05:00PM: Greetings ahead of Round 3 of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, coming to you from the tropical climes of Malaysia!
Just a week ago, we saw a resurgence in interest in F1 following a classic Australian GP that put paid to many of the doubts raised by the nay-sayers who proclaimed that F1 was dead. In a great wet-dry race Jenson Button made a brilliant tactical call that saw him leapfrog ahead of his competitors to take a brilliant win.
That weekend, however, was an appalling one for hometown favourite Mark Webber. The Australian suffered a catalogue of errors during the race, and rather than waiting for the race to come to him, he perhaps forced the issue too much, and his race was blighted by a series of rookie errors and clumsy over-driving.
Now he finds himself on pole after a sensation qualifying session – for me, probably the most exciting since last year’s Belgian GP – and hoping to exorcise the demons from Melbourne.
05:20PM: The weather caused a few headaches and surprises for the heavy hitters in qualifying yesterday, with both McLaren and Ferrari making embarrassing gaffes by keeping their drivers in the pits for too long during Q1, meaning they missed the cut. Watching all four attempt to recover their way through the field will be fascinating!
05:25PM: Our resident F1 broadcaster in Australia, OneHD has had their pre-race show going for since 5pm. Embarrassing gaffe for the proof-reader, who has typed “Kazuki Kobayashi” as the Sauber driver who is starting from 9th on today’s grid. I believe that should read “Kamui”. Oops!
05:30PM: Twitter feed from several of the teams seem to indicate no rain for at least an hour into the race. The pit lane has opened and the drivers are getting set to head to the grid.
05:39PM: Pedro de la Rosa’s Sauber appears to be stranded at the end of the pit lane. His mechanics rush down to assist him and he seems to get going, only to run out of steam completely at Turn 3. Can he get back to the pits and switch to the spare car?
05:45PM: Cut to a shot of Hamilton doing some serious crotch-grabbing before climbing into his cockpit. Not exactly family-friendly viewing there, Lewis!
05:55PM: Five minutes to go!
05:57PM: Final weather update: the chances of rain look to be getting slimmer! Word has it that de la Rosa will not be starting the race at all. Bad luck for the Spaniard.
06:00PM: The warm-up lap begins. The major players at the rear of the field – with the exception of Jenson Button – are starting on the harder tyres. Looks like they’re going to aim to run long into the race before stopping.
Lap 1: Good start for Vettel from 3rd, he manages to dive up the inside of Turn 1 and take the lead from Mark Webber. Strike one to Sebastian! Further back, Barrichello appears to stall on the start line, but he eventually gets going.
Heading into Turn 4, Webber has a look to pass Vettel, but his team-mate holds his nerve and keeps the sister Red Bull at bay. Further back, Schumacher has climbed up to 6th and Hamilton is 12th after a great getaway.
Lap 2: Button is passed by both Ferraris and drops to 16th.
Lap 3: Hamilton passes Alguersuari for 11th.
Lap 4: Vettel continues to lead, ahead of Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Sutil and Schumacher. Hamilton passes Kobayashi for 10th.
Lap 6: With Hamilton having passed Petrov into the final corner on the previous lap, the Russian is having none of it and outbrakes Lewis to take back 9th place into Turn 1. Good driving from Vitaly!
Lap 9: We return from a typically ill-timed commercial break to see a replay of Button passing Alonso into Turn 1. In the background, Kobayashi pulls his Sauber into retirement at Turn 2 with a suspected engine failure. Both Saubers are out.
A separate reply also shows a collision between Trulli and Glock; the German retires and his Virgin Racing Cosworth is carted off the circuit by a crane.
Lap 10: Schumacher is out! The German slows with what appears to be his left-rear wheel sitting askew.
Button makes an early pit stop, switching from the soft to the harder tyres. Is he going to take another gamble, a la Australia, and attempt to nurse his tyres for the remainder of the race?
Hamilton is issued with a radio warning about his weaving. He is already clear of Petrov and is now all over Liuzzi. Talk about a slap on the wrist.
Lap 13: Liuzzi slows and Hamilton is through into seventh place.
