Vettel and Webber

What with one thing and another- forgetting the 9am start; the small matter of Easter to celebrate- I missed the Grand Prix in the morning and had to wait til Sunday evening to watch it from Sky Plus.

I didn’t think it was too bad. The Red Bulls are establishing themselves as the strongest team so far, with Sebastian Vettel looking more and more like world champion material with every race.

The new teams of Lotus, Hispania and Virgin are predictably taking time to bed into Formula 1, all yet to gain a point, as is the (ex-BMW) Sauber team.

The usually dependable Sepang rain didn’t come, keeping the track hot and dry and the race simpler. All the tyre changing and car shuffling that accompanies starting or stopping rain was absent.

Vettel sneaked into the first corner ahead of Mark Webber, proceeding to lead the race without issue. The Red Bulls finally delivered on their qualifying pace with a one-two in that order, giving Martin Whitmarsh something to smile about.

Nico Rosberg

It was really two races, with Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil up front coming in 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively, while further down the field the McLarens and Ferraris, who had suffered from a rain misjudgement in Q1, surged forward.

Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa had particularly good days considering their grid positions, going from 20th and 21st to 6th and 7th. That required lots of overtaking and therefore provided the main spectacle of the race.

Hamilton was Hamilton-esque in overtaking (passing eight cars on the first lap) until he got as far as the Force India of Sutil, whereupon his very good friend doggedly held him up. Fernando Alonso stayed with them the whole way until a cylinder failure on lap 54 put him out.

Vitaly Petrov

He had looked fairly passive through the race, but it turned out the Spaniard had a gear downshift problem (brilliantly spotted by Martin Brundle on the BBC, who as a former driver notices things that other commentators don’t), so he did quite well considering.

A last-ditch effort to get past Jenson Button led to Alonso’s engine blowing up and emitting white smoke.

Button had done pretty well to get from 17th to 8th, pitting first again for new tyres, then dragging round Sepang on worn rubber. Michael Schumacher had another bad weekend, having to retire on lap 9 due to a loose wheel nut.

Among the small fry, Vitaly Petrov acquitted himself well to make Hamilton earn his way past him. Although Nico Hulkenberg for Williams fell back from 5th to 10th, the Toro Rossos of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi both put in spirited drives.

Felipe Massa

Championships

With Alonso’s retirement, Massa now enjoys a narrow lead in the driver’s championship. The top seven drivers are covered by nine points (you get 10 points for 5th place as of this season). And that doesn’t even count Webber and Schumacher.

In terms of the constructor’s championship, Ferrari is still top with 76 points, chased by McLaren on 66. Despite Red Bull’s superior speed and dominant qualifying, they are only a close 3rd, on 61, but could easily take control within another race or two.

Weather ’tis nobler

Although the rain held off on Sunday, a question has to be asked of the race timing- does it make sense to hold it in late afternoon, when that is prime tropical storm time?

Everything was fine in 2010, but in 2009 heavy rain made the track very dangerous, scrambled the race order and caused the grand prix to be abandoned midway.

Sepang circuit

If it was held earlier in the day, there’d be a) less chance of race-destroying rain and b) time to re-start the race before dusk, if it did rain and then dried up.

I suppose starting any earlier would make it difficult for European fans to watch the grand prix live, but it’s a shame for Sepang to have to collide with monsoon o’clock just to keep a few fat Englishmen happy.

Then again, the rain does add real drama and unpredictability to this fast track, so perhaps Bernie Ecclestone knows what he’s doing.

After watching the slightly condensed version of the Malaysia grand prix that night, I was very tired and went to bed happy after a great Easter Sunday.

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