Alonso holds off Perez to win in Sepang

After a long red flag period and changeable weather conditions, Fernando Alonso took his twenty-eighth career Grand Prix victory in a thrilling race in Sepang.

The double world champion held off the remarkable Sergio Perez to take the chequered flag and with this win, he now leads the world championship despite a difficult start to the season.

But it could have been so different if Perez didn’t make that error in the late stages of the race – running wide in an attempt to catch Alonso.

The Mexican was a revelation in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Setting fastest laps in a bid to catch the leading Ferrari, but that mistake cost the Sauber driver a chance of victory. Despite this set back, Perez should be immensely proud of what he has achieved.

Perez became the first driver from his country to lead a race and finish on the podium since Pedro Rodriguez in 1971.

Lewis Hamilton completed the podium, with his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button outside the points after a disastrous race.

Sebastian Vettel also failed to score due to a clash in traffic, though his Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber claimed fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and the Williams of Bruno Senna.

Most of the field used intermediates for the start, which took place on a track dry in some parts but extremely wet in others.

The McLarens held their grid formation into Turn 1, as Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher battled for third until making contact and both spinning as the Lotus slid into the Mercedes, allowing the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Vettel into third and fourth, ahead of Alonso.

Grosjean would put the Lotus into the gravel for good on lap three.

Already the rain was beginning to increase, and it was at that moment Sauber opted for the masterstroke of putting Perez straight onto extreme wet tyres – a choice nearly everyone would have to follow over the ensuing laps as the circuit became ever-more sodden.

By lap four, Perez was lapping three seconds quicker than the leaders, and that pace meant that by the time everyone had made the switch to wets, the Sauber was up into third position behind the McLarens. Webber, Alonso and Vettel were next up, the Ferrari having split the Red Bulls by taking wets a lap earlier than Vettel.

The storm then increased to the point that a red flag was inevitable, and the field would spend nearly an hour halted on the grid setting up shelter from the rain.

Particularly notable performances at this stage were Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne getting up to seventh by virtue of hanging on with intermediates in the deluge, and Narain Karthikeyan appearing in tenth for HRT having started on wets.

Race control mandated wet tyres for the eventual restart, though by the time four laps behind the safety car had been completed the track was right for intermediates, with Button pitting just as racing resumed.

That allowed him to jump ahead of team-mate Hamilton, who also lost out to Alonso in a slightly slow pitstop. But Button’s race then fell apart as he clipped Karthikeyan while coming back through traffic after his pitstop, forcing him to pit for a new front wing.

Perez stayed out a lap longer than Alonso and Hamilton, and rejoined ahead of them – although the Ferrari immediately overtook the Sauber.

Alonso then began edging away, establishing six-second cushion over Perez, as both dropped the rest of the field.

As the track dried heading into the final stages of the race, Perez charged up behind Alonso, whose tyres were fading faster. Before the Sauber could attack, Alonso came in for dry, slick tyres, and reopened a five-second lead by doing so a lap before his rival.

But on a dry track, the Sauber was much faster than the race leader and started taking a second or more per lap out of Alonso’s lead, closing onto the rear of the Ferrari with seven laps to go – amid radio messages from the team urging him not to jeopardise second place.

Then a mistake coming onto the back straight saw Perez run wide and lose five seconds. The Mexican immediately resumed his charge, but did not have enough laps to pull off a remarkable win.

Hamilton did not have the pace to catch the top two in wet or dry conditions and finished third. Vettel was on course for fourth until clipping Karthikeyan’s HRT in the closing stages – causing a left-rear puncture that dropped the world champion to P11 and handed fourth to Webber.

Raikkonen continued his strong race form on his Formula One return with fifth place for Lotus.

Senna produced an excellent charge to take a career-best finish of sixth for Williams, despite sliding into team-mate Pastor Maldonado on the first lap and breaking his front wing.

Both Force Indias scored, with Paul di Resta seventh and Nico Hulkenberg ninth, split by Vergne’s Toro Rosso.

As for Mercedes, their weekend fell apart in the race again, with Schumacher only able to get back up to tenth after the first-lap clash and an additional tyre stop leaving Nico Rosberg P14, behind the delayed Button – whose recovery drive was stymied by tyre difficulties that saw him make another additional stop.

