Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) won the season’s opening round in Australia, and starts seventh on the grid in Malaysia today for Race 2. Defending 3-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) won his second straight pole, followed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. In the run up the race both rain and rapid tire degradation featured prominently in conversation.
Most teams took to the track on intermediate tires, with rain on parts of the course and sunshine on others. Forecasts called for the rain to stop entirely by the start of the race. Alonso got Massa on Turn 1, but contact with the back of Vettel’s car put his left front wing in contact with the track. Mark Webber (Red Bull) was running in P3 at the end of Lap 1. Alonso skipped the opportunity to come into the pits, lost his front wing altogether, and retired from the race. The running order during Lap 4 was Vettel, Webber, and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
Vettel and Massa came in for their first round of pit stops during Lap 6 (of 56), with Vettel changing from intermediates to the softer of the slick compounds. Red Bull subsequently instructed Webber to stay out on his inters. When Hamilton came into the pits on Lap 8, he inadvertently pulled into the McLaren spot first before pulling two stalls forward into Mercedes. Webber stayed on inters when he eventually came in, leap-frogging Vettel for P1 in the process.
Raikkonen turned the race’s fast lap on 18, running in P9. Webber came in during Lap 20 and took the softer of the slicks, giving up the lead to Vettel in the process. Hamilton found his stall on the first shot during Lap 22. When Vettel came in one lap later, he took hards. With the second round of stops completed the running order was steady at Webber, Vettel, and Hamilton.
Webber’s third stop saw him taking on the hard tires during Lap 32. Jenson Button (McLaren) moved into the lead, followed by Webber and Hamilton. Webber retook the lead from Button on track during Lap 35. When Button pitted one lap later, he left prior to the right front being fully secured and had to be pulled back down the pit lane by hand. Button tumbled to P14, leaving the Top 3 as Webber, Hamilton, and Vettel, with one more round of stops expected. Vettel passed Hamilton on track to retake P2.
Hamilton pitted during Lap 42, his fourth, taking the medium tire. Vettel followed suit one lap later. When Webber exited the pits on Lap 44, Vettel was waiting, and the two engaged in several turns of hard racing as Webber’s tires came to temperature. Vettel was instructed to back off, but eventually took the lead anyway, with Webber falling to P2 and Hamilton P3. This running order held to the finish.
Driver standings - Top 10
40 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
31 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
26 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
25 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - Mercedes
22 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
18 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
12 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
9 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
6 – Adrian Sutil (Germany) – Force India-Mercedes
4 – Paul di Resta (Scotland) – Force India-Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
66 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
40 - Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
40 – Ferrari – Massa, Alonso
37 – Mercedes – Hamilton, Rosberg
10 – Force India-Mercedes – Sutil, di Resta
4 – Sauber-Ferrari – Nico Hulkenberg, Estaban Gutierrez
4 – McLaren-Mercedes – Jenson Button, Sergio Perez
1 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: UBS Chinese Grand Prix – Shanghai International Circuit – Apr. 12-14, 2013