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Formula 1 2012: Sauber, Perez surge in Malaysia

Fernado Alonso and Ferrari won the race, with Alonso taking over the championship points lead in the process. But as improbable as this might have seemed prior to the start of the season, the ascension of Sauber, with Sergio Perez having finished second and both he and Kamui Kobayashi in the Top 10 after two events, is no less so.

Perez started ninth in the Sauber C31-Ferrari, and was one of two drivers who changed tires from intermediate to rains after Lap 1. When the rain became too heavy and the race was interrupted for 51 minutes after nine laps, Perez stood third on the grid for the restart. He managed the remainder of the race with a very strong drive (changing to the hard-compound dry tires after  41 lap) chased winner Alonso to within 0.5 sec of the lead, and crossed the line in P2

Sauber used a different strategy for Kobayashi, in order to maximize its chances. Kobayashii made an excellent start and then had to deal longer with the increasing rain on intermediate tires. Before his late stop for rain tires he was running ninth, but for the restart he was only 16th. Later he retired after 47 laps because of brake problems.

“It is a great day for me,“ said Perez post-race of his first podium. “The team did a very good job and I feel very happy for them. It is a really nice feeling to have been on the podium here, but I think victory was also within reach. Twice in the race I was catching Fernando. On the final stint, when I was on the hard tire compound, my tires had degraded quite a lot. It wasn’t easy and I went wide and touched a curb. I actually was lucky not to go off. Before that Fernando had just pitted on the perfect lap for dry tyres, just one lap before me, and I lost a bit of ground to him.“ The contact with the curb occurred when Perez had narrowed the lead to 0.5 sec, and allowed Alonso to reestablish a cushion he didn’t surrender again.

“It is great for our team to have scored so well today,“ Kobayashi said, “but for me personally, of course, it was a very disappointing race. Technically I struggled with the brakes and that was then also why I had to give up after 47 laps. Besides that for me the strategy didn’t work out, which, of course, is always easy to realise in hindsight.“

Team Prinicipal Peter Sauber was suitably chuffed: “What a great result! Sergio drove an outstanding race and rose above our expectations. What surprised me most was the fact that he was very competitive in all conditions and with all tires. Whether they were wet, intermediate or dry tires he was always one of the fastest drivers on track if not the fastest. This obviously also shows the huge potential of the car. And I want to pay a big compliment to Giampaolo Dall’Ara and his team for doing a great job with the strategy. Thanks also to everybody in the factory in Hinwil. I’m sorry for Kamui who had to stop due to a technical problem. Nevertheless it was a great and important day for the team.”
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