Maldonado had been on course for the final point as he chased Vergne and Hulkenberg in a tight three-way battle, until an engine problem halted the Williams two laps from the flag.

While one Ferrari took victory ahead of a future protégé, Felipe Massa could only finish P15 after another poor performance.

So a brilliant result for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. After a difficult start to the season with the F2012, this victory was the perfect way to answer the critics. The Spaniard now leads the world championship after two races.

And yet the star of the race was Sergio Perez. His performance in the Sauber was remarkable. To miss out on taking the overall win due to a driver error was unfortunate. Nevertheless, Perez’s has a bright future in the sport and we could see him in the red car soon.

Malaysian Grand Prix, race result after 56 laps:

1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    2h44:51.812
2.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +2.263
3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +14.591
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +17.688
5.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +29.456
6.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +37.667
7.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +44.412
8.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +46.985
9.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +47.892
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +49.996
11.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +1:15.527
12.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:16.828
13.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1:18.593
14.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +1:19.719
15.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1:37.319
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
17.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap
18.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
19.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +2 laps
20.  Pic           Marussia-Cosworth          +2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
22.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +2 laps

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:40.722

Not classified/retirements:

Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               47 laps
Grosjean      Lotus-Renault                4 laps

World Championship standings, round 2:                

1.  Alonso        35
2.  Hamilton      30
3.  Button        25
4.  Webber        24
5.  Perez         22
6.  Vettel        18
7.  Raikkonen     16
8.  Senna          8
9.  Kobayashi      8
10.  Di Resta       7
11.  Vergne         4
12.  Hulkenberg     2
13.  Ricciardo      2
14.  Schumacher     1

1.  McLaren-Mercedes           55
2.  Red Bull-Renault           42
3.  Ferrari                    35
4.  Sauber-Ferrari             30
5.  Lotus-Renault              16
6.  Force India-Mercedes        9
7.  Williams-Renault            8
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6
9.  Mercedes                    1

Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai. April 13-15.

10 thoughts to “Alonso holds off Perez to win in Sepang”

  1. After taking victory in an exciting Malaysian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso has commented this this win doesn’t mean we are quick enough yet. has the story.

    Fernando Alonso said his shock Malaysian Grand Prix victory “changes nothing” and that Ferrari still faces a huge amount of work to be fully competitive in normal circumstances.

    Alonso came through from eighth on the grid to beat Sauber’s Sergio Perez to victory in the rain-affected Sepang race.

    While delighted with the result, Alonso underlined that it did not mean Ferrari had conquered its problems.

    “A big surprise today,” he said. “I think we were not competitive in Australia and not competitive here, and the goal was to score as many points as possible, and today it was 25 – so an unbelievable result.

    “A great result for the team – good result in Q3, and today keeping calm in extreme conditions. Congratulations to team, who deserve this victory.

    “This is a tough time at the moment, but for sure we will remember this Sunday.”

    Asked if the win would give Ferrari fresh motivation for its fightback, Alonso replied: “It changes nothing, to be honest.

    “We are in a position that we don’t want to be: fighting to get into Q3 and fighting to score some points. We want to fight for poles and victories so definitely in these first two races we found ourselves off the pace.

    “The aim was to not lose too many points, and we didn’t lose any points. This is positive news about these first two races, but coming to China, Bahrain and Barcelona there is a lot of stuff coming, the team is putting in a lot of effort.

    “We trust each other and this win will make us very happy in the next two days in the factory but does not change determination to keep on winning.”

    Perez closed rapidly on Alonso in the dry closing laps, and looked set to pass the Ferrari until making a small error. Alonso admitted that Ferrari was still too slow in normal circumstances.

    “On consistency we were comfortable but we were not quick enough,” he said. “We were lucky enough to maintain the position.”

  2. The star of the Malaysian Grand Prix was Sauber’s Sergio Perez. Despite making that driver mistake at the final stages of the race, the Mexican believes he had a chance. has the details.

    Sergio Perez is convinced that victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix was possible, although the Mexican admitted that his second placed finish was still a great result.

    The Mexican put on a sensational drive in mixed conditions to challenge Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso for victory at Sepang. In the end, the Sauber driver had to settle for second position after making a mistake when he was right behind Alonso with a few laps left.

