F1 Malaysia: Full Race Report and Results; Vettel in a Red Bull 1-2, Stunning Performance by Hamilton as Alonso’s Engine Ends His Day

What Happens When It Doesn’t Rain in Malaysia

5:43am EST — Sebastian Vettel won a surprisingly dry Malaysian GP, after taking the lead from teammate Mark Webber at the first turn.  Webber finished second, with Nico Rosberg third, Robert Kubica fourth, Adrian Sutil fifth, and an incredible performance by Hamilton to finish sixth after starting twentieth.  The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso looked to have a similar performance, with Massa overtaking Jenson Button near the end to finish seventh.  Button was just holding off Alonso for his eighth place finish when Alonso’s engine let go, after a downshifting problem plagued the Spaniard all day.  Michael Schumacher did not finish, with a retirement forced by a loose wheel nut.

Mark Webber started on pole for Red Bull after a rain-stopped qualifying session bought most of the media attention on Ferrari and McLaren, because Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, and Lewis Hamilton did not manage to qualify out of Q1.  Again out-qualifying his teammate, Nico Rosberg started second, with Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil, and Nico Hulkenberg the top five starters.  Pedro de la Rosa had a suspected engine failure on the track during his sighting lap; he did not start the race.  Magically, the weather cooperated, giving the drivers a dry start to the race, though the threat of race-stopping rain hung over everyone’s heads.

Barrichello stalled on the start, as Sebastian Vettel took first from teammate Webber, with Rosberg in third, and Kubica in fourth.  Sutil was right behind, with Schumacher up two positions to sixth.  In the back, Hamilton moved from twentieth to thirteenth, with Massa right behind.  Hamilton had a bit of trouble getting around Buemi, but managed on the second lap.  With some forceful driving, both Ferraris took Button, with Massa fourteenth, Alonso fifteenth, and Button sixteenth.  On L4, Glock lost the rear a bit, sliding directly into Trulli, ending the race for the Virgin Racing car.  A couple of laps later, it was Hamilton passing Petrov for ninth.  Hamilton promptly went a bit wide and gave the position back up.  The sun continued to shine, as Vettel opened a 1.3s gap to Webber, with another 3.3 between Webber and third place Rosberg.

Petrov and Hamilton continued to fight for ninth, as Hamilton passed, then did quite a job covering the width of the track to keep the position.  Petrov went under, but could not regain the position.  After repassing Alonso, Button dove into the pit for a tire change, from option to the prime, hard, tires.  Kobayashi also stopped on the track, with Schumacher doing the same a lap later (on L10), with a likely transmission failure.  Just after, Hamilton received a warning from race control for “excessive weaving” in keeping Petrov behind.  Barrichello, who stalled on the grid and pitted, was in fifteenth on L12.  Hamilton continued his moving forward, as Liuzzi slowed dramatically on L11, but did not pit.

When coming in for a stop, after some contact with di Grassi, Kovalainen had a long stop with rear jack issues.  meanwhile, Button posted the fastest lap of the race on his hard tires for L12.  Hulkenberg and Petrov noted his speed (presumably), and changed to hards.  Hulkenberg barely beat the Renault out.  Liuzzi finally made it into the garage, and retired with, as Force India noted later, a “suspected throttle problem”.  Buemi also pitted, as Hamilton had moved up to sixth, with Massa and Alonso eighth and ninth.  A handy Toro Rosso buffer named Alguersuari held position between the McLaren and Ferraris, as Hamilton went fastest on L15.  None of the top nine (Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Sutil, Hamilton, Alguersuari, Massa, Alonso) had, as yet, pitted with 31s covering them.  Button was the first runner amongst those who had stopped, in tenth.

‘Round about L18, Hamilton asked the question on many minds, “is the rain coming?”  Unfortunately for his tire wear, it looked as though the round might finish without raindrops.  Kovalainen pitted on L19 with hydraulic failure, according to Mike Gascoyne.  Alonso had problems of his own, with the car dropping into neutral when downshifting.  His ability to finish sounded unlikely, with luck and skill to be in eighth.

L21 brought in the first of the top nine, Sutil, to switch to the hard tire and returning to the circuit ahead of Alonso.  Kubica was the next in from fourth, as teammate Petrov held off a very persistent Alguersuari for eleventh.  He finally took the position after a tow down the front straight.  Teammate Buemi then took the Russian as well.  Rosberg pitted on L23.  Vettel came in from the front on L24 for hard tires.  He rejoined in second, just barely (quite literally) ahead of Hamilton, who had not  yet stopped, but had moved up from twentieth.  Webber came in the next time around, with an issue getting the right front gun off, losing two seconds in the stop.  He returned in third.

