Sunday, 25 March 2012

Awesome Alonso beats dazzling Perez for superb Malaysia win

Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix for Ferrari with a superb performance.

Fernando Alonso won a magnificent Malaysian Grand Prix with a truly special drive, beating Sauber's Sergio Perez, who had a wonderful race, to the victory. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was third, but both Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel were out of the points after collisions. The race was affected by rain and there was a red flag period.

The rain fell lightly before the race, meaning that drivers started on the intermediate tyres. When the race started, both McLarens were clean away, making much faster getaways than any other car. Lewis Hamilton was keen not to lose the lead to Button as he did in Australia, and did a good job to defend the race lead. Romain Grosjean made a great start, and got past Sebastian Vettel before just squeezing through a gap in between Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher to be third. But as they approached Turn Four, Webber and Schumacher attacked him again. Schumacher went around the outside of the Lotus driver, but both were tapped into a spin. This promoted Webber to third, Vettel to fourth, and Fernando Alonso, who had once again made a great start, to fifth. During the first few laps, the rain began to get heavier, and some drivers went in for full wet weather tyres. Sergio Perez and Bruno Senna were both in the first lap, while Paul di Resta, Felipe Massa, Timo Glock and Charles Pic all pitted over the next two laps.
 
At this point, the race leaders were having to consider their options. The top four were seperated by just two seconds, but Fernando Alonso was closing seriously fast on Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton thought that the intermediates were still okay, despite some aquaplaning, but his team mate pitted for the wets. Button's call was a better one, but it wasn't quite enough to get him into the lead, though it did make it very close between the two McLaren men. Hamilton was just ahead after his stop for the full wet tyres. Both Red Bulls came in at the same time as Hamilton, meaning the Red Bull men had to turn their cars over very quickly. Vettel though emerged from the pits behind Alonso. But the race leader now was Sergio Perez, whose pit stop on the first lap had paid off very handsomely.

The rain was now coming down even heavier, and some drivers even on the full wets were struggling to control their cars, many aquaplaning off the racing line. Perez was the main casualty of this, he went off at Turn Nine, but somehow saved it and rejoined the track at the next corner. Then, just as in 2009, a thunderstorm hit the track, meaning rain came down even harder now. Rosberg and Vettel were amongst those who had issues, and finally race control summoned the safety car, before the red flag on Lap Nine. The only retirement so far was Romain Grosjean. At the red flag, the McLarens led, followed by Perez, Webber, Alonso and Vettel. Incredibly, Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne had kept his car on tracks despite being on the intermediates and was up to seventh place, ahead of Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg. However a much bigger surprise was the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan in tenth place - the Indian had gambled by starting the race on full wet tyres. After not far off an hour of standing still while the rain passed, the race got underway again on lap ten, after four laps behind the safety car, the field was unleashed. Hamilton kept his lead while Perez moved up to second. Webber really struggled to get his tyres up to temperature, and was soon passed by Alonso and Vettel, though he did get past his team mate. Felipe Massa passed Jean-Eric Vergne, but soon had a big off at Turn Seven.


The track was now clearly ready for intermediates, and it wasn't long before the lead runners came in. Hamilton lost a lot of time as his pit crew messed up his stop, and then had to wait for others to pass. He emerged from the pits behind Button. Alonso managed to leapfrog them both though, as another super-fast stop from the Ferrari pit crew propelled him just behind Perez, whom he soon passed to take the lead. Narain Karthikeyan's bizarrely high position was soon to cause issues. Jenson Button came to pass him, and they were racing for position. Button clipped the rear of the HRT, and lost part of his front wing. Button had to pit for a replacement wing, and this error dropped him to the back of the field. It got even worse for Button when he couldn't get his new intermediates up to temperature, and had to make another visit to the pit lane. Alonso quickly sped away from Perez, and by Lap 21 was 4.1 seconds ahead. Hamilton in third couldn't do anything about the pair, and was 6.5 seconds behind and dropping further back. Things were even worse for Rosberg, with the Mercedes once again being anything but kind to its tyres. He was picked off by Vettel and Raikkonen on the main straight after DRS had been activated, and then Mark Webber passed him on the outside of Turn Five. Massa would've been next, but he ran wide and was passed by Paul di Resta. Jean-Eric Vergne was next, in the DRS zone to take advantage of the struggling Ferrari driver. Bruno Senna was the next to have a look, and finally Massa dived for the pits.

As the race passed half-distance, Alonso's lead over Perez was up to 7.7 seconds, with Hamilton another seven behind the pair. Free of Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen were now lapping at the leader's pace. But as the intermediate tyres began to fade, Perez started to eat into Alonso's lead. By Lap 34, the Mexican was just 5.7 behind the Ferrari man. By Lap 39 it was down to just 2.3, and Perez was seriously considering a first race win. At this point Massa was way out of it, and switched to slicks. Ferrari noted from Massa's pace that the track was ready for the medium tyres, and duly brought Alonso in. Vettel, Raikkonen, Vergne and Hulkenberg followed the Spaniard in. Perez stayed out one lap longer and this was an error - along with another lightning fast Ferrari pit stop, the gap became seven seconds. However, Perez liked the slicks more than Alonso, and on his first flying lap tore out an incredible 1.4 seconds out of Alonso. On Lap 48 he was now within a second. Perez fancied a shot at victory, and was in the DRS zone. However, his admirable ambition became disappointment, he made an error and ran wide at Turn Thirteen, just avoiding the gravel trap. He dropped to five seconds behind Alonso. His hope of winning was gone, but he did finish just 2.2 behind the Spaniard.

Late on, Sebastian Vettel got a puncture while lapping the HRT of Karthikyean, who he later branded as an "idiot." His radio wasn't working properly, and late on, he recieved confusing radio messages. He was told to retire the car, then to keep going, and then once again to retire the car, for an "emeergency." The World Champion was classified eleventh. Fernando Alonso took the victory with one of his greatest ever drives in a car that has no business of winning. Perez asserted himself as one of the most promising drivers with a magnificent drive to second, and he was very probably driver of the day. Lewis Hamilton was third again, with Mark Webber fourth, to jump his team mate in the championship. Raikkonen took fifth ahead of the impressive Bruno Senna, who gained eight points with sixth. Paul di Resta was seventh to claim six points, while Jean-Eric Vergne was eighth, to get his first ever F1 points. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for his first points this year, while Michael Schumacher rounded off the points after another frustrating day.

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