It was a strange old race in Sepang as many top names faltered and new heroes grasped their opportunities...
- What more can you say about Fernando Alonso? Another superb victory to add to his CV. Calmness at the start before some great opportunistic moves and excellent pitstops allowed him to move up to 4th at the restart. A superb overtake on Mark Webber followed and he then passed Sergio Perez to take the lead. In the final stint he kept this cool and used his KERS strategically to hold off the Sauber. He needed added composure as his team had no telemetry available on the pitwall so the Spaniard had to relay details of fuel levels etc on the radio.
Ferrari were conducting a Q+A session on their Twitter account earlier and there was some interesting answers. They denied that they would have a new car in Spain and also ruled out abandoning the pull rod front suspension system for a push rod version. They said the main problems with the car is low speed traction and end of straight speed. There was also a fascinating answer to a question about whether the team had ever tried to sign Ayrton Senna to which the answer was an emphatic yes and also the revelation that the Brazilian had visited Maranello just a few days before his accident at Imola
- This may seem a strange statement but I'm glad that Sergio Perez was disappointed on missing out on a win on Sunday. Yes there was great delight and rightly so as he became the first Mexican in four decades to finish on the podium and Sauber secured 18 massive points. However Perez is an ambitious young man and will see this as the first of many podiums on his way to the top. His pitstop after just 1 lap helped him progress, though the times were pretty close to begin with between the intermediate and wet tyres. With Jean-Eric Vergne staying out on inters until the safety car, it just showed how big a spread there was in a strategy that would be viable in the chaotic conditions.
The opportunities for Perez to take the lead are well documented. There was a chance to pit before Alonso as Daniel Ricciardo was starting to light up the timing screen but you can understand Sauber being cautious at that stage. They really should have pitted him next time around though as even though rain was still a threat, the 25 lap old inters wouldn't have dealt with any significant rain and the slicks were clearly much faster. Despite this, Perez soon caught the Ferrari again. The question is whether the Mexican would have passed without his off track moment. Many feel he would have cruised by but i don't think it would have been that simple. The combination of a track still damp offline, a Sauber that was slow in a straight line and the risk factor of throwing away a maiden podium would have meant no foregone conclusion to the battle. Perez was definitely going for it though despite some of the ridiculous suggestions going around. I also think the talk that he could be driving for Ferrari in China is rubbish but i still reckon he's the favourite to be the team mate of Fernando Alonso in 2013.
- I think this has been an excellent start to 2012 for Lewis Hamilton. Two excellent pole position laps may not have been converted into wins but finishing third whilst some of his main rivals were tripping over other cars was a good result. So far it's been a case of Hamilton going back to his early career form of consistency and solid points scoring. The form of the McLaren suggests a win is not far away.
- For the first time on Sunday I felt we seen Bruno Senna emerge on the Formula One scene. I've been unconvinced by him in his spells with HRT and Renault but this was a tremendous drive. An opening lap spin left him at the back and he remained there until the restart. From then he worked his way up seventeen places to score eight points for Williams. Some great overtakes and good strategy contributing to his charge through the field. There must be a great buzz in the team at the minute as they clearly have a quick car which also seems to treat the tyre's gently. You do wonder what the likes of Sutil or Raikkonen could have done had they joined over the winter but Senna stepped up to the plate and delivered on Sunday and both he and Pastor Maldonado need to produce this regularly. Maldonado again retired on the final lap after an engine failure. The Venezuelan had good pace but a mistake in Q2 harmed his qualifying session and then missing his pit box during the race and having to exit and pit again the next lap cost him even more time. It's his inability to put a whole weekend together which is currently hindering him
- Sebastian Vettel has been getting quite a bit of criticism in the aftermath of his incident with Narain Karthikeyan and subsequent comments about the Indian after the race. I have to say that i am siding with the Red Bull driver on this. Yes he could have left a bit more margin but i can understand why he pushed on as he wanted to stay on the dry line and clearly fancied the prospect of chasing down Hamilton for third. Karthikeyan had made a mistake on the corner before and ran wide and as Vettel came alongside the HRT moved to the right. In my opinion it is up to the backmarkers to get out of the way of the leaders and the Indian could have done more to avoid a collision. The stewards clearly agreed as they gave him a 20 second time penalty after the race. Vettel clearly had a few harsh words and gestures for Karthikeyan which isn't what you want to see but you can understand his frustration at losing a possible 12 points over such an unfortunate incident
Another issue for Vettel during the race was a radio failure. Several times over the past few seasons this has happened though it seems the rainfall may have contributed on Sunday as Mark Webber's malfunctioned as well. This meant important information had to be delivered on the pitboard which may well have resulted in the delay in making the optimal switch to dry tyres late in the race. It's become a bit of a flaw of the Red Bull car. Races where it has failed include Hungary 2010, Abu Dhabi 2010 and China 2011. I always found that Abu Dhabi failure intriguing as Vettel radioed in during the final stages to say he couldn't hear the team which is interesting as there was the potential for last lap team orders at Red Bull to give Webber the title if the cars were in a particular order so that could have scuppered a potential switch. Anyway it hardly matters now. Last years failure in China was an inconvenience though as the varying strategies between the teams made the order unclear and Vettel found himself unsure of the optimum time to make his stops. Amongst the bid to improve the aerodynamics and car handling perhaps Red Bull should look to make their radio system more reliable.
- A second red flag in four years led to more delays for the race in Malaysia. These can happen and i can put up with it myself but when you know that a downpour is a regular occurrence late in the afternoon in Sepang then it is a bit silly to run the race so late. People are paying hundreds and hundreds of pounds to attend and to risk the running of the event with a factor that is well known is not acceptable, even if you want to get some more TV viewers in Europe