Post-Malaysia Analysis

As races go, it wasn’t too bad. Nine constructors in the top ten, the cars starting eighth and ninth finishing first and second, and a glut of racers having excellent drives.

Pre-season testing did not bode well for the start of Alonso’s season, but he leads the drivers’ championship after two races. The weather in Malaysia disguised the F2012’s poor handling traits and allowed Alonso to get off to a stormer, while others made errors ruining their races (and occasionally harming the chancres of others too), he steadily worked his way through the pack. Once more Alonso showed his tenacious side, any sniff of a win is enough for him to start chasing it down, but it was his tyre management and ability to soak up pressure that won him this race. While others pushed their tyres too much and had to take an extra pit stop, or failed to switch on the tyres, Alonso managed to keep his inters alive long enough to last to the switchover to slicks in a condition capable of consistently lapping faster than Hamilton in third. Perez in second was an altogether different matter. The first Mexican to step upon a podium in 41 years; Sergio Perez came within five laps of his first win. After switching from wets to inters, Alonso quickly overtook Checo and opened out the gap to 7.7 seconds, before the Sauber driver began hauling the Prancing Horse back in, the gap down to around a second when Alonso dived into the pits for a set of medium Pirellis. The Swiss team erred on the side of caution bringing in Perez a lap later; this combined with a slipping clutch lost him enough time to fall back to seven seconds behind again, but his hard tyres worked better than Alonso’s mediums and his car liked the dry more than his opponent’s. With five laps to go, the gap was down to 0.6 and it looked like a case of when rather than if he would pass the Spaniard, but one foot wrong left him out wide and with too much to do in the time left. But second was an excellent result for him and Sauber’s best ever result as a non-manufacturer entity.

So are Ferrari sitting pretty? Well if the car comes good when the season rolls around to Barcelona, then capitalising on these early opportunities could decide the drivers’ title (the constructors’ is beyond their reach unless Massa improves greatly). Sauber are overjoyed, those 18 points are worth their weight in gold to them, but really, McLaren should still be the happiest. Button may have failed to score, but they consistently have the fastest car in the dry and Hamilton has a brace of thirds, and with Red Bull seemingly losing their way McLaren have made a good (if not great) start to the season.

Mercedes and Lotus have left the first two flyaway races having under performed; Lotus should have more points with the speed the E20 has, but first lap errors have left Grosjean pointless. Mercedes are in a much worse situation with Schumacher’s solitary point being the Brackley based team’s sum total from two races, and this was gifted to them by Vettel’s puncture. Mentioning the world champion; his weekend was a disaster, seemingly unable to find the pace in qualifying to threaten the first two rows, and his hard-tyre gamble being ruined by the rain, in which he couldn’t keep up with anyone in front, and it all ended in a scrappy argument with Narain Karthikeyan. In the opinion of Vettel, the Indian driver is apparently a cucumber, something slightly lost in translation.

The tale of the midfield is really the tale of two excellent drives; those of Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne. Senna had yet another first lap tangle sending him into the pits and tumbling down the order, but from there he fought all the way up to a very credible sixth getting grip from the tyres and track where others struggled. Vergne leaped up the field by remaining on inters when everyone dove in for full wets, and remained on the slicker tyres until the red flag keeping the Toro Rosso well planted on the black stuff in the process. After the restart he kept his head and his first points were well deserved.

After the race we were delivered a bit of a shock, the departure of Adam Parr from Williams. The businessman had spent years being groomed as Sir Frank’s successor, and his changes to the Williams’ technical department seemed to be coming good. His face and voice was much more prominent at the last two races than ever before, so the reason given that he requires “more balance in his life” seems rather disingenuous. More information will surely pour out in due time, but hopefully it won’t stop the strides that the team have made over the close season.

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