|Kimi Raikkonen waves to crowd|
On a sweltering hot day in Sepang, Malaysia, defending World Champion Kimi Raikkonen froze the field in his tracks by winning the Malaysian GP by over twenty seconds. For the Finnish Ferrari driver it was the first victory of the season and makes up for the disastrous race the team had in Melbourne. BMW driver Robert Kubica was second, who in turn was almost twenty seconds ahead of third place Heikki Kovalainen.
With the threat of rain and track temperature registering a blistering 44 degrees C, mechanics cleared the grid and the formation lap got underway with the two Ferraris leading the way.
Massa leads them back to the grid, the lights went out and Massa led into the first turn ahead of Raikkonen, while Trulli dropped back and Kubica slotted into third. Hamilton stormed through the field and was up to fifth by the end of the first sector, six tenths behind Webberâ€™s Red Bull. Sebastien Bourdais went off into the gravel, ending his second race before it even got a chance to start. The Frenchman, who scored two points on his F1 debut in Melbourne, put the mistake down to inexperience.
â€śI just got on the outside in turn six and as soon as I turned in the rear stepped out on me and I just lost the car,â€ť he explained to ITV Sportâ€™s Louise Goodman.
â€śI wasnâ€™t quite expecting that but I guess itâ€™s part of the learning process.â€ť
The two Ferraris were lapping half a second faster than the rest of the field and by lap fifteen the Ferraris lapped the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber.
Then Felipe Massa pitted handing the lead over to Kimi Raikkonen and the Finn was on a charge to take the top spot before he too comes in, handing the lead to Robert Kubica with Lewis Hamilton second.
Raikkonen took track position from his teammate after a short fuel stop. Lap nineteen and Hamilton was in but he had a very slow stop as there was a problem on the front right. He emerged in eleventh place behind Mark Webber once again. Teammate Heikki Kovalainen was in and he had a clean stop.
When all the stops cycled through it was Raikkonen on top and pulling away. Raikkonen led Massa, Kubica, Kovalainen, Trulli, Webber, Hamilton and Heidfeld.
Meanwhile Massa left Malaysia with no world championship points after dramatically spinning off just after half-distance (lap 31).
He was trailing Raikkonen by about five seconds when he lost control of his F2008 in the middle of the double right-hander of turns seven and eight.
Massa was mystified as to what caused the spin.
â€śI donâ€™t know what happened, I just lost the car completely,â€ť he told ITV Sportâ€™s F1 pit lane reporter Louise Goodman.
â€śThere was strange behavior on the rear, so I donâ€™t know [what caused it].â€ť
By lap 35, Raikkonen led Kubica by 23 seconds, followed 18.5 seconds back by Kovalainen in third, Trulli on his tail in fourth, followed another 11 seconds back by Webber, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Alonso, Coulthard and Button in 10th place.
On lap 38, leader Raikkonen was the first of the front-runners to pit (took short fill on first stop to take the lead), with Kubica taking over the lead. Webber pitted from 5th on lap 39, followed by Trulli on the next lap
On lap 39 Sebastian Vettel, rumored to be replacing Massa at Ferrari at some point, retired with a smoking Ferrari engine.
At lap 46, Raikkonen led Kubica by 20 seconds, followed 20 seconds further back by Kovalainen in third, Trulli, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Webber, Alonso, Coulthard and Button in 10th.
|Robert Kubica, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen|
Kimi Raikkonen went on to an easy win, while Hamilton failed to get past Trulli for fourth with Nick Heidfeld sixth, Webber seventh and Alonso eighth.
Hamilton still leads the drivers' championship with 14 points, while Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld both have 11. McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen is fourth with 10 points.
Team-by-team summary: Sunday, Malaysia
Dominant winner Kimi Raikkonen followed Felipe Massa until the first pit stop, when a couple of masterful laps gave him the jump on his Brazilian teammate, who then threw his car into the gravel after clipping a curb.
Robert Kubica finished a lonely, distant and competitive second, but he looked second-hand on the podium after preferring not to sip from his boiling hot drinks bottle. "I didn't feel very well all weekend so the last ten laps were pretty tough," he admitted. Nick Heidfeld lost places at the start, but his sixth place was complemented by the late-race feat of setting the fastest lap.
Another difficult day for McLaren; not only outpaced by Kubica's BMW, but fumbling a pit stop that saw Lewis Hamilton shuffled out of contention for a podium, unable to either find a way past Mark Webber for many laps, or take in any water from his broken drinks bottle. Heikki Kovalainen finished third.
Jarno Trulli completed a solid weekend with an excellent fourth place, even fending off Hamilton's late-race advances. Timo Glock was the early victim of an optimistic lunge by Nico Rosberg, retiring with broken rear suspension.
Mark Webber had a notable race, running fourth in the early stages, fending off Hamilton for many laps, and ultimately only missing sixth place because Takuma Sato held him up at a crucial point of the race. David Coulthard finished ninth after missing the drivers' parade, as he woke up feeling unwell.
Fernando Alonso scored the final point on offer, just behind Webber, and admitted that his R28 is simply not fast enough at this early stage of the season. Twenty two seconds later, Nelson Piquet finished. "There is a big gap to the front," engineering boss Pat Symonds rued frankly.
Tenth place for Jenson Button is an accurate reflection of Honda's current performance, while Rubens Barrichello struggled to keep up and worryingly finished behind a Force India, but only after a drive-through penalty for pit lane speeding.
Giancarlo Fisichella slotted into twelfth place following Barrichello's drive-through, and Adrian Sutil pulled off just a few laps into the race with failed hydraulics. "We showed that we are no longer the team bringing up the rear of the field," said owner Vijay Mallya.
Following the Melbourne podium, Williams' Malaysian nightmare got even worse on Sunday, as Rosberg crashed into Glock at the start and needed a new nose, while Kazuki Nakajima started from the back, picked up a puncture, and lost even more time when he ran off the track and was classified dead-last. "This was a race weekend to move on from," said technical director Sam Michael.
It is a mark of the struggling Japanese team's current situation that they were pleased simply to get both cars to the checkered flag at the back of the field in Malaysia.
If Super Aguri were simply pleased to finish, the same cannot even be said for Toro Rosso, as Sebastian Vettel's failing car caught fire when he pulled over to retire, and Sebastien Bourdais spun into retirement on lap one.