F1: Button splashes to victory in Malaysia

By Andy Darley

CalendarSunday, April 5th, 2009

 
 

Jenson Button won his second consecutive race behind a safety car as Formula One’s attempt to defy the rain gods and run an evening race in the Malaysian monsoon season ended in farce.

The race was red-flagged as undriveable without having gone the required distance for full points to be awarded, which means that Button takes only five points with him to China and Lewis Hamilton, in seventh, gets just one.

The field comes to a halt as the race is red flagged

The field comes to a halt as the race is red flagged

The torrential rain that everyone except Bernie Ecclestone had predicted would wreck the race finally hit on lap 31 when the main grandstand of the Sepang circuit was spectacularly struck by lightning, briefly knocking out the TV feed.

Up until then, it had lurked threateningly on the edge of the track, tricking everyone but Timo Glock into switching to full wet tyres for a dozen unnecessary laps.

The Toyota driver, perhaps relishing the karmic pay-back for his final lap struggles in Interlagos last year, went sailing through the floundering field and briefly into the lead.

Then, just as all his rivals were abandoning their full wets to join him on inters, he dived into the pits to make the opposite switch and emerged as the heavens opened.

Under the circumstances he can consider himself unlucky to have only ended up third – although in fact he was delighted to have finished so high. “It was a tricky race but, at the end, one of the best races I could ever do,” he said.

Button’s victory – even with only half points – stretches his lead in the drivers’ championship and team-mate Rubens Barrichello contributed a fifth place to help keep the surging Toyotas at bay in the constructors’.

The win came after Button lost ground at the start, being passed by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Williams’ Nico Rosberg. The German breezed briskly into the lead from the second row and settled down there, seemingly for the duration.

But the field was shaken up twice by the fickle weather, almost everyone changing to full wets too early and then to inters just when it was no longer advantageous to do so.

Finally the survivors were red-flagged in bucketing rain and near impenetrable gloom, being pushed into formation on the start/finish straight in case of a possible re-start.

While some drivers, like Hamilton, stayed in their cars, others emerged to talk with team strategists and the media. Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director Mark Webber diligently toured the cars, canvassing the opinion of each driver on whether the race should restart.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, stranded at the back of the field after suffering longer than anyone else on full wets, made his views clear by garaging his car, changing out of his racing overalls, and hitting the team snack bar for an ice cream and a can of cola.

He may go out again from the pitlane, said the team’s spokesman, we’re just investigating his KERS system. No-one was convinced.

Eventually race controllers gave up on the idea of sending the field out behind the safety car to complete enough laps to allow full points to be awarded, and called it a day.

A 'crazy race', but Button was left celebrating nonetheless

A 'crazy race', but Button was left celebrating nonetheless

“What a crazy race,” said Button. “My start was pretty bad – I don’t think I’d got enough heat in the tyres and had a lot of oversteer. I went back to fourth then got up to third, before eventually getting back up to the front. I was pretty happy with that, because our pace was pretty good.

“Choosing the tyres was very difficult. Normally when it rains here it pours, but it didn’t to start with. We went for the full wet tyre and it destroyed itself, and then I saw Timo flying up behind us with the intermediate, so we put the intermediates on.

“Just as he came by I saw his tyres were bald, and it was raining out the back, so he was struggling quite a lot and had to pit. I got one lap in on the inter at a reasonable pace, and was then able to get back in and put the wet tyre on to get back in front.”

Hamilton thought he’d taken fifth place, but the result was eventually called based on positions a lap earlier, and he ended up seventh. He said: “When the rain came down it was impossible to drive. I was aquaplaning everywhere – these were the most dangerous conditions I’ve ever raced in.

“All I could do was try and keep the car on the track. It was the correct decision to stop the race because it was just too dangerous for everyone. I love it when it rains, but this was just too much.”

Race result

  1. Jenson Button, Brawn: 5 points
  2. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 4 points
  3. Timo Glock, Toyota: 3 points
  4. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 2.5 points
  5. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn: 2 points
  6. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1.5 points
  7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1 point
  8. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 0.5 points
  9. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
  10. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso
  11. Fernando Alonso, Renault
  12. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
  13. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault
  14. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
  15. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull (retired, 30 laps completed)
  16. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso (retired, 30 laps completed)
  17. Adrian Sutil, Force India (lapped)
  18. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India (retired, 29 laps completed)

Uncategorised

  • Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (retired, 1 laps completed)
  • Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren (retired, 0 laps completed)

Drivers’ championship

  1. Jenson Button, Brawn: 15 points
  2. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn: 10 points
  3. Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 8.5 points
  4. Timo Glock, Toyota: 8 points
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 4 points
  6. Fernando Alonso, Renault: 4 points
  7. Nico Rosberg, Williams: 3.5 points
  8. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 2 points
  9. Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1.5 points
  10. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1 point
  11. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1 point
  12. Adrian Sutil, Force India: 0 points
  13. Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 0 points
  14. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 0 points
  15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 0 points
  16. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 0 points
  17. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault: 0 points
  18. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 0 points
  19. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 0 points
  20. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 0 points

Constructors’ championship

  1. Brawn: 25
  2. Toyota: 16.5
  3. BMW Sauber: 4
  4. Renault: 4
  5. Williams: 3.5
  6. Toro Rosso: 3
  7. Red Bull: 1.5
  8. McLaren: 1
  9. Force India: 0
  10. Ferrari: 0

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