F1: Malaysian Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, April 5th, 2009

 
 

Here we are again, just where we hoped we’d never be again after last year – waiting for a race to start so it will wipe away the bitter taste of off-track shenanigans.

Malaysia today, at a far more civilised time for European viewers, but the price of that is an evening race where light is a factor for drivers and the chances of a monsoon downpour are maximised.

Already today a GP2 Asia race has been badly affected by torrential rain and thunderstorms. Will the same thing happen to the F1 superstars over the next few hours, making all the preparations and pundits irrelevant?

Or will we be treated to a battle royal between the new powerhouses of the grid – Brawn, Toyota and Williams?

Keep refreshing this page to read the latest action from the track. As ever, the most recent updates will be directly below this line, and the oldest at the foot of the page.

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OK, the inevitable fiddling about with the results has started as the officials trying to calculate who on earth was where at the end of the last complete lap. Podium is Button (choking up as the National Anthem is played), Heidfeld and Glock in that order. After that it’s Trulli, Barrichello, Webber, Hamilton, Rosberg.

John Button is said to have refused to be interviewed by DC – so obviously something the veteran driver has said about his son’s future career (or lack of it) has upset him.

Hamilton, interviewed afterwards, says he experienced the most dangerous conditions of his career on the track out there.

Button in the press conference calls it “a crazy race” and refers to his poor start and oversteer problems on the car. He says he was happy with how things settled down until the rain started, when things became very confused.

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Restart is not going ahead. That means the winners are as follows: Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber – and half points to be awarded.

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Restart news: Apart from the top three, all the cars are being moved onto the right-hand side of the circuit for a restart behind the safety car. Why is a mystery to everyone – something to do with Button and Glock being a lap up?

Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle are pointing out that there is simply no way this can go ahead within the prescribed two-hour window. If the race is to go far enough for points then a rule will have to be broken.

Raikkonen is parked up in his garage. The Ice Man is shown out of his racing overalls and wearing a pair of long shorts while eating what looks very much like a Magnum ice lolly and drinking a can of Coke. He’s not risking his neck any further, that’s quite clear.

Ferrari higher-up Luca Colajani gives a polished, KERS-related explanation of his retirement that shows he has clearly not seen the same pictures we have.

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We’re suspending liveblogging to make tea – there are quite enough people talking about nothing at the moment, without us joining them – and will be back when there’s something to report. In the meantime we continue to gossip on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BritsOnPole

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Order at the point the race was stopped: Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber, Massa, Bourdais, Piquet, Alonso, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Sutil.

Retirements: Kubica, Kovalainen, Buemi, Vettel, Fisichella.

It is thought Charlie Whiting would like to get the race to two-thirds distance (16 more laps) so full points could be awarded – even if it’s a procession in order to achieve that. But conditions are so bad that even this might not be possible. If not – what? Half points? There will have to be 10 minutes’ notice if the race restarts, which hasn’t been given, but the cars have been ordered to stay on the grid. They would restart behind the safety car. Weather forecasts show more rain on the way.

Questions Are Being Asked about the timing and organisation of the race. However it must be quite clear to three-quarters of the Internet that this is divine retribution for Lewis Hamilton’s terrible dishonesty. Hopefully he is out of his car and cannot be struck by a thunderbolt.

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On the grid: The drivers are getting soaked and many are out of the cars – we see Webber, Barrichello and Raikkonen all chatting with mechanics and walking around. There are rescue trucks and people pushing cars about. Brundle points out that the clock continues running and the two-hour limit will still apply.

We *think* the restart order would be Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber. In fact the Australian is currently under a silver McLaren umbrella (he wishes) with his head poked into Lewis Hamilton’s cockpit. As a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association he is going along the grid getting his colleagues’ views about the conditions.

Webber is grabbed an interviewed. His view on the concept of a restart would be roughly: you’re having a laugh, mate. “This is not racing, this is waiting for a T-bone job on the back straight.” He complains that it’s getting dark in addition to the rain and we get the distinct impression that he’s not too impressed with the decision to hold an evening race in a monsoon zone.

The BBC’s rather wet staff, including DC, are hiding in the Brawn GP hospitality suