After a calamitous opening round to the Formula 1 season in Melbourne Australia, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the boys from Maranello vowed to bounce back and prove themselves once more in the stifling humidity of Sepang Malaysia.
Going into the race weekend, both Ferrari boys (ickle Felipe and the Kimbot) demonstrated a strong pace in free practice, but it remained to be seen if that dominance would translate into qualifying and race pace.
Would the F2008 manage to go one weekend without having a temperamental technical hissy fit? And would Ferrari’s driving duo manage to break the habit of spinning around like a bunch of ballerina’s after too many M&M’s?
Very soon it became evident that the shambolic shenanigans of Oz were an uncharacteristic one-off for Ferrari, with Felipe and Kimi trading fastest sector for fastest sector in qualifying to ensure a front row lock-out for the Maranello outfit for Sunday ahead of their main archrivals McLaren.
However, a slight mishap at the end of the qualifying session robbed the viewing public of a straight shoot out between the rival teams off of the starting grid.
It was judged that the McLaren duo whilst coasting around in fuel saving snail mode and admiring the scenery (not to mention themselves), had impeded the fastest flying lap of BMW-Sauber’s Quick Nick and Renault’s Fernando ‘I’m an FIA frequenter’ Alonso.
As per the FIA rulebook if you get caught impeding another drivers qualifying lap, then it’s a slap on the hand and back five spaces on the snakes and ladders board. And so it proved, within hours of the qualifying session the race stewards had demoted the unhappy pair back to 8th and 9th on the start grid, further compounding McLaren’s misery for the weekend. However much to the delight of some sections of the tifosi.
As Sunday dawned, even the inclement weather that had been predicted seemed to behave itself (much to ickle Felipe’s relief) leaving us with the exciting prospect of an entertaining dry race and hopefully a 1-2 finish for the Maranello Squad. But if the opening round of the season was anything to go by, then it doesn’t do to start counting your chickens too early or remaining drivers for that matter.
As the five red lights went out signalling the start of the afternoon’s proceedings, both of Ferrari’s driving duo got off to a decent start battling it out for supremacy in the first corner.
The Kimster briefly snatched the lead off his team-mate, only for the feisty little Brazilian to take no cheek off the Finn (WDC or not) and snatch the lead back from him just seconds later.
Meanwhile 3rd placed man Quick Nick Heidfeld had a disastrous start off the grid, losing several places from the get go to watch team mate Kubica, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovaleinen, David Coulthard and Fernando Alonso all go sailing past him serenely on the first lap. Undoing all the work he had put in with the race stewards the previous evening.
Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais meanwhile appeared to have boiled his brain in the stifling Sepang heat, forgot what he was supposed to be doing and subsequently spun his car straight into the gravel trap. Race over before it’s even begun then.
Lucky Lewis got off to a great straight making up 4 places right from the start line, only to find himself stuck behind the Red Bull of Antipodean Mark Whingebag Webber, which was going to happen quite a lot throughout the afternoon if he didn’t know it yet.
Meanwhile further down the grid Williams’ ‘Captain’ Nico Rosberg and Toyota’s Timo Glock entangled, leaving the Williams star with no front wing (it’s in the gravel trap Nico!) and both drivers had to recover to the pits to repair the resulting damage.
Unfortunately Timo had to retire, and Nico was left to rejoin the racetrack albeit trailing around in last place behind Super Aguri’s Ant Davidson. We do hope Nico does haven’t this kind of incident whilst flying that airbus!
Just a few laps into the race and Formula 1’s elder statesman (or old fart whichever you prefer) David Coulthard was being harried by Renault’s Fernando Alonso and BMW-Sauber’s Wookie Quick Nick. Before the Scot knew what was happening he was suddenly the Haggis in the middle of a Heidfeld/Alonso sandwich on the straight, with Quick Nick stealing the place off him, shortly followed by Fandango.
