Malaysian GP – The Race

Strong black coffee. Check.
Illegible scrawled notes. Check.
Right then. Here we go.
The first thing to say about the 2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix is that it was a very long race. Two hours and forty eight minutes to be precise. My second race blog ever and it was one of ‘those’ lunatic Spa type races featuring a huge round of pit stops in the first few laps, torrential rain, a Safety Car, thunder and lightning strikes, black-out in the commentary box, race red-flagged and that was all by lap 9.
The husband chirruped away (with more than a hint of glee) about how I’d have fun blogging this race. I must admit I was getting ever so slightly nervous that we would have another 2011 Canadian GP on our hands until we were told there was a New Rule this year that a race has a maximum time-limit of 4 hours. Given the Canadian GP was only 4 hours and 4 minutes long (and that was the longest race for several hundred years), did we really need a New Rule? Maybe some of the dignitaries went and complained to Bernie in Montreal that the race was too long. Was Lenny Kravitz there do we know?
Anyway back to the build-up when all that pesky rain was merely a distant black cloud in the sky. To get us started, Sky did a slightly odd sepia intro with the faces of drivers projected onto down-town derelict looking Kuala Lumpur buildings. As adverts go for Malaysia, it wasn’t really Sky’s finest hour. In the interests of research (and being notoriously terrible at geography), I googled Sepang. Until 2000, the Sepang district was just a flat stretch of palm oil plantations and apparently the best eating options are at the airport. I think that says everything. When the lottery millions come rolling in, I might give Sepang a miss.
Sunglasses Watch: Button still sporting his Oliver Peoples Sheldrakes and Schuey was rocking the ‘Top Gun’ look in his Ray Ban Aviators. I think the 1980s rule supreme in the Schumacher Mansion.
Rather alarmingly, I have written on my scribbled notes ‘build-up too long’. This is on line 4 of my notes. One of the problems with Sky is that they literally bludgeon you to death with stats and analysis and that frigging sky-pad for 90 minutes and by the start you’re almost a gibbering wreck praying for the red lights to go off.
Oooooh Nerd Alert. Just had a small segment showing the iconic 1979 title-winning Ferrari 312T4 (and Jody Scheckter). Its so ugly that in fact its stunningly beautiful. Apparently Martin Brundle agrees too and has a model of this car in his study. Martin Brundle has a study?! I sort of pictured him as a man who creosotes his fence and mows the lawn on a non-race weekend. A gross underestimation it would appear.
Next up was an interview with Ross Brawn and the Mercedes drivers by Georgie Thompson. Expect withering looks and quizzical eyebrows aplenty! According to Schuey, Mercedes were ‘nowhere’ last season. Get used to it, Michael. At the end of that interview, the husband (inexplicably) said “putting your eggs into one basket will only work if the basket comes off”. And he wonders sometimes why I don’t respond.
First shot of the Weather Monitor of Doom. It says there is a large rain shower at 10km north-east, moving towards the circuit. Its like that scene from the Wizard of Oz when the tornado is coming and Dorothy is trying to get home in time. Ok my mind is prone to tangents. Keep an eye on this weather folks. It changes EVERYTHING.
Apparently it was very hot in Sepang. Just in case we (as idiot viewers) could not imagine what it felt like being hot, Sky Towers felt it incumbent upon themselves to explain the effects of heat. This involved some footage of Natalie Pinkham in tight black lycra (in full make-up) jogging along telling us how she felt like she was wrapped in clingfilm. Thanks, Natalie. Honestly who comes up with these ideas – have they employed Gareth from The Office?!
Some more fast-forwarding and it was time for Martin’s Gridwalk. Today’s Random Celebrity at a Race was Owen Wilson. I bet Martin has never seen an Owen Wilson film but manfully he tried to ‘have a quick word’. And indeed it was a very quick word. It is safe to say that Owen practically snubbed Our Martin. Bring back Lenny Kravitz with his loquacious and charming ways. Who is Owen Wilson anyway? Luckily, as always, Christian Horner was on hand (ie. actually waiting for Martin to turn around) for a quick interview. Bless.
I caught sight of Jake Humphrey strolling up the pit-lane followed by a phalanx of cameras. Would he make eye contact with Martin? Would they blank each other? Its like Angelina and Jennifer all over again. Anyway Jake was in Focused Professional Mode and strode past quickly (hopefully he hadn’t spotted Owen Wilson and decided to sprint up and have a ‘quick word’!).
Schuey’s car was the last to make its way onto the track. Random Mercedes bod that Brundle pounced on wasn’t aware of the reason for the delay but didn’t think there was a problem. That meant there was a problem. OH NO. It was already raining but the drivers were only on intermediate tyres. It was going to be carnage. Hurrah.
Time. For. The. Start (just another two hours and forty eight minutes to go, folks!).
Both McLarens got away cleanly and this time Hamilton didn’t surrender his lead. Schumacher’s Mercedes just appeared to go backwards at the start and at turn 4 he spun massively after contact with Grosjean meaning by lap 2 he was in 16thplace. This was not in the Schumacher Rainmeister script and 4 year old was once again absolutely distraught. He had even prayed to God for rain to help Schumacher and you know what, God had listened.
