Saturday, April 4, 2009


Malaysian GP washed out by Rain

The red flag thrown to halt proceedings at Sepang proved to be the final event of the Malaysian Grand Prix, as ongoing torrential rain prevented the remaining runners from taking a restart. The race started in dry conditions, defying most predictions, but the rain eventually came just short of 20 laps, prompting most of the field to pit for full Bridgestone wet tyres within the next two or three tours.

The expected downpour took longer to come, however, and Timo Glock showed the intermediates were the way to go initially, scything through the field. Just as his rivals decided to follow suit, though, the German pitted for full wets, anticipating what was to become a veritable monsoon. Again, the remainder of the field stopped for suitable rubber, with Jenson Button, who had made a poor start, rejoining in the lead, having picked off Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg - either on track or as the result of pit-stops - before the conditions degenerated to the point where racing was absolutely impossible.

With just 31 of the scheduled 56 laps in the books, half points will be awarded, but Button will be credited with his - and Brawn GP's - second win of the 2009 season. Behind the Briton, Glock, Nick Heidfeld, Trulli, Rubens Barrichello, Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg and Mark Webber stand to score, although the order may yet be reshuffled according to the point at which the stewards decide to take the result.

F1 » Malaysian Grand Prix – Race results
1. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 31 laps 1hr 91m 35.181s
2. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber +0m 22.7s
3. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota +0m 23.5s
4. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +0m 46.1s
5. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes +0m 47.3s
6. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +0m 52.3s
7. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes +0m 60.7s
8. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota +0m 71.5s

9. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +0m 76.9s
10. Sebastien Bourdais France Toro Rosso-Ferrari
11. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault
12. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota
13. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault
14. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari
15. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault
16. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes
18. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes

Rtd Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber 1 lap completed
Rtd Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 0 laps completed

Button: Malaysia F1 pole 'more special' than Oz

Jenson Button has described securing the top spot in qualifying for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix as 'even more special' than when he did so for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne seven days ago – as after more than 150 appearances in Formula 1, the British star has finally registered back-to-back pole positions to bring his career total up to five.

Having swept all before him Down Under, Button did so again in Sepang, as Brawn GP's early-season supremacy in the top flight shows few signs of easing up. However, he did not have it quite all his own way in Kuala Lumpur, after being unhappy with the balance of his Mercedes-powered BGP 001 during practice, having to stave off a sustained threat from the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and lapping 'only' seventh-quickest in Q1. He would not lay that far down the timing screens for long.

“Achieving pole position today in Malaysia is possibly even more special than last week in Australia,” the 29-year-old enthused, after narrowly pipping Trulli by just under a tenth of a second. “It's not easy to get one pole, but two successive poles is just fantastic and it's a first for me in my Formula 1 career. It's a great feeling and proves that our car works well on different types of circuit.

“We were really struggling with the balance yesterday and I had a lot of rear locking; however, we made some changes to the car overnight which really improved it for today and it felt really good throughout qualifying. It's a big turnaround, and I have to say thank you to the team for their hard work in such tough conditions. They did a fantastic job. We are hoping that the rain stays away tomorrow, but you just never know at this circuit and we will be working hard tonight to make sure we are prepared for all eventualities.”

Unfortunately for the team, this time around Rubens Barrichello in the sister Virgin-backed entry was unable to join Button on the front row, having to take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change the previous day. That notwithstanding, the experienced Brazilian was never quite on the Briton's stunning pace, even if he did snatch P1 in the one phase of qualifying in which his team-mate failed to do so, maintaining Brawn GP's uninterrupted 2009 qualifying hegemony.

“It was a good qualifying session for the team today,” reflected the 36-year-old, who admitted to having grappled with understeer en route to fourth spot, what becomes eighth with his penalty taken into account. “Well done to Jenson once again as he had the pace to put the car on pole.

“Unfortunately on my side of the garage, the car developed understeer in qualifying and we were not able to resolve the problem. However, we know the performance of the car in race conditions is strong, and I will be aiming to score as many points as possible tomorrow before I can start chasing for my own pole positions and wins.”

“It was a great qualifying performance from Jenson and the team today,” summarised team principal Ross Brawn, “particularly as we had some issues with the balance of the car in yesterday's practice sessions. At the start of qualifying there was a distinct possibility of rain, so we went out early in Q1 to bank some dry running and from there it was a busy session with the track evolving incredibly quickly.

“Rubens was struggling for grip under braking which resulted in understeer, and he was never completely happy with the balance of his car. With the replacement of his gearbox, this puts him further back on the grid than we would have hoped; however, his experience will stand him in good stead in the race.

“Jenson was much happier with the balance, which reflects in his second pole of the season after an excellent lap. It was an incredibly close session, and with the prospect of rain in the race tomorrow, we should be in for a very eventful and exciting Malaysian Grand Prix.”

McLaren confirms Ryan 'suspension'

McLaren has moved swiftly to react to spreading rumours concerning the future of sporting director Dave Ryan, following suggestions that he was to fall on his sword as a result of Lewis Hamilton's exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix.

Ryan and Hamilton appeared at the original post-race stewards' enquiry to give their side of the story regarding the incident that saw Jarno Trulli pick up a 25-second time penalty for allegedly passing the McLaren while the field was neutralised behind the race's final safety car. The Italian had already ceded third spot by running off the road on the previous lap, but Hamilton appeared to slow to let him retake the position.

The subsequent debate has centred on whether Trulli overtook Hamilton illegally - something the Toyota driver denies - or simply reacted to being allowed to pass. Hamilton apparently told one post-race media interviewed that he had moved over and handed the place back under instruction from his team, but neither he nor Ryan disclosed the same fact to the stewards' hearing.

Only when the interview and McLaren's pit-to-car radio transcripts [see separate story – click here], came to light was the truth of the matter revealed, leading to the stewards to determine that Ryan and Hamilton has been 'deliberately misleading', stripping the Briton of any place in the official results, and reinstating Trulli to third place [see separate story – click here].

The FIA has not stopped there either, suggesting that, while Hamilton will be allowed to contest this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, further sanctions could follow.

When Ryan did not appear in his usual position in the McLaren pit during free practice in Malaysia, team CEO Martin Whitmarsh confirmed that the veteran engineer would play no further part in the weekend's activities, having been 'suspended from his position as sporting director' but admitted that it had been a tough decision to take.

"In my 20-odd years working for McLaren, I doubt if I've met a more dedicated individual than Davey," he pointed out, "He's been an integral part of McLaren since 1974 and has played a crucial role in the team's many world championship successes since that time.

“However, his role in the events of last Sunday, particularly his dealings with the FIA stewards, has caused serious repercussions for the team, for which we apologise. Therefore, I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this.”

Whitmarsh will undoubtedly face further questions in Friday afternoon's official FIA press conference at Sepang, although whether he chooses to reveal any further details remains to be seen.