2011 Malaysian GP – Race Analysis

It was an evening of wonderful driving, wheel-to-wheel racing and many overtaking manoeuvres, a return to the art of the past they call ‘racing’. Sebastian Vettel made it two wins out of two races in the 2011 season, winning an eventful Malaysian GP for the second year in a row, but not before the McLarens, Ferraris and Renaults made him work hard for it. From the moment the five red lights went out, we had battles all through the field, and most of the top 8 drivers seemed to have a chance of winning the race at some point or the other. It would’ve been a wholly different result altogether if the few drops of rain in the middle of the race had continued on to become a typical Malaysian storm.

But full credit to Sebastian Vettel for driving like a champion – a superb start, well-timed pitstops, several clean overtaking moves at crucial moments and bringing his car home comfortably in front despite a KERS problem. Yet, it was a day of so many brilliant drives that the world champion’s effort was overshadowed by the entertainment provided by the race as a whole. Jenson Button delivered a lesson on how to manage the new Pirelli tyres, making the hard tyres last for a 19 lap stint at the end and finished a well deserved second. Mark Webber made a great recovery from 10th at the start to fourth at the flag but then he benefited from the misfortunes of Massa, Alonso and Hamilton.

But the driver of the day, and undoubtedly of the weekend, was Nick Heidfeld, who was in supreme form throughout the weekend. Despite a miserable start to the season in Australia, Quick Nick was fast in practice, lined up behind the Big 5 in qualifying, and made a stunning start when the lights went out. He immediately deployed the KERS, blitzed Webber and the Ferraris, flew past Button, braked late into Turn 1, out-dragged Hamilton of all people into Turn 2 and slotted in behind race leader Sebastian Vettel. Despite the best efforts of the McLaren driver, the black and gold Renault held on until the pitstops arrived. If ever some justification was needed for picking Nick as Kubica’s replacement, this was it. And he had some great battles throughout the race, with Lewis at the start, the Ferraris during the pitstops, his own team mate before the final stint and a great finish to the race, holding off a charging Webber to earn a fantastic podium for the team, their second in two races.

Vitaly Petrov looked strong as well, but he faded to 8th before having steering problems, resulting in a massive jump over the kerbs and coming to a halt off the track with a broken steering column. It must’ve been disappointing for Alonso and Hamilton as well, who provided the best wheel-to-wheel racing we’ve seen in many years for a couple of laps at the end, with their cars making contact and dropping back behind Heidfeld, Webber and Massa. Whether Hamilton was slightly out of shape coming out of the corner, or Alonso suffered a bit of understeer we don’t know, but the Ferrari clipped the back of the McLaren and needed to pit for a new wing. Lewis, already experiencing severe tyre degradation, made an extra stop and came seventh.

Unfortunately, the stewards took a rather harsh view of the incident, issuing both drivers a 20sec penalty (Fernando for causing a collision, Lewis for weaving) which means Alonso stays 6th, Hamilton drops to 8th behind Kobayashi. It is quite a disappointing decision to penalise drivers for what was a racing incident more than anything else. The inclusion of a former driver in the stewards panel was meant to prevent excessive nannying, and it certainly didn’t work this weekend.

The Sauber driver who benefited from this, once again demonstrated his class, with a strong points finish, after a race full of typically outstanding overtaking moves. Fast, brave and utterly audacious, he was ninja-esque on the track, whether he was dealing with the fearsome RB7 of Webber, or the legendary Michael Schumacher. Reputations and statistics don’t matter to this young man, and he looks set for a successful career in F1. His team mate Sergio Perez, who made a dream debut in Australia, found out how quickly fortunes can change in motor racing, after a poor qualifying run yesterday, his car suffered damage after running over some debris, leading to retirement. Paul di Resta continued his excellent start in F1, with another points finish here, once again finishing ahead of Sutil.

Both Williams and HRT had a forgettable day, with all four drivers retiring with reliability problems. So too did Trulli and d’Ambrosio while their team mates managed to finish the race. Sebastian Buemi was penalised with a stop-go for pitlane speeding, which he felt was too harsh. It was a bad day in the office for the Petronas Mercedes team as well – 9th and 12th at their title sponsor’s home race, allied to the team’s admission that their car ”is just too slow” says it all. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have let down fans with their pace, after winter testing seemed to indicate both had race-winning cars.

Ferrari atleast have very good race pace, as Fernando and Felipe demonstrated, but the team will need to improve by leaps and bounds to get itself into the title race. The Italian team are already on maximum attack in the factory and the wind tunnel, hoping to find and rectify a design-stage flaw as soon as possible. With just a week to go for the Chinese GP, Alonso and Massa may have to wait until Istanbul to close the gap to the front.

Although the rain clouds moved away after spilling a few drops on the track, we had enough racing action to keep us satisfied – but more importantly, McLaren have shown that Red Bull will not be allowed to walk away with this year’s championship, and Ferrari are totally ‘peed off’ (their own words, not mine) and will leave no stone unturned in it’s quest to beat Red Bull. Renault’s R31 is no slouch, and with the Enstone outfit known for their phenomenal development programmes, they cannot be underestimated either.

And yet, when you see Sebastian Vettel producing that amazing Q3 lap under pressure, making a perfect start, and driving with controlled aggression – the sign of a mature racer – you have to wonder, if he can really be beaten. The RB7 appears to be far more reliable than last year’s RB6, and Sebastian seems to have cleaned up on his somewhat messy overtaking skills. It was the sign of a driver who now knows he’s a world-beater, and that has given him a truckload of composure and maturity behind the wheel. Webber, Hamilton, Button and Alonso will need a great car and some good luck to stopping this German juggernaut.


2 Responses to “2011 Malaysian GP – Race Analysis”

  1. I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one today..

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