A few thoughts on the Malaysian GP
Thought I would just get a few thoughts down on the Malaysian GP before the Bahrain one happens - webhost and blog software problems prevented me posting earlier.
That was a good race I thought. Both the McLarens (from 2nd and 4th on the grid) getting past the Ferraris (1st and 3rd) made for an interesting start. Alonso was off the a flyer, Schumacher style, while Hamilton lapped far more slowly with his mirrors full of red. Still he kept it together brilliantly and it was the more experiened Felipe Massa that made the error. When Massa went off I expected Raikkonen to quickly get past or at least have some serious attempts at getting ahead, but for some reason he didn't seem that bothered and sat behind Hamilton until the first pitstops.
The second stint had Hamilton faster than Alonso, making up the gap created in the first, but again the Ferrari's failed to catch up the McLarens despite their supposed speed. In the third stint, the only remaining interest came from Raikkonen's attempts to catch Hamilton for 2nd place. Hamilton had opted to take the hard compound tyre in the final stint and was suffering for pace as a result. Still, Raikkonen only caught up to him on the final lap and Hamilton was ready by the then to show the same wide car to him that he had in the first stint.
Malaysia 2007 was almost the perfect race for McLaren. Sure, they would have liked to put the cars on the front of the grid in qualifying, but somehow it makes it all the more satisfying when you were expecting a damage-limitation exercise and instead you dominate. Lets face it, McLaren weren't expected to do anything more in Malaysia than they did in Australia - they would pick up plenty of points, but the Ferrari's were going to have a significant edge. Then in qualifying the McLarens were a real match for the Ferraris. They didn't outqualify Ferrari, but they were on the same level which is still significantly better than the consensus was after Australia.
Of course you can't count on getting ahead of your competition at the start of the race. Raikkonen left the door open for Alonso at the first corner in a perfect example of what Schumacher woundn't do - head straight for the racing line. Alonso was happy enough to go down the inside and park his car on the apex. Meanwhile Hamilton judge the condition of the track to perfection. It had rained heavily overnight and the track was said to be 'green'. In that state you can expect to get the same grip level everywhere, so going around the outside in turn 1 so you have first crack at the inside line in turn 2 is far more viable than it is normally.
It was a sign of how unexpected the two McLaren drivers performances were in the first stint that boss Ron Dennis was so keen that the first pitstop be perfectly executed. Alonso had lost radio contact with the pits and had to be brought in via the medium of the pit board. Fortunately drivers still look at those things - the stop was perfect and they even got the radio working again. I'm sure the team would have done just was well without Ron's close supervision in that pitstop, but when you've got a chance at a 1-2 when you thought you'd be getting s 3-4 at best, you don't want to blow it on something silly like running out of fuel through mis-communication.
The real sign of what this race meant for Ron Dennis was at the end. First he was greeted happilly by his current drivers, then during the weighing of the drivers that goes on behind the scenes, cameras filmed him conspicuously ignoring Kimi Raikkonen while grinning happily at Alonso and Hamilton. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen any team boss that happy with the outcome of a race. It's not just getting the 1-2, it's not just that it was unexpected but fairly won, it was getting it in a race where his old driver who defected to their greatest rivals, tried his hardest and could only get 3rd - and not because the Ferrari was bad but because McLaren were better. Because the two McLaren drivers were highly motivated, didn't make any mistakes, worked as a team and were happy to celebrate together afterwards. Kimi looked pretty lonely up on the podium drinking the champagne by himself while the McLaren buddies sprayed each other. When Kimi dropped his remains of his magnum down to his mechanics, as has become the custom, they dropped it. I think that sums up Ferrari's Malaysian GP.
A few other thoughts:
I thought after qualifying that Williams had been lucky to get Nico Rosberg qualified in 6th. As it turned out he had a pretty strong race until his car broke down with the old hydraulics problems. On the one hand it's great that Williams seems to have some speed again. On the other, despite the move to Toyota engines, the car still has questionable reliability.
Despite the Renault, Honda and Toyota works cars being outplaced by their customers in qualifying, they all did better than them in the race. Renault claimed 6th and 8th whereas the best Red Bull could manage was 10th for Mark Webber, David Coulthard having retired due to his brake pedal binding on the steering column - a odd one that. Honda had a dismal race with Jensen Button and Rubens Barricello finishing 12th and 11th, but they were still ahead of both the Super Aguri's by the finish line. Toyota's Jarno Trulli managed 7th in the race and while teammate Ralf Schumacher could only finish in 15th, the best Williams could manage after Rosberg's retirement was 9th for Alex Wurz.
In conculsion, the race wasn't action packed as such, but it kept us guessing, as far as second place was concerned anyway, right up until the chequered flag, and that's better than most modern F1 races so I was happy. I actually think Sepang is one of the best modern F1 tracks and sadly I don't see the upcoming Bahrain GP being half as interesting.