Lap 14: Nico Hülkenberg and Petrov pit
Lap 15: Buemi pits his Toro Rosso and releases the Ferrari duo he was holding up. Interestingly, the Swiss driver stays on the option tyres; Toro Ross is clearly hoping for rain and another pit stop. This could backfire if it stays dry…
Lap 19: Schumacher speaks with the BBC pit lane crew and confirms his retirement was due to a lost wheel nut.
Lap 20: onboard footage from Alonso’s Ferrari is clearly showing that the Spaniard is suffering from some sort of downshift issue.
Lap 21: Sutil pits, switching from the option tyre to the prime tyre set and he rejoins in 8th.
Lap 22: Kubica makes his pit stop and emerges ahead of the Ferraris, who will be running long into the race before pitting.
Lap 23: Rosberg pits and retains his advantage over Kubica when he rejoins. Hamilton has now climbed to 3rd from his 20th-placed grid slot.
Lap 24: Vettel is the first of the Red Bulls to pit; meaning Webber has it all to do if he wants to leapfrog his team-mate via his pit stop, which can’t be far away.
Lap 25: Webber pits and it’s a slow stop courtesy of a sticking wheel gun on the front right tyre. He emerges behind Vettel and his hopes for a race win are as good as toast, unless Sebastian retires again…!
Lap 27: Massa finally pits and emerges ahead of Hülkenberg, but behind Button – the Briton has managed to leapfrog the Ferrari by pitting early.
Lap 31: Hamilton finally makes his sole pit stop, and emerges from the pits only inches ahead of Button. The two run side-by-side on the approach to Turn 1, and Lewis deliberately delays his turn-in for as long as possible to give himself track position over Jenson.
Further back, Jaime Alguersuari performs a sensation pass on Hülkenberg through the Turn 5-6 complex; definitely one of the ballsiest passes I’ve seen. Good job, Jaime!
Lap 34: Petrov retires.
Lap 35: Hamilton has closed right up to Sutil’s Force India. Will he breeze past his good friend and set about catching Kubica up the road?
Lap 37: Alonso finally pits, but his ultra-long stint wasn’t enough to see him get ahead of Massa.
Lap 38: With everyone having made a stop, your race order is: Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Sutil, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso, Alguersuari.
Lap 39: Despite his inability to downshift properly, Alonso has just set the fastest lap and is rapidly hauling in the Button-Massa battle up the road.
Lap 41: Hamilton has still not been able to find a way past Sutil as yet, and despite the F-vent on the MP4-25, it doesn’t appear like he has enough straight-line speed to do the deed against a car with an identical engine.
Lap 44: Button appears unable to sustain the pressure of holding off Massa on worn tyres and the Brazilian slips through into Turn 1. Alonso is steadily closing and Jenson should be easy meat for the double World Champion.
Lap 46: Massa is now rapidly closing on the Sutil-Hamilton stoush, and we could soon see a three-way fight for 5th in the closing laps. Alonso has a stab at Button into Turn 1, but can’t make the move stick.
Lap 53: The Virgin of Lucas di Grassi is still circulating, but at a considerably reduced pace. You guessed it … running out of fuel…
Lap 55: Alonso is out! Despite having another go at Button into Turn 1, but almost instantly slows with a blown Ferrari cylinder head.
Lap 56: Vettel wins the Malaysian GP and Webber makes it a Red Bull 1-2! Rosberg takes Mercedes GP’s first podium since its return as a constructor.
The top-ten is completed by Kubica, Sutil, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Alguersuari and Hülkenberg.
HRT has registered a double-finish for the first time, with Chandhok in 15th and Senna in 16th places. ell done to the minnows in the paddock!
7:45PM: So this result means that Felipe Massa now leads the Drivers’ Championship table, two points clear of Alonso and Vettel, and a further two points ahead of Rosberg and Button. When you consider that the points’ structure was put in place to enable the race winners to lie on top of the table, it wouldn’t appear to be ringing true at this stage…
[Original images via GP Update; image of Gypsy by the author]