    The result is Sauber’s best result as a non-manufacturer squad since Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed third at the 2003 United States Grand Prix.

    Perez, who himself became the first Mexican to finish on the podium in a world championship event since Pedro Rodriguez at Zandvoort in 1971, said winning was possible, and hailed the team for its great job during a difficult event.

    “I think the win today was really possible,” said Perez, who is fifth in the championship with 22 points. “Obviously the team did very good work to call me in at the right time. We lost just [time] at the end a lot of second pitstop, which did not go well with the clutch, but then I managed to catch him [Alonso] lap by lap.

    “I lost control of the car and lost the fight for the victory. Even so, it has been a great day for the team. They called me at the right time. The conditions were difficult to keep the car on track, and it has been incredible. They were focused as well, calling me at the right time, which was crucial.”

    Perez caught up with Alonso after a slow second pitstop, but slid wide when he looked set to attempt a pass on the Spaniard.

    “I knew I had to be quick to overtake him as I had a lot of degradation in the tyres,” he said. “I was looking for a way to get him and then I ran a bit wide and touched the wet kerb and was lucky to not go off.

    “In the end second place is a great result for the team. It’s many points. It’s only the second the race, but hopefully we can keep improving to fight.”

  3. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was quite satisfied with his third-place finish in an eventful Malaysian Grand Prix. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton declared himself satisfied with his second third place in a row despite failing to convert his pole position into a race victory in Malaysia.

    The McLaren driver has started from pole in the first two races of the season, but has finished third in both.

    On Sunday, Hamilton was unable to challenge Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez for victory after a very tricky race, but the Briton was still pleased to be on the podium again.

    “I won’t complain. I think the car has been good all weekend and the team did a good job and I’m on the podium again, which is my target, to have consistency,” said Hamilton.

    Hamilton admitted he it had been a very tough race to read given the changing conditions.

    “It was an interesting race. Obviously we would have been much happier if we had finished where we started, but the other two drivers did a fantastic job,” he said.

    “I tried my hardest to catch them. It was just a very eventful race, really. Trying to find the right time to change from the extreme tyres to mediums. We were probably a bit late with that, and then to slicks.

    “Making the call is down to whether you take the risk or not, and the others went a little bit earlier. We lost a bit of times in our pitstops, so I lost a bit of time there. Trying to close a 12-second gap was pretty tough.”

    The British driver is now second in the championship, five points behind Alonso.

  4. After finishing the race in fifth, Kimi Raikkonen is eager to compete in a normal race following this wet/dry Malaysian Grand Prix. has the story.

    Kimi Raikkonen says he is eager to have a ‘normal’ grand prix weekend to figure out where Lotus stands, after adding a fifth place at Sepang to his seventh-place finish in Melbourne.

    The Formula 1 returnee started 17th in Australia after a mistake and a timing misjudgement, then had to take a gearbox change grid penalty at Sepang which put him 10th on the grid, before recovering for a top five finish in the wet/dry race.

    “Hopefully we can get a normal race next time,” said Raikkonen. “All the time there is something going wrong or the weather changes a lot.

    “It would be nice to just have a normal weekend and just see where we are. Right now, nobody really knows where anybody is. But we seem to have a pretty strong package everywhere.”

    Raikkonen felt he could have done better in Malaysia if he had managed more wet running in winter testing.

    “I didn’t have any experience on the inter tyres or the wet tyres,” he said. “We’d only done one installation lap and it was a bit of an odd feeling to go directly into the race with tyres we hadn’t run.

    “I just tried to stay with the others and stay on the circuit, and then pushed harder and harder. It took a few laps for me to pick up speed when I changed to dries, but after that it was OK.”

  5. This was a disastrous race for Jenson Button. The McLaren driver takes blame for the crash with Narain Karthikeyan in the Malaysian Grand Prix. has the details.

    Jenson Button accepted complete blame for the collision with Narain Karthikeyan that cost him a shot at Malaysian Grand Prix victory.

    The Melbourne winner looked set to emerge in the race lead, ahead of Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, after timing his change to intermediate tyres perfectly at the restart following the red flag.

