Mar 25

Formula 1 2013: Malaysian GP Recap

Fernando Alonso Malaysian GP 2013

© Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.

It’s round two of the 2013 Formula 1 season and we’re already beset with controversy and Machiavellian conspiracy theories.  Hit the jump for our weekly Formula 1 recap.

Jean-Eric Vergne Malaysian GP 2013

© Red Bull Media House

The Grand Prix weekend in Malaysia began with what has become an F1 tradition, complaining about the longevity of the Pirelli tires. The loudest of these objectors was Red Bull, who were claiming that their car used tires so heavily the they would be doing at least five stops during the race.  Perhaps they doth protest to much as the winning team used a four stop strategy, conveniently splitting the difference between Pirelli’s prediction of three and the cry baby bed wetting prediction of five stops.  Personally, I think the tires add something to the race and dramatically increases the stresses on the drivers and crews, thereby creating some very exciting racing.




Ferrari Malaysian GP

© Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.

With qualifying taking place in similar conditions to last week’s race in Australia the field was expected to be mixed.  Once the dust had settled, after Q3, the usual suspects were at the top of the starting grid.  Notably, Raikonnen was give a three position penalty for impeding Rosberg, though in the video it didn’t look that bad.  Massa once again out qualified his illustrious teammate and Adrian Sutil continued to impress by putting the Force India on the fourth row in 8th place.


Giedo van der Garde Malaysian GP 2013

© Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.

Kimi Raikkonen Malaysian GP 2013

© Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. Kimi reacts to his qualifying penalty or maybe he's thinking about unicorns, who knows.

Interestingly, Caterham’s Giedo Van der Garde’s last place qualifying time of 1’39.932 would have been fast enough to put him second on the grid, during the inaugural running of the Malaysian Gran Prix in 1999.


Mixed conditions on race day put the entire field on intermediates and promised some exciting racing during the opening laps.  Excitement was had in dramatic fashion with the entire field bunched up in the first two corners resulting in contact between Alonso’s front wing and the back of Vettel’s Red Bull.  Inexplicably, Alonso didn’t dart intot he pits to replace his damage wing and it collapsed with dramatic results as he prepared to enter the first corner on the second lap.  The Ferrari tifosi were not amused.  In follow up interviews, it appears that Alonso and the team simply underestimated the amount of damage the wing had taken.  They were hoping to nurse the car for a handful of laps and let the track dry out.  It probably would have been a reasonable strategy if the wing held together, considering that Massa was able to drive his way back into 5th place finish after the carnage of the opening laps.


Of course the big news of the day were the problems, percieved or imagined, caused by the team orders from Red Bull and Mercedes.  Mark Webber was finally able to get a decent start and by lap five he was in the lead and well in control of the race.


With Red Bulls running 1 -2 It looked like a replay of nearly every race in the last couple of seasons, albeit with Webber setting the pace,  Controversy ensued on lap 46.  In an effort to manage tire degradation and ensure a 1-2 finish  the team ordered the drivers to maintain position and set a nice comfortable pace until the finish.  Vettel had other plans and he passed Webber in the DRS zone, in a somewhat aggressive manner I might add, at the start of the lap. During the podium and post race interviews A frustrated Webber let it be know that he wasn’t happy about it and it was his belief that Vettel would be protected and not be reprimanded by the team.  Immediate inerviews with Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing’s Team Prinicpal, seemed to bear this out but since the dust has settled Horner has come forward and admitted that Vettel was in the wrong.  Whether Vettel’s disregard for team orders will actually result in any type punishment remains to be seen, personally I think it’s unlikely.  It needs to be noted that team orders are currently legal in F1 so any actions are solely the responsibility of the team as neither driver did anything to  violate any FIA regulations.

Sebastian Vettel Malaysian GP 2013

© Red Bull Media House

The other, somewhat less controversial, team orders were given by the Mercedes team.  Lewis Hamilton had managed to use up his tires and was running in fuel conservation mode as his teammate Nico Rosberg rapidly closed the gap between them.  Once he caught Hamiltion, Rosberg was visibly faster and he repeatedly asked to be allowed by Hamilton and his requests were refused as the race wound down to a close.  Unlike Vettlel, Rosberg did as he was told, potentially banking a favor from the team if the situation is reversed.   The repeated radio transmissions between Rosberg and Ross Brawn, Mercedes Team Prinicpal, have sparked some theories that Hamilton’s contract might have some sort of provision that ensures he crosses the line ahead of his teammate in these kind of situations.


Mercedes Ferrari sandwich Malaysian GP 2013

© Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.


It can be a little disappointing to learn that the top four positions were to be determined by team orders backed by computer projections instead of some mano a mano racing on the track.  Within the current regulations team orders are something of a necessity.  A limited number of engines and penalties for changing gearboxes or engines between races mean that drivetrain longevity is critical to a team’s success during a season.  It’s not surprising then to see teams throttle back a little at the end of the race, if their positions are secure.

While Rosberg’s situation is a shame, it is dramatically different than Vettel’s actions which put both Red Bull cars at risk and inevitably damaged what looks like an already strained relationship with Webber.

We’ll have to see how it all shakes out a couple of weeks from now at the Chinese Gran Prix.  With six previous winners in the field the race promises to be entertaining.


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