Malaysian GP 2008
MARCH 24, 2008
Race Report - Kimi dominates in Malaysia
After qualifying in Malaysia, we thought that the McLaren team had something up its sleeve. But that was not the case at all. Ferrari was dominant. The Italians ought to have scored a 1-2 but Felipe Massa spun out and the team lost eight points. Lewis Hamilton had a tough afternoon, his hopes of a decent finish blown when a pit stop took longer than expected. By the end of the day he was fifth and is still three points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Drivers' World Championship. And McLaren remained ahead in the Constructors. But if we see the same kind of performance from Ferrari in Bahrain, McLaren will be in trouble.
Not only was Ferrari considerably quicker than the cars from Woking, but BMW Sauber also appear to be in the hunt for wins. Nick Heidfeld may have finished only sixth in Sepang, but he set the fastest lap of the race, while team-mate Robert Kubica was second, just 20secs behind Raikkonen. The Finn certainly was not pushing as hard as he might have done. There was not need to go quickly. But Kubica was there if there had been a problem.
The only real threat to Raikkonen was Felipe Massa, who had qualified ahead and just beat Kimi into the first corner. The two went into the first corner together and in the end Raikkonen decided that it was wisest not to push too hard. He knew that he had more fuel than the Brazilian and all that he had to do was to stay with Felipe and then move ahead at the first pit stop.
The most exciting thing on the opening lap was not the Ferraris. Hamilton was ninth on the grid as a result of his penalty but that was obviously not a position that appealed to him and he was on the outside of his former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso on the run down to the first corner. Fernando edged Lewis outwards and stayed ahead but Lewis saw a chance and went to the inside, cut inside Fernando and then left him behind as the Renault found itself trapped behind Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli. By the time they got to the second corner Lewis was fifth, on Mark Webber's tail. The order sorted itself out with Massa leading Raikkonen, Kubica, Webber, Hamilton, Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. In the course of the first lap Sebastien Bourdais dropped the ball and fell off into the sand and then Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock collided, sending both into the pits. Nico was soon racing again, but Timo was out.
Quickly the order stabilised and it was clear that Hamilton could make little impression on Webber, either because of a heavy fuel load, or because the car was not good enough.
Webber was the first man to pit, after 16 laps, and he was followed into the pitlane by Massa on lap 17 and Raikkonen on lap 18. Kimi came out ahead of Massa.
In theory Hamilton should have gone on much longer and then taken the lead when the others stopped but all the theories disappeared when Lewis headed into pitlane on lap 19. That was a big giveaway. Lewis was not going to win this race and the aim was to limit the damage in the World Championship as much as possible.
Things went from bad to worse, however, as when Hamilton stopped in the pits, his crew had trouble with the right front wheel. As the seconds ticked away, Lewis lost valuable places. He was 11th by the time he rejoined. As this drama was unfolding Heikki Kovalainen managed to get past Trulli by staying out three laps longer.
The interesting point was that Kubica had stayed out longest, and did not pit until lap 21. He rejoined in third.
Gradually Raikkonen began to stretch the legs of his Ferrari and began to move ahead. Not long afterwards, Massa spun out and Kimi was left with little to worry about.
Also gone was Adrian Sutil who went out with an hydraulic failure. Sebastian Vettel too had disappeared with fire at the back of his Toro Rosso.
There were scraps here and there but mainly it was stable and the second pit stops did little to change the order. Hamilton remained stuck behind Webber until the Australian went into pitlane on lap 39, Hamilton stayed out for five more laps and that was the end of Webber's chances. Finally Hamilton was free of traffic and he immediately started to charge after Trulli. The gap came down rapidly from 7.3secs to less than a second by the end of the race, but Trulli stayed out of trouble and was delighted to score points.
"Being behind someone, no matter how quick you are, it is really difficult to get past," said Hamilton. "I did the best I could."
Ahead of him things were stable with Raikkonen, Kubica, Raikkonen and Trulli. The final minutes of the race were brightened up by the tussle between the two men, but catching the Toyota was one thing, passing quite another. The pair were followed by Heidfeld but he could not challenge the cars ahead.
The final two points-scoring positions went to Webber and Alonso.
A classic race it was not, but it opens the way for much excitement as the season develops.