In fifth place meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was being harangued and harassed by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, the Brit appearing to struggle with pace despite having superior machinery and having to fight off the charge of the Trulli-train (who for once was actually having a good race and not falling asleep in the cockpit).
By lap 16 both of the Ferrari’s were scuttling nicely away at the front and had come up to lap backmarker Nico Rosberg.
On the following lap ickle Felipe who was leading the race up until this point shot into the pitlane for his first of two proposed pitstops. This released the Kimbot on track, to put in some storming sector times while his team-mate was admiring how handsome his pitcrew looked in their little red overalls. Well they do!
A lap later the Kim-bot shot down the pitlane for his first scheduled pitstop, and out again like a rocket rejoining the track in second place ahead of Brazilian poppet ickle Felipe much to his chagrin. Leaving the popular Polish BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica to lead the race from the front.
Two laps later the first McLaren driver was called in for their first scheduled pitstop, on this occasion it was Lewis. Unfortunately just to compound the already torrid weekend the McLaren team were having, the right front wheelnut refused to budge, and the Englishman lost in the region of 15 seconds track time while his pitcrew maniacally fumbled the old tyre off and the new front right into place.
In the intervening time, we are to understand that Lewis quite fancied a beer, something which the media later seized upon.
Subsequently the British Media lamented the fact that their poor pin-up had to make do with driving without any drinking water (did he spill it into the footwell and all over his smelly socks – we want to know).
Not the least bit known for their sensationalist headlines…by Monday Lewis had not only been subjected to thirst and dehydration but also water torture, rickets, beri-beri, ebola and god knows what other afflictions and still survived. What a man.
We can’t help but wonder if next week we will be duly informed by said same Media that Lewis is responsible for the resolution of global conflicts and world poverty in his spare time, and thus would explain why he can’t find the time to join the GPDA (grand prix driver’s association).
The Spanish media obviously taking a completely different meaning altogether from Lewis’s beverage related comments, by suggesting his comment about fancying a beer to actually be a sarcastic comment relating to how rubbish his pitcrew are or something similar.
Unless there is some unhitherto reported secret pitlane language we don’t know about, we can only scratch our heads in confusion about how Spanish Motorsports publication Marca could put two and two together and come up with 29. It’s not like they have a reputation for this sort of thing, is it?
A lap later BMW-Sauber’s race leader Robert Kubica came in for his first pitstop, releasing the Kimbot into the race lead for the first time that afternoon.
Meanwhile Jarno Trulli having somewhat of a storming afternoon for a change, was now out on track harassing the other McLaren driver Heikki Kovaleinen, had Toyota put some class B medication into his drinking water or a rocket under him?
Back on track after his pitstop pandemonium, Lewis was once again behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber and losing time as a result, the Brit struggling in vain to get past the Red Bull but was unable to do so. Diddums.
Shortly after the first round of pitstops had been completed, Ferrari’s ickle Felipe was trailing team-mate the Kimbot by something like 4 seconds. At this point in proceedings the little Brazilian clipped a kerb in turn 7 and as a result spun the car in turn 8 bedding his F2008 straight into the gravel trap, from whence he could not recover to the track.
Unfortunately since crane assistance is now outlawed by the FIA, the little poppet’s race was over and he had to scamper back to the Ferrari garage hanging his head in shame.
This second disastrous weekend in a row for the Brazilian star has sparked a whole siege of rumours about his imminent exit from the Maranello Squad, with just about everyone in the paddock apart from Max Mosley being touted as a replacement.
Later Fernando Alonso who isn’t exactly making a secret of his displeasure at not driving at the sharp end of the grid this season in his Renoo, commenting it is natural that speculation is touting him as a replacement for Felipe at Ferrari (he wishes). This is despite the fact Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Vettel is also rumoured to be heading for the second seat. It could be a tight squeeze.
