The Malaysian Grand Prix (whilst I was on holidays) was eventful – Alonso scampered away for an easy win, Hamilton second and Raikonnen third. McLaren’s first win since 2005, and they were jubilant as hell.
But onward to Bahrain.
After an incredibly tense qualifying session where new boy Lewis Hamilton shined yet again, pole position on this windy, dusty, sandy, desert track was taken by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
1. Massa – Ferrari
2. Hamilton – McLaren
3. Raikonnen – Ferrari
4. Alonso – McLaren
5. Heidfeld – BMW Sauber
6. Kubica – BMW Sauber
7. Fisichella – Renault
8. Webber – Red Bull
9. Trulli – Toyota
10. Rosberg – Williams
Ralf Schumacher qualified 14 in the other Toyota. Barrichello and Button a sobering 15 and 16 respectively. Honda are not having a good season so far.
With a quick start, Massa managed to hold onto the lead and keep Hamilton under some sort of control. Some blue smoke from Hamilton’s engine starts the commentators and pit crews fretting.
Turn 4 of the first lap sees Scott Speed and Jensen Button out of the race in seperate incidents. Button touched Coulthard in the turn and was spun. Speed was hit by the Spyker of Albers which left carbon fibre all over the track, Albers with no nose cone, and brought the safety car onto the track for 2 laps. But Alonso had already got the better of Raikonnen, and when the race restarted, Raikonnen seemed caught napping and let the gap grow.
Kovaleinen moved up from 12th on the grid to 9th in his Renault (which don’t seem to have the necessary speed this year). David Coulthard had a stonker of a race, overtaking all over the place and enjoying the hell out of it. He quickly moved up to P14 from 21 on the grid. Alonso seemed to be struggling for pace from his car – team mate Hamilton was quicker all weekend. As Massa and Hamilton kept in contact in 1 and 2, Alonso in 3 and Raikonnen in 4 dropped off the pace entirely and were 9 seconds behind the leaders at one point. It seemed Raikonnen was being seriously held up by Alonso, who was consistently lapping much slower than the leaders. Meanwhile Coulthard had joyfully worked his way up to 10 and was battling team mate Webber for 9th.
After the first round of pit stops Raikonnen got out from behind Alonso and scampered away to quickly start catching Hamilton. Webber had problems with his fuel lid not closing, interrupting his racing line and slowing him up. He gave way to Coulthard gracefully. Sato bowed out with his Super Aguri blowing lots and lots of smoke, promoting the line of the day from the commentary team: “There are about 5000 pieces in an F1 engine, and one of them made a bid for freedom.” Brilliant! :)
Meanwhile there was 10 seconds between Massa and Hamilton, and Raikonnen had moved up to just 1.8 seconds behind Hamilton, putting him in a rather sticky situation. His engine was still occasionally letting out puffs of blue smoke, and the last thing you want to see is your mirrors full of Ferrari Red when you’ve got problems… or anytime really. :)
Coulthard’s race ended dramatically with drive shaft problems just 20laps before the end. A brilliant and stunning race from DC, proving even though he’s the oldest driver on the track, he’s still got the goods. From starting in 21st place he ended in 7th.
Webber moved up to 7, Kubica in 6, and Webber starts setting personal fastest lap times. Encouraging for the Australian, but then body work starts falling off his car – the wing attached to the air intake behind the drivers head snapping off and blowing away! He pitted pretty speedily. However a few laps later he retired with reliability issues yet again – which seem to be a big problem for Red Bull. They’re encouraging, they’ve almost got the pace, but they just can’t get their cars to stay together for a whole race.
Heidfeld pulled a crafty move to put himself between Raikonnen and Alonso, who was really having trouble – are reliability issues raising their ugly heads at McLaren? After the fabulous 1st and 2nd place in Malaysia, was it going to be another long long stint until the next?Thankfully Hamilton held his 2nd place from Raikonnen after his second pitstop and Raikonnen just couldn’t challenge for it.
Final places? Massa a convincing win, Hamilton second and Raikonnen third. This makes 3 races Hamilton’s been in, and 3 races he’s been on the podium (3rd in Australia, 2nd in Malaysia). The kid is a bit of a legend. :)
The Drivers Championship is looking very interessting – a 3 way tie! Alonso, Hamilton and Raikonnen all on 22 points. Hotting up to be a very intersting season indeed!
Onward to Barcelona on May 13.