Halfway through the race, the heat remained and a drop of rain had not fallen.  On Twitter, Renault asked, “So we might not have any rain in this race after all?”  After a build-up that involved much rain speculation, it appeared to be true.  Ferrari readied for a stop, with word coming from Twitter that it would be for Massa.  He rejoined ahead of Hulkenberg for ninth.  Teammate Alonso was left in sixth, with a stop to come.  His issue seemed to have resolved itself, or he had learned to drive around it, posting personal best lap times before not pitting.  After seeming to retire, Kovalainen went back out, six laps down.  With no in-season testing, any on-track time would be beneficial for the new team.  With only Alonso and Hamilton yet to stop, Massa showed the speed of the option tires on L29 with a race fastest lap.  Hamilton was losing time to Webber in third.

L30 brought Hamilton in, switching to the softer tire, as required.  Hamilton rejoined the race next to teammate Button, but ultimately took seventh.  On fresh tires, he then set the fastest first sector of the race.  On soft tires, one would have to wonder if he would make them last to the end of the race in the Malaysian heat, with no rain forecast.  A radio transmission from Ferrari suggested that Alonso’s shifting problem continued to plague him, but despite it being “difficult to drive like this” he needed to push with Sutil closing.  L35 kept Petrov from finishing any race, as the car appeared to have died.  Behind the Red Bulls, Kubica was chasing down Rosberg, with the German’s margin over the Renault less than a second.

With twenty laps to go, Hamilton was fighting with Sutil for sixth, though his former teammate was able to keep the world champion behind.  At the front, it was still Vettel, Webber, with 5+ seconds between them, as Alonso finally pitted on L37.  He seemed to have the fastest stop of the race, 4.2s from wheel stop to roll.  No changes to the wheel meant the problem had fixed itself or he could drive around it.  He rejoined where he spent the entire race, behind Massa.  Massa, however, was less than half a second behind Button, fighting for Button’s seventh position.  Alonso was nearly twelve seconds behind, with Alguersuari another almost eight back.  Alonso then went fastest on his fresh tires, picking up three seconds on Massa.  Rinse, lather, and repeat: another fastest lap brought the gap from Massa to Alonso down to 7.6s.

At the front, it was still Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Sutil, then a charging Hamilton.  The unspoken question was if Vettel would make it a three-peat and if the reliability issues would again keep him from a race win while leading.  Meanwhile, Schumacher said that he was forced to retire because the left rear wheel nut came loose.  The (oft-mentioned) gap from Massa to Alonso had dropped to 3.6s as Massa fought with Button.  On about L41, Red Bull informed Webber that he had to push his foot down harder on the throttle on the straights, as the telemetry suggested that his foot was bouncing off.  In a bit of very close racing, Buemi managed an aggressive pass on Barrichello for twelfth.  Just a bit later (but ahead on the circuit), Massa got himself around Button for seventh, shuffling the Briton back to Alonso, who was a couple of tenths behind.  Rob Smedley, Massa’s engineer told him, “Good boy. Beeaautiful. Get on with it, now.”  He did just that, making up over three seconds.  Alonso went around Button on the outside, but could not quite hold the position.  He still sounded to have the downshift issue, and could not attempt a maneuver at Turn 1 on the next lap.

In the most interesting racing of the race, Hamilton was down to over a second behind Sutil as the gap back to Massa visibly shortened with seven laps to go.  The championship lead was at stake, with Alonso to keep it going to China, if he passed Button, but the Ferrari teammates would tie if not.  With one lap to go, Alonso attempted again, getting the position, running wide and losing it, but his engine refused to continue, letting go with a large cloud of smoke.  Vettel kept the lead, as he had for the entire race, with Webber coming in second, putting some of the questions of reliability to rest.  Rosberg finished third, with Kubica fourth, Sutil fifth, and an incredible performance by Hamilton to finish sixth after starting twentieth.

Final Positions for the 2010 Malaysian GP:
1. Vettel
2. Webber +4.8
3. Rosberg +13.5
4. Kubica +18.5
5. Sutil +21
6. Hamilton +23.4
7. Massa +27
8. Button +37.9
9. Alguersuari +70.6
10. Hulkenberg +73.3
11. Buemi +78.9
12. Barrichello +1 Lap
13. Alonso +2 Laps
14. di Grassi +3 Laps
15. Chandhok +3 Laps
16. Senna +4 Laps
17. Trulli +5 Laps
de la Rosa


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