Malaysian GP 2013 - A Complete Race Report
The second race of the Formula 1 season was full of drama and action at Malaysia. It was raining before the start, which made the situation even more interesting. Some rain was predicted to drop during the race, too. The track was really wet, when drivers went for the outlap to get into the start-finish straight (The Grid). Plenty of drivers went off on their out lap – Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Gutierrez, Valtteri Bottas, Pastor Maldonado, Max Chilton and Mark Webber all visited out of the track. Bottas even got a damage to his front wing, and his front wing was changed to a new one when he arrived to his grid position. The rain went away before the start but the track was still wet, even though it was drying up fast. All the drivers started with the intermediate compound. Sebastian Vettel started from pole position, with Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso behind him. Lewis Hamilton started 4th and Mark Webber 5th. The Australian GP race winner Kimi Räikkönen was dropped down by 3 positions on the grid after blocking Nico Rosberg on the qualifying, and started on 10th.
The drama started already on the first laps of the race. Vettel took the lead and his team mate Webber also got a good start, putting himself up to 3rd. Fernando Alonso took 2nd place, but went bit too early on the throttle after the 2nd corner and hit Sebastian Vettel’s rear. Vettel continued on his way with no damage, but Alonso damaged his front wing and was really struggling keeping his position with the broken wing that made sparkles. Even though the wing was damaged, the Ferrari driver didn’t come in to change it and continued his way. It was a mistake – the wing broke under the car and made Alonso a passenger and he went into the gravel, and had to retire from the race. (Ferrari later admitted that it was their call)
Vettel was the first driver to come in for a pitstop, and he changed to the softer slick tyre. Massa came in on the same lap and did the same. One lap after, plenty of other drivers came in for slicks, too. There were lots of strange action on the pits. Lewis Hamilton accidentally drove into the McLaren box from old memory, but he soon noticed his mistake and continued his way to the right one on Mercedes. Force India, meanwhile, struggled on pistops – Sutil was in for his stop, and the team had planned to be quick with his stop as they brought in Di Resta as well. The plan didn’t work out, as the pit crew had a problem attaching Sutil’s left rear tyre. They lost a lot of time, and Di Resta was waiting on the line behind his teammate. It wasn’t going so well for Toro Rosso either – they gave Jean-Eric Vergne an unsafe release and Vergne collided with Caterham’s Charles Pic, who was coming in for his own stop. Pic suffered damage and Toro Rosso was penalised with a fine after the race.
Red Bull drivers, Webber and Vettel, were leading the race with Mercedes double Hamilton and Rosberg behind. Räikkönen was struggling, and went wide a couple of times, and tried to get past Sergio Perez. He succeeded some laps later. Maldonado was the second driver to be out of the race after hitting a kerb, breaking his front wing and getting stuck on the gravel. It wasn’t easy for tyres and there were loads of pitstops done during the race. Force India truly suffered in every single stop they made. On the second stop, the team had a huge problem with attaching left front tyre on Di Resta’s car. They lost even more time than they did with Sutil on the first stop. When Sutil came to his second stop, exactly the same thing happened for him. After a couple of laps, both Force India drivers were pushed into their pit boxes and retired from the race after huge problems. It was really disappointing for the team after a good pace during the whole weekend.
Vettel was frustrated on his team radio, and admitted to the team that he was much faster than team mate Mark Webber on the front. The team asked Vettel to take it easy and reminded there was still half of the race in front.
Jenson Button had done a great job with his McLaren and was about to bring a good result to the team, until it all went wrong when he came to the pits. The Brit stopped on the pit lane straight after his stop. The team didn’t attach the right front tyre and Button noticed it in time. The pit crew pushed Button back to the box, attached the tyres and put him out of the track again a couple of minutes later.
It started to be thrilling on the lead as the Red Bull double, Webber and Vettel were fighting for the lead, and the Mercedes double, Hamilton and Rosberg fought for 3rd and 4th positions. Rosberg wanted to take over Hamilton, but he was told on the radio by Ross Brawn: ‘Negative, negative, negative!’. The Mercedes double changed their positions couple of times on the DRS zones and the team tried to make the drivers keep the order, with Hamilton in front and Rosberg behind. In front of Mercedes drivers, it was even more thrilling, as Webber and Vettel fought for the lead. Both made aggressive moves, and Vettel was able to take the lead from Webber in the end. The Australian driver didn’t seem to be happy about the situation, and showed some international finger language to his team mate.
Behind the lead battles, Räikkönen was struggling on overtaking once again. He was stuck behind Nico Hülkenberg and admitted on the radio that Hülkenberg had blocked him. Adrenaline was high, but the Iceman took the position from the German. Felipe Massa, meanwhile, came to pits with only few laps before the end, and changed to softer compound. It really paid out, and Massa was able to get past Hülkenberg, Grosjean and Räikkönen with fresh tyres. Sergio Perez also made a really late stop with only 2 laps before the end, but he didn’t miss any positions as his gap to the next car behind was big enough. He pushed, and got the fastest lap of the race, on the last lap with his fresh tyres.
Red Bull took a dramatic 1-2 with Vettel winning and Webber 2nd. Next up were the Mercedes drivers, Hamilton 3rd and Rosberg 4th, even though the gap between them was really small on the finish line. Massa finished 5th with Lotus drivers Grosjean and Räikkönen behind. Hülkenberg, Perez and Vergne completed the top 10.
After the race, it was found out that Vettel didn’t put down the engine, as both of the Red Bull drivers were asked to do so by the team. Also, the drivers were asked to keep positions, but Vettel still wanted to pull to the lead and get the victory. The German later tried to apologize to his team mate. The atmosphere was everything but not happy on the podium. It was a race that really left lots of things to talk about afterwards. It was a race where at least two drivers weren’t interested to be there.