The 15th edition of the Malaysian GP brought with it an air of nostalgia for many drivers. The 2003 race, dubbed as 'A race of firsts', saw racing greats being born as Kimi Raikkonen raised his trophy to celebrate his maiden race victory while Fernando Alonso, in 2nd place, became the youngest driver to secure a podium finish.
Qualifying took place as scheduled on saturday and saw Vettel taking pole position. The two Ferraris took P2 and P3. With Massa out-qualifying his team mate Alonso 4th race in a row, the men in scarlet faced a rather new found dilemma this weekend of having two No.1 drivers. The qualifying results do not justify the robust performances of some drivers like Adrian Sutil (Force India) ,Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Paul Di Resta (Force India) who were nothing short of impressive over the course of the weekend. Rain helped Ferrari and Red Bull to end the qualifying session with expected results owing to their meticulous implementation of strategy. It was a clear display of what separates these guys from the rest of the pack.
Qualifying: 1.VET 2.MAS 3.ALO 4.HAM 5.WEB 6.ROS 7.RAI* 8.BUT 9.SUT 10.PER
The Big Sunday:
The start of the race, horrendous if you were a Ferrai fan, saw Felipe Massa lose 4 places while Alonso made contact with the back of the RB9 of Vettel on turn 2. As a result of the damage, Alonso went on to lose his front wing on the second lap of the race on a straight while battling for 2nd place with Mark Webber. It brought the spaniard's weekend campaign to an abrupt halt as he lost control of his vehicle and drove off the track. Webber took the lead of the race after the second set of pit-stops in which he set the time for the fastest stop of the race, an astounding 2.3 seconds. A bad day in the box for the Force India team, who decided to tactically retire both cars after a series of disastrous pit-stops. Even Jenson Button fell victim to bad-luck in the the pit-lane and eventually retired for tactical reasons, leaving Checo to hold the McLaren fort. He finished 9th and scored his first points as a McLaren driver. Nico Hulkenberg did not fail to impress in the Sauber, sporting a new bad-ass look, when he finished the race in 8th place after qualifying 12th. Lewis Hamilton finished 3rd just in-front of team mate Nico Rosberg. Both drivers were given strict orders to stay in their respective positions till the end of the race, even though Hamilton's car was struggling with fuel issues and Nico had a lot more left in his car. The decision seemed controversial to say the least, but it was later explained that any steps taken otherwise could damage the engines and reduce their chances of favorable results in Shanghai. Teams are assigned only a limited number of engines every season (8 engines).
"This is silly, Seb, come on":
Just as everyone thought the race was over and we would get to see Mark winning the Malaysian GP for the first time, the three-time world champion went charging at his team mate. Both drivers were given orders to preserve their engines till the end of the race but Vettel claims that the communication did not reach him. Vettel overtook the leader in the closing moments of the race and went on to tie Jackie Stewart's record of 27 race wins. The Aussie did not try to hide his emotions after the race and, very rightly so, spoke his mind at the post-race press conference. Just a bad day to be the number 2 driver, I guess.
Result: 1. VET 2.WEB 3.HAM 4.ROS 5.MAS 6.GRO 7.RAI 8.HUL 9.PER 10.VER
*Raikkonen was a given a 3 place grid penalty for impeding Rosberg during qualifying.