As the heavens opened, the cars all became very twitchy and the drivers started to flood into the pits to change onto wet tyres. First into the pits for wets on lap 2 was Sergio Perez. Remember that. As the camera panned to Grosjean’s car sitting in some gravel (again), Hamilton radioed in to say he was aquaplaning. Never words any F1 driver wants to utter in the middle of a race. Off into the pits then for Lewis while Jenson reported that the last sector was like a lake. Spare a thought for HRT, they finally qualify for a race and have to cope with flash-flood conditions and lightning strikes on the circuit. Suddenly the TV lost all picture before coverage resumed with a nervous sounding Croft telling us the lights just went out in the commentary box. Grow a pair, man, think what it was like for Karthikeyan dicing death in an HRT.
The Safety Car was rapidly deployed (bet the safety car driver was overjoyed to get that message) and this gave me a chance to work out who was where. The top 3 were Lewis, Jenson and Perez. In 10th place, it was none other than an HRT (did anyone see Schumacher actually get into a Mercedes, he didn’t just decide to drive the HRT for a laugh did he?!). Possibly even more stunning was that Vergne was in 7th place still on intermediates. WTF? Seriously impressive.
Lap 9 – RACE RED-FLAGGED. I scooted off to make a vat of coffee as I had one hour’s less sleep than normal due to the start of BST and the swines inconsiderately put a Grand Prix on early.
Well how about that, some of the teams brought gazebos with them to keep the cars and drivers nice and dry. McLaren definitely won the award for best gazebo. I like to think Martin Whitmarsh popped into John Lewis and got one just in case. Did Karthikeyan have a gazebo? I was worried for him. We got a moody shot of Adrian Newey looking like a cross between that sinister monk from the Da Vinci Code and the husband on a holiday in Cornwall. The commentators were very downbeat about the fact there had been no rain all week and now they’ve had the storm to end all storms. Welcome to my world, dudes, of endless holidays where we arrive in blazing sunshine the day before a cold front moves in. Life can be cruel.
We then got a lot of ‘filler’. Mildly (ie. not really) interesting shots of Vettel and Alonso having a big chat. Other best buds are seemingly Massa and Schumacher. Reminiscing about those good ol’ Ferrari years. Hang on, Massa is still at Ferrari. Well kind of. The poor old commentators at Sky Towers were really struggling. I bet it was so much easier at the Beeb where they could simply hand the mike over to Eddie Jordan and leave him to drone on ad infinitum about Jordan’s 1-2 at Spa in 1998 (in torrential rain). Is it time yet to mention Spa 1998 was the subject of the husband’s first ever chat up line to me. He was a smooth operator.
After an eternity, we were told the race would resume behind the safety car on wets. On lap 14, the safety car buggered off and all the drivers started coming to the pits. Hamilton had a terrible pit-stop and ended up coming out behind Alonso. Turning-point alert! Further disaster for McLaren as Jenson Button clattered into the back of Karthikeyan and broke his front wing. Perez did his stop and was still leading the race. At some point Alonso overtook Perez. Did we see this? Who knows. Anyway the race order at lap 20 was Alonso, Perez and Hamilton – and Hamilton was spectacularly failing to close on Perez.
According to the Weather Monitor of Doom, there was more rain coming. Oh FFS enough already. Button came in again for more intermediates and ended up battling with Massa for 16th place. Oh the ignominy. In the meantime, Perez was rapidly gobbling up Alonso.
On my increasingly incomprehensible notes, I appear to have written ‘Massa in guinea-pig sticks’. Oh yes, Massa pitted for slicks (in my opinion) to test them out for Alonso who was coming under incredible pressure from Perez. Hamilton had another rubbish pit-stop. Hope the therapist was on hand post-race. Poor Lewis.
Meanwhile, Perez was hunting down that Ferrari like a man possessed. Pulling out fastest laps one after another. What a stunning drive by the young man from Guadalajara.
Ten laps to go and Vettel suddenly got a puncture. There were bits of rubber disintegrating everywhere. It would appear that Vettel hit the back of Karthikeyan’s HRT. Poor Narain – he must feel like he has a death-wish. First a torrential rainstorm then F1 world champions kept crashing into him. Anyway, Vettel did a lot of fist-shaking. Kevin the Teenager was in the house.
Nearly there! With 6 laps to go, Perez was now RIGHT BEHIND Alonso, then suddenly he got a team radio message saying ‘be careful, we need this position’. Er why wait until he practically catches Alonso before calling him back? I’m not saying this is a coded message but Sauber has a Ferrari engine. Just saying. Anyway Perez (in his car with a Ferrari engine) then made a mistake so it was all academic.
Just as I turned to the husband and said I thought Williams might win a race this year, plumes of smoke shot out of Maldonaldo’s car on the penultimate lap. I am truly the kiss of death. There was also some final drama with Vettel’s car when he was told to stop the car, then carry on and then we heard ‘its an emergency, stop the car’. How mystifying.
Anyhoo, here are the results from the Malaysian Grand Prix 2012:
  1. Alonso (qualified 9th and won the race – superb drive and it definitely made no difference at all that the 2ndplace driver also had a Ferrari Engine and is a member of Ferrari’s young driver academy).
  2. Perez (a truly brilliant, brilliant drive and duh Brundle/Croft, of course he is the driver of the day).
  3. Hamilton (two poles, no wins – this could spook a more fragile character).
  4. Webber (another 4th place – yawn).
  5. Raikkonen (fully deserved alone for sending ice-creams to all the media – a loon but at least he’s a loon not a boring automaton of a driver).
  6. Senna (a fine drive).

Two weeks rest before China and another crack-of-dawn start. See you there!
In the meantime, please do leave comments. I’d love to hear from you!
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