two seconds behind Button despite taking just a single pit-stop compared to the Brawn's four. Lucky boy. By his own testimony, Heidfeld was within 200 yards of pitting for intermediates when the skies finally delivered their cargo. Without that timely interference, he may have finished out of the points.

The result should fool nobody; Heidfeld's pace this season has been moderate and BMW are further behind than anyone would have predicted a month ago.

Timo Glock, Toyota, 3rd
Glock's result also owed a huge debt to strategy but the Toyota was a feisty presence throughout the race. For the time being, they are the team taking the fight to Brawn and, with Jarno still being Jarno, expect to see Glock at the forefront on race days. The German youngster is an emerging force in the sport.

After taking a gamble on intermediates, Glock probably only needed the rain to hold off for another five minutes to grab a decisive lead on Button before the heavens opened wide. Having then sat on the grid for the best part of an hour in the expectation of being classified second, Timo did well not to show any disappointment when Charlie Whiting informed him that he'd been demoted to third.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 4th
Outstanding in qualifying, decent in the race. Which is precisely what we've come to expect from Jarno.

That said, albeit because Glock's appalling start saw him hemmed in behind the Alonso Train, Trulli set the faster race lap time of the two Toyotas and his best of 1:37.591 was just a fraction slower than Rubens'. Breakthrough almost achieved.

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 5th
It's early days but Barrichello seems to have no answers to a fully-motivated Button. The Englishman has the edge whenever it matters and Barrichello's whining after the race was the sound of frustration at being second-best.

That frustration must be compounded by the memory of 2008 when Rubens generally had the upper hand over his team-mate. But whereas Button tends to be a bad driver in a bad car - remember his humiliation at the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault? - he is an altogether different proposition in a good car.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 6th
The Aussie was a solid performer in the race and could hardly be blamed for leading the call for the grand prix to be called off. Especially as he was sitting in the points...

Better still, he also gave better than he got from the young upstart in the second Red Bull. Webber v Vettel is boiling up nicely.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 7th
Poor Lewis. It was only when he stopped for a chat with the press that he learnt he had been classified seventh rather than fifth. After the debacle of Melbourne, when the McLaren pitwall dug themselves into a hole because they didn't know the rules as well as their driver, Hamilton must be tempted to ignore whatever his team tell him.

Still, despite the demotion, Hamilton is off the mark for the season and ahead of both Ferraris as well as the BMW driver who matters. Quite an achievement for someone who, according to F1's armchair experts, can't drive a bad car...

Nico Rosberg, Williams, 8th
Nico was the big loser when the rain fell. Had this race been run in the dry then he was looking at second or third. Instead, he'll have to console himself with half a point.

Sooner rather than later, the Other Seven will have a twin diffuser so the Diffuser Three need to make the most of their advantage while they can.


The Bright Spark Whose Idea It Was To Start The Race At 5pm Local Time
From what PF1 has been told, it always rains at evening time at this time of year. Whoever it was who made the decision to give the European television audience an extra hour in bed should be made to sit in a darkened room for twenty-four hours with only Eddie Jordan's commentary as company.

Two races, no points, three DNFs. After making a total horlicks in qualifying with Felipe Massa, their 'gamble' of putting Kimi Raikkonen on wets when the track was bone-dry was the sporting equivalent of a game of Russian Roulette with nobody else present.

Just what were they thinking? Were they even thinking?

At the end of last season, Ferrari pledged to cut out the cock-ups in 2009 and improve reliability. So far, all we've seen is enough cock-ups to keep a whore house in business for a calendar year, terrible calls from the pitwall, average driving, an emerging problem with their KERS system, and a catastrophic loss of pace. No wonder Stefano Domenicali sounds worried.

With the knives being sharpened, a twin diffuser can't be produced quickly enough.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, DNF
It's difficult not to warm to Kimi. While the rest of the grid was sitting around in the rain, Kimi was in shorts and flip-flops, eating an ice-cream and helping himself to a can of coke. The Ice Man is too cool for F1 school.

Problem is, you can only get away with playing truant when you're winning and at the front. When you're bottom of the class, the reaction tends to be very different. Like his team, Kimi desperately needs a solid result in China.

Robert Kubica, BMW, DNF
BMW probably thought they were on course during the winter when they matched the pace of Ferrari and saw McLaren running around with green paint splashed over their malfunctioning front wing. The emergence of Brawn GP, along with the rest of the Diffuser Three and Red Bull, must have been a terrible shock and Kubica is not the sort of bloke who will see the phlegmatic side of an engine failure on lap one before his team-mate lucked into second place.

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 12th
Along with Red Bull, who are now suspected of deliberately concealing their true pace in winter testing, Williams have been the pleasant surprise of the season. It's been a long time since a Williams has challenged for a win and lead a grand prix on the first lap...but where was the second Williams?

Erm, stuck behind Nelson Piquet Junior, that's where.

It really doesn't get much more damning that.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, DNF
The best that can be said of Heikki in 2009 is that he is making Lewis look even better. After chucking his McLaren off at the third corner, he's still yet to complete a lap in a grand prix this season.

Pete Gill

Source : Planet F1

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