    But while trying to fight back through the cars that had not pitted yet, Button slid into Karthikeyan’s HRT and damaged his McLaren’s front wing, forcing an extra pitstop.

    “I was struggling to keep the tyres up temperature and it was totally my fault,” Button admitted.

    “I hit the brakes, I lost the rear. I was struggling to get the car slowed down. I tried to get around the corner but I couldn’t do anything but hit him really.”

    Although Button was the fastest man on the track by some distance for a while later in the race, an additional pitstop as he struggled with his tyres helped consign him to 14th place at the flag.

    “A tough, tough afternoon, and then it just spiralled out of control,” he said. “Everything that could go wrong, did. All I could do was laugh really. It was so bad today. Sorry for the guys, who obviously expected a lot more today. I couldn’t deliver today.

    “But, chin up. I won’t be looking at any of the footage from this race. I’ll be moving forward and looking forward to China, because I really think it was one of those [bad] races that sometimes happen. We’ll put that behind us and move on in China.”

  6. As for Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver has said that the stint on the intermediate tyres cost him during the Malaysian Grand Prix. has the story.

    Mark Webber admitted that he took too long to get up to speed on intermediate tyres after only finishing fourth in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    Red Bull was unable to fight for victory at Sepang, with Webber only moving up to fourth when his team-mate Sebastian Vettel relinquished the position late on having sustained a puncture in contact with Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT.

    Webber said he did not think that the result meant Red Bull was fundamentally off the pace, more that its set-up had not been quite right to instil confidence in the drivers on the slippery track.

    “I think when it’s mixed like that, on intermediates especially, it’s down to how you have the balance, how the pressures are, the feeling and the confidence of the driver in those conditions,” he said.

    “I felt more confident before the red flag, and then after, on the restart, we went to the inters pretty quickly. Everyone decided to do that and it was the right thing to do.

    “But it took me too long to get comfortable with the car on the intermediates, and that a very, very long stint – it was not very Formula 1 driving around with that little grip.

    “But all of us had to get on with it, and when the track started to get dry, I felt much happier and we were going along alright.”

    After dominating the 2011 season, Red Bull has yet to win in 2012, but Webber insisted there was no hint of crisis – and felt the Sepang result was decided more by tyre tactics and wet race incidents than actual car performance.

    “Still plenty of positives for us out of this weekend,” he said. “We would’ve liked a slightly better result, but there were some inspired calls, we saw that with some strategy up the front, and hats off to those guys.

    “When you’re in a position to roll the dice a little bit, you might get a double six, and those guys did today.”

  7. Jean-Eric Vergne praised the improvements made by Toro Rosso during the early part of the season after scoring his first Formula 1 World Championship points by finishing eighth at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    After starting 18th, Vergne made a strong start and found himself seventh when the race was stopped early on after electing to eschew a stop to change from intermediate tyres to full wets when the rain was at its heaviest.

    With race control mandating that all cars used wets upon the restart for safety reasons, the Frenchman did not lose any further time making an extra stop compared to the drivers he was racing.

    “To go from 18th on the grid to eighth and in the points at the end is great,” the former British F3 champion said. “I stayed out for a long time on the intermediates after the start and then the red flag came along to help me so I was able to switch to extreme wets on the grid. If I’d had to resume behind the safety car on the intermediates it would have been very hard to stay on track!”

    Vergne did switch back to intermediates and eventually to slicks as track conditions improved, but abandoned his chase of seventh-placed Paul di Resta with 10 laps to go in order to focus on maintaining his position.

    “As soon as the track was dry enough I came in again for intermediates, but I lost a bit of time before I made the switch to slicks. After that I was catching di Resta, but with the backmarkers in between us I could not get close enough to pass, so I just managed the situation, concentrating on bringing the car home,” he added.

    “I am happy to settle for this eighth place and I plan to keep improving step-by-step. After these two opening races, the overall performance has been quite good and I feel we can make progress in China starting from this good base line.”


  8. HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan has apologised to both Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel for causing accidents in the Malaysian Grand Prix. has the story.

    Narain Karthikeyan has apologised to Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel for getting involved in incidents with them during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    The HRT driver tangled with Button at Turn 9 shortly after the race restart as they battled for position, and then later on tagged Vettel’s left rear as he was being lapped in the closing stages.

