Natalie Le Clue – Sport24 F1 columnist
This weekend’s Malaysian F1 GP looked more like a leg of the America’s cup! The menacing clouds, present throughout the weekend, finally let loose with a rainstorm of monsoon proportions.
It kicked off at 17h00 local time – Bernie Ecclestone’s idea of accommodating the European viewers. A later start, given the possibility of rain, meant visibility would always be an issue. And as the cars lined up on the grid after the red flag, it was clearly too dark to continue - even if the rain abated. I don’t think we will see a Malaysian GP starting at that time in the future.
Again a weekend marred by controversy - this time quite serious though. Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team were adjudged to have misled the FIA after the Australian race, and as a result the FIA will be looking more closely at this situation - despite Hamilton’s disqualification. It is a very contentious issue that speaks to the spirit of Formula 1.
To the racing weekend, then - Brawn GP proved categorically that their car is more than useful. Jenson Button annihilated the rest of the field in qualifying as Ferrari made sure Felipe Massa would be taking no further part in the session with a very embarrassing error. The publishing of the car’s weights after qualifying sounded like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight it douses the suspense of guessing what fuel loads the cars are on, instead revealing every drivers strategy.
For only the fifth time in the history of the F1 championship a race was suspended after an initial red flag. Jenson Button was declared the victor but because the race had not been 75% completed, only half points were awarded. Button now leads the championship with fifteen points while Brawn GP leads the constructor’s race with twenty-five points.
Although Brawn GP are undoubtedly in possession of a fantastic racing car there is still a cloud of uncertainty. Along with Williams and Toyota, Brawn will have to wait until the 14th of April to be 100% sure of their victories. Although the FIA is unlikely to disqualify these teams from the last two races, there is a strong belief in the rest of the paddock that they are racing with illegal rear-diffusers. This view has also been shared by the BMW Sauber team, who added their voice to the appeal on the weekend. Should it happen, this would, of course, not the first time that a team has been told to remove parts from their cars; Renault were recently instructed to remove a mass-damping system from their suspension. It’s important to note that Renault were not penalized for running this system …
Ferrari acted ridiculously! Kimi Raikkonen again found himself in a solid, if unspectacular, position when the team decided to fit full wet tyres to his car - on a dry track! What were they thinking? It completely destroyed any chance Raikkonen had of scoring any points and displayed to everyone how a team in the midst of panic behaves. Two major blunders in one weekend means that Ferrari are yet to trouble the scoreers. Blame an illegal diffuser all you like, there is no excuse for their actions.
Can anyone beat the Brawn GP cars? No. The only question remaining is who can get close enough to Jenson and his super-team? The season is but two races old and there is a long way to go yet, but the last time we saw such domination was in 2004 where Michael Schumacher was untouchable - winning thirteen of eighteen races. Will we see Jenson Button attempting something similar come the business end of the season?
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