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Formula 1 - Race 2 Sepang, Malaysia

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8th April 2009 – Well, during the week between races, there was a lot of drama off the track with Lewis Hamilton being disqualified from the previous race despite his 3rd place finish.  Due to a crash late in the event, last week’s race finished with a ‘safety car’. This meant that while this car was on the track no-one was allowed to pass another car and that’s what the drivers had to contend with for the last 2 laps at Melbourne. However, while on the track, Jarno Trulli of Toyota, who was in 4th at the time, passed the 3rd place Hamilton during the safety car.  At the end of the race Trulli picked up the podium finish, only to have it stripped off him after the race for passing on the safety car.  He was given a 25 second penalty which demoted him from 3rd place, put him down 10 places and out of the points, thereby promoting Hamilton back to 3rd position.

When a few days later Trulli’s team, Toyota, gave up on an appeal, that looked to be the end of the matter.  However, soon after, some video footage came to light clearly showing Hamilton letting Trulli pass, which is something Hamilton and his team McLaren had stated was not the case. Once this new evidence was revealed, McLaren and Hamilton suddenly found themselves in a very embarrassing position of having to admit they were lying about what had happened on the track. This led to their immediate disqualification from the race and a reinstatement of Trulli into 3rd place.

So the first race not only brought about a huge change in teams fortunes, and a lot of entertainment on the track, but it also appears to have caused the bigger teams to lose their composure off the track. As I said in my last review, this season really will be an interesting and exciting one!

On to race 2 in Sepang, Malaysia where Brawn GP was expected to dominate again.  During the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, both Williams and Ferrari looked to spoil the party for Brawn by having some strong showings on the track.  However, practice is exactly that – practice; it’s not the real race nor is it the qualifier. On Saturday the qualifying began. What people thought would be a tough 3-way fight between Williams, Ferrari and Brawn turned instead into a 3-way battle between Brawn, Toyota and Red Bull Racing. Jenson Button in the end picked up his 2nd pole of the season with a 1:35:181, with his team mate Barrichello picking up 4th.  2nd place went to Trulli, who I’m sure was glad to get that result after the drama of the following week, and 3rd, surprisingly, went to Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing (RBR). Williams could only manage 6th and 12th, and Ferrari in the biggest shock of all, could only manage 9th and 16th for their drivers.  The 16th came more from a team mistake in not sending Felipe Massa out again after he set his qualifying time, which very quickly got surpassed by other teams times.  However, judging by his team mate Kimi Raikkonens’ 9th placing, I doubt Massa would have threatened the top 6 anyway.

With last weeks drama behind them, the race could now get underway.  However, someone should have listened to the locals who said they were crazy for starting the race at 5pm, as like clockwork, the heavy rain comes around 6-7pm every night.  Once the race had started very dark clouds could be seen gathering around the track, at that stage it was too late.
Everything went pretty much to plan for all the teams during the early stages of the race, except for the odd hiccup here and there.  The spectators were treated to some great driving and overtaking, which is a big part of why the rules were changed this year to amp up the fun factor for the fans. At the halfway stage of the race light rain started to fall on different parts of the track, and the teams had to decide whether to come in for wet tyres then or wait and see what happened. This of course called for a great deal of tactics which some teams pulled off amazingly well while others failed miserably.

Ferrari went on to make their 2nd big mistake of the weekend by pulling in Raikkonen and putting on full wet tyres 3 laps too early. This caused him to put in terrible lap times and he slipped down the pack, eventually finishing in 14th place. Timo Glock from Toyota, on the other hand, was the only driver to put on intermediate tyres when everyone else put on full wet, a decision which saw him fly up the pack as, at that stage, the rainfall was still only moderate.  His gamble paid off with a 3rd placing at the end of the race.  However, on the 31st of 56 laps, only a few laps after all the tyre changes, the race was ‘red flagged’ due to the heavy rain which had started to fall. A red flag means all the teams have to pull over on the home straight and wait out the weather to see what happens.  So at that point, due to the stoppage, whatever position the teams happen to be in could be their final placing even if it means one team ending up very lucky and another very unlucky.

After 30 minutes of sitting on the track under a deluge of rain, the race was finally called off with Button winning his second race in a row this season. Even though the race ended with a red flag it was still a well deserved win for Button.  On the other hand, there were some lucky drivers out there and some very unlucky ones.  Nick Heidfeld of BMW picked up a very lucky 2nd place after starting 11th on the grid, and Mark Webber of RBR, you could say was very unlucky with his 6th place, as his car was very fast at that late stage of the race and was pushing for a podium.  But, as they say, ‘that’s racing!’.

So Ferrari again finishes the 2nd race of the season with no points whilst Brawn continues their amazing turnaround of fortune with 1st and 5th.  The sport as a whole shows that the new rules have shaken things up so much that instead of only 2 teams fighting for 1st and 2nd, and 3 other teams fighting for 3rd-5th, as it has been over the last few years, we now have 6-8 teams which on the day could win races. This 2nd weekend of racing has really shown how exciting this season will be and I’m sure will equate to more viewers watching.  Nothing gets better than the fastest race cars on earth going head to head in a competition of man and machine vs man and machine.

We now have a 2 week break until the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on the 17th-19th April. 

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