Jenson Button was awarded his second successive victory for Brawn GP after heavy rain interrupted the Malaysian Grand Prix just after half-distance.
Toyota’s Timo Glock should have taken second position thanks to a wise strategy to run intermediates just as it started to rain, but the German fell back to third behind fellow countrymen Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) on count back when the race result was re-calculated following the stoppage on lap 32.
Jarno Trulli finished fourth for Toyota, with Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber completing the top six for Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing respectively.
World champion Lewis Hamilton scored his first points of the new season with seventh, despite spinning just before the race was red flagged. Before he went off the track, the McLaren driver had a great wheel-to-wheel battle with Mark Webber, with the Australian edging ahead in the duel.
As for Nico Rosberg, who made a fantastic start off from row two to lead into the first corner, the Williams star was caught out in the confusion during the series of tyre changes when the heavens opened on the Sepang International Circuit. Half-a-championship point with eighth wasn’t the best result for Rosberg following his impressive opening laps.
Due to the late running of the event, to provide a better time slot for European television audience, it was always likely that rain would affect Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. But nobody expected the precipitation to play such a key role in a race that was full of excitement.
The changeable weather conditions made it extremely difficult for the race crews to pick out the right tyres. Kimi Raikkonen was the first to blink and along with Ferrari, gambled on running the extreme wets as early as lap 18. This proved highly premature, with the Finn losing up to 20 seconds per lap as the tyres struggled on the still fully dry track.
But the rain did commence just a few laps later, prompting the whole field to dive into the pits. Everyone opted for extreme tyres apart from Timo Glock, who picked intermediates.
This proved to be an inspired choice as the rain stayed relatively light at first. The Toyota was able to take ten seconds per lap out of the leaders and carve through to second position, which became the lead when Button stopped for intermediates, as most of the others already had done so.
Once on the intermediates, Button took less than a lap to catch and re-pass Glock, but just as soon as the Brawn GP car was back in front, the heavens opened and that prompted yet another round of pit stops as all the intermediate runners had no choice but to stop yet again to return to full wets.
The downpour was so intense that even extreme wets were insufficient, with many cars spinning due to a lack of grip. The safety car was called out on lap 31, with Button narrowly leading from Glock after both had returned to wet tyres. Finally the red flag came out on lap 32 and the race order up to this point read:
Button, Glock, Heidfeld (a long way behind after a spin), Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber, Massa, Bourdais, Alonso, Nakajima, Piquet, Raikkonen, Sutil, Vettel, Buemi and Fisichella (who had spun twice).
Missing from this list was Kubica and Kovalainen. The BMW Sauber stuttered off the grid and retired after just one slow lap, while Kovalainen spun his McLaren into the gravel only a few corners into the grand prix, meaning the Finn has yet to complete a racing lap this season.
Now it became a waiting game and questions were being asked whether there was going to be a restart. The sky was getting darker due to the fading light and the rain has yet to ease off, but would the race continue? After nearly an hour of waiting on an increasingly sodden grid, the race directors finally called it off.
Button had won, but it was just a matter of deciding how far the race directors would go back to decide the order behind the winner. In the end, that was lap 31, giving a race finishing order of: Button, Heidfeld, Glock, Trulli, Barrichello, Webber, Hamilton and Rosberg as the points scorers. Then: Massa, Bourdais, Alonso, Nakajima, Piquet, Raikkonen, Vettel, Buemi, Sutil and Fisichella.
Since the Malaysian Grand Prix had gone past the halfway mark but not the 75 percent race distance, half points were awarded. But for Button, it was the chance to extend his drivers’ championship lead from 10 points to 15, with team-mate Barrichello next on 10 from Trulli on 8.5. In the constructors’ championship, Brawn have 25 to Toyota’s 16.5.
It was surreal ending to the Malaysian Grand Prix but despite the outcome, Brawn GP and Jenson Button have proved once again to be the class act. Winning its second race in a row, from pole position, is a fantastic achievement and we will find out in the next coming races whether that winning momentum can continue.
Race results from the Malaysian Grand Prix:
1. Button Brawn GP 1h10:59.092
2. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +22.722
3. Glock Toyota +23.513
4. Trulli Toyota +46.173
5. Barrichello Brawn GP +47.360
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault +52.333
7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +60.733
8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +71.576
9. Massa Ferrari +76.932
10. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +102.164
11. Alonso Renault +1 lap
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1 lap
13. Piquet Renault +1 lap
14. Raikkonen Ferrari +1 lap
15. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +1 lap
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
17. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes +2 laps
Fastest lap: Button, 1:36.641
Kubica BMW Sauber 1 lap
Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 2:
1. Button 15
2. Barrichello 10
3. Trulli 8.5
4. Glock 8
5. Alonso 4
6. Heidfeld 4
7. Rosberg 3.5
8. Buemi 2
9. Webber 1.5
10. Bourdais 1
11. Hamilton 1
1. Brawn GP 25
2. Toyota 16.5
3. Renault 4
4. BMW-Sauber 4
5. Williams-Toyota 3.5
6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 3
7. Red Bull-Renault 1.5
8. McLaren-Mercedes 1
Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai. April 17-19.