    Although he said he was not to blame for either collision – and Button later took responsibility for his incident – Karthikeyan has expressed regret at what happened.

    “The first stage of the race was brilliant,” Karthikeyan told AUTOSPORT. “It was a new place for us, and we had never experienced anything like this. Obviously when the race restarted we knew we were going to go backwards, because the car is not so good anyway.

    “Then I was turning in, there was a bang and I am sorry for Jenson. I didn’t think he would pass there, because you really don’t want to get in their way, and if I had seen him coming I would have moved over. But I didn’t in the chaos, and I kept continuing.

    “Then there was the incident with Vettel. I was letting everyone through on blue flags because I was being told on the radio. I got on the white line, which was still damp, and I was on slicks obviously so I had a lot of wheelspin. I then had to come back on the track from the kerb, and he was there unfortunately and I could not do anything.”

    Karthikeyan said he spoke to both men to say sorry after the race and, although aware of how costly the tangles could be, he believes backmarkers are sometimes not given enough respect.

    “Some of these guys when they lap you, they take the Mickey out of you,” he said. “They come and try to push you out of the way to get back on the racing line.

    “For me, the conditions were bad, the kerbs were wet and unfortunately this guy was there, so I could not help much.”

    The Indian was penalised with a post-race drive-through penalty for his collision with Vettel, dropping him behind team-mate Pedro de la Rosa in 22nd place.

    “It’s harsh,” he said of the penalty. “The kerb was wet. I had wheelspin so I had to move right.”

  9. Felipe Massa said that he does not feel under any more pressure at Ferrari as a result of Sergio Perez’s second-placed finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    Sauber driver Perez, who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, put race-long pressure on the Italian squad’s lead driver Fernando Alonso and eventually finished 2.3 seconds behind to claim the first podium finish of his Formula 1 career.

    The Mexican finished over 1.5 minutes ahead of the Brazilian.

    Massa, whose Ferrari deal expires at the end of the year, has not taken a podium finish for 23 races while in the same period Alonso has made the top three on 12 occasions and won twice.

    But the Brazilian said after the Malaysian race – in which he finished only 15th – that Perez’s performance did not change his situation within Ferrari.

    “I’m happy for him and for his team, but [how] disturbing [is it for me]? Zero. I’m looking more for myself, my driving, my work,” Massa said.

    “I’m never looking for the others and whether them doing well is a problem for me or the opposite. I’m not like that. I’m happy for him because he did a great job.”

    When asked by AUTOSPORT if Massa felt his performances over the past 12 months had been of the level expected by a Ferrari driver, he replied: “We need to fight the problems and everything that happens and improve the situation. That is the work we need to do and it’s what I’m going to do.”

    Team boss Stefano Domenicali rubbished suggestions that Massa could be replaced as early as the next race in China.

    “Not true, not true. Let’s enjoy this moment,” he said.


  10. During the closing moments of the Malaysian Grand Prix with Sergio Perez edging closer to race leader Fernando Alonso, a radio message was broadcast to the Mexican not to attack the Ferrari. The Sauber team denies suggestions that Perez was ordered to not to attack. has the story.

    Peter Sauber has denied any suggestions that Sergio Perez was ordered to not attack Fernando Alonso for victory in Malaysia – because it would prevented engine partner Ferrari taking an important win.

    Perez was closing in on Alonso for the lead of the race in Sepang when a call came on the radio late on for him to take care.

    His engineer told him: “Checo, be careful, we need this position, we need this position”

    Shortly after that order was made, Perez ran off the track and lost valuable time – which cost him any chance of overhauling Alonso for a shock win.

    That radio message prompted wild conspiracy theories that Ferrari may have requested Perez to back off to protect Alonso’s chances – but Sauber has rubbished such talk.

    “We told him, be careful – we need the result – because behind us, all of our competitors scored points,” Sauber said when asked by AUTOSPORT about the situation.

    “[It was because] we needed the result, not the position, so there is some misunderstanding. Behind us our competitors, all the midfield teams, scored points and it was so important that we kept the result not the position.”

    When asked if there had been any discussion with Ferrari about the situation, Sauber said: “One hundred per cent nothing. We had no discussion about Checo and we had no discussion about the position.”

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