Double world champion Fernando Alonso dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix with a lights-to-flag victory, scoring his first win for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. The Spaniard finished ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton producing the team’s first one-two finish since the Brazilian Grand Prix back in 2005.
Lewis Hamilton continues to impress in the MP4-22, with a fine second place in only his second race in Formula One. This follows from his fantastic debut in Australia three weeks ago where he finished in third.
As for Ferrari, the Italian team lost the race within the first few hundred yards, as both Felipe Massa – who was starting on pole position – and Kimi Raikkonen (in third) got overtaken by the two McLarens at the first corner.
Alonso made a better start than the pole sitter to lead the 22-car field into the tight right hairpin. The Spaniard slipped down the inside of Massa into Turn 1 and fellow McLaren team-mate Hamilton replicated the move to pass Raikkonen for third. Lewis then drove around the outside of Massa at Turn 2 to give the team an advantage that they would not lose.
With both Ferraris bundle down from the top, Felipe Massa tried to readdress the issue by attempting to overtake the first McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. On the second lap, he had the momentum on his rival and dived down the inside at Turn 4, but unfortunately ran wide and Lewis slipped by and regained his position again.
The Brazilian made a second attempt with the same manoeuvre three laps later, only to lock up and slide onto the grass! By the time he rejoined the track, he was down to fifth position, behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW-Sauber.
Kimi Raikkonen moved up to challenge Hamilton but wasn’t as aggressive as his team-mate. The Finn would later mount some serious pressure in the closing stages of the Grand Prix.
As for Alonso, he simply disappeared in the lead setting consistent lap times. Despite suffering a radio problem in the early part of the race, his two-stop strategy was perfect and was left unchallenged to the chequered flag.
Lewis Hamilton finished 17 seconds behind his team leader but was under huge pressure from a charging Kimi Raikkonen in his fast Ferrari. But Lewis did just enough (0.7 seconds) to hold off the Finn to finish in a fine second place.
Nick Heidfeld scored another great result for BMW-Sauber with fourth. The German managed to held off his former team-mate Massa all the way to the flag.
Nico Rosberg was heading for an excellent sixth for Williams but his Toyota-powered FW29 developed a problem and was forced to retire on lap 43. This promoted Giancarlo Fisichella in the Renault scoring three points for the past champions. The final points went to Jarno Trulli in the reliable Toyota and Renault rookie Heikki Kovalainen.
As for Honda, Rubens Barrichello finished ahead of team-mate Jenson Button despite starting from the pit lane. But it is no consolation for the Japanese team as both drivers struggle with pace in the ‘earth’ cars. Urgent meetings on how to improve the performance must be taken and apparently, there might be a new car soon.
Bridgestone’s new tyre marking system proved a great success, with the white grooves making it easy to identify which driver was on what tyre. Almost everyone ran soft-soft-hard compound through their three stints, the only exceptions being Jarno Trulli, Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Jenson Button.
A fantastic race thus puts Fernando Alonso into the lead of the world championship, with Raikkonen second from Hamilton. Roll on Bahrain!
Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang (56 laps)
1. ALONSO McLaren 1 hr. 32 mins. 14.930 secs
2. HAMILTON McLaren +17.557 secs
3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari +18.339s
4. HEIDFELD BMW +33.777s
5. MASSA Ferrari +36.705s
6. FISICHELLA Renault +1m05.638s
7. TRULLI Toyota +1m10.132s
8. KOVALAINEN Renault +1m12.015s
9. WURZ Williams +1m29.924s
10. WEBBER Red Bull +1m33.556s
11. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap
12. BUTTON Honda +1 lap
13. SATO Super Aguri +1 lap
14. SPEED Toro Rosso +1 lap
15. R SCHUMACHER Toyota +1 lap
16. DAVIDSON Super Aguri +1 lap
17. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +1 lap
18. KUBICA BMW +1 lap
R. ROSBERG Williams +14 laps
R. COULTHARD Red Bull +20 laps
R. SUTIL Spyker +49 laps
R. ALBERS Spyker +56 laps
Fastest lap: HAMILTON 1 min. 36.701 secs