Of course this is all news to Ferrari, who are standing by their man and saying there is no need to panic and we will undoubtedly see the troubled Brazilian return to form in Bahrain (or otherwise he will be taken out back tied to a lamppost, force fed the Kimbot’s rocket fuel against his will and given forty lashes with Luca di Montezemolo’s tongue).
Meanwhile before I go off topic completely, back on track at this point Ferrari’s flying Finn the Kimster was already somewhere in the region of 22 seconds ahead of next placed man Robert Kubica.
Unconfirmed rumours suggesting that the Kimster wasn’t even going as fast as he could have, and by this point had taken to playing Sudoku on his Nintendo DS in the cockpit to keep himself awake.
Poor Felipe tramped back to the paddock on foot only to be met by a horde of waiting hacks demanding to know what had happened, the forlorn little mite admitted to nothing, despite Ferrari suggesting they could see nothing on their telemetry to indicate any technical reason for the Brazilian stars impromptu spin.
Meanwhile now on Lap 37 the Kimbot was back in the pitlane for his second and final pitstop for the afternoon, gifting the lead of the race once more to Polish poppet Robert Kubica.
Just two laps after the Kimbot’s pitstop, the Ferrari engine in the back of Sebastien Vettel’s Torro Rosso blew, which must have been cause for concern for the Maranello outfit given the turn of event a week previously where both F2008’s had suffered a case of the engine gremlins.
We can only presume at this point the Ferrari pitwall were nervously crossing every available appendage, chewing off their fingernails and clock watching like no tomorrrow.
On lap 41, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso both came into the pitlane for their final stops of the afternoon, allowing Lewis Hamilton to be promoted to fourth in proceedings.
However, this advantage lasted just three laps, as Hamilton once more came into the pitlane for a beer and change of black round things. This time fortunately the pitcrew managed to perform their tasks without any pesky wheelnuts misbehaving allowing the Brit to get back on track and keep position over BMW-Sauber’s bearded wonder Quick Nick, but unfortunately not in front of the Trulli-train.
The following lap McLaren’s other driver Happy Heikki pitted, rejoining the race track in third place albeit six centuries behind fellow Finn Kimbot Raikkonen who was still leisurely dawdling around out front in a league all of his own, having to be occasionally prodded back into consciousness by his race engineer Chris Dyer.
Despite putting in some strong lap times after his final pitstop, and catching up with the Italian, Hamilton was unable to make up enough time to overhaul Toyota’s Jarno Trulli leaving the Brit to take fifth place in the race adding just a handful of points to his WDC tally.
Much to the delight of the tifosi, Kimi brought home the win for Ferrari with a superlative dominant performance ahead of BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica in second, and McLaren’s Happy Heikki in third.
While Ferrari were understandably chuffed to have a win under their belts following on from the previous week’s debacle, they were left rueing the fact it could have been 18 points and not 10 they could have taken away from the Malaysian GP.
Onto Bahrain then, where we hope Felipe can finally get it together and secure a win, and where we hope Ferrari have finally ironed out all their confusion over engines, ECU’s and everything else.
Slightly worrying for the Maranello squad though was an incident that occurred after the checkered flag, while the Kimbot was celebrating his win on the podium.
How many times have we ever witnessed the Kimbot miss his mouth when it comes to alcohol only to get it into his eye socket instead? I know worrying times indeed for Ferrari’s Electronics division, we can only hope they get this unfortunate malfunction ironed out pronto.
However, if they find themselves in dire need of some advice in this area, they need only look to McLaren. McLaren’s CEO and Team Principal Ron Dennis today confirming what we had suspected all along….that the Woking based team are a dab hand at taking their drivers apart and putting them back together.
According to Ron, this is exactly what they have done over the winter to new signing Happy Heikki, who if reports are to be believed (huge vat of sodium chloride at the ready) had arrived into the team from Renault almost a broken man after a difficult year in 2007.
We cant help but feel if their work on Fernando Alonso is anything to go by (yes that’s the one who is stuck in permanent team switching mode) then we had better keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the season for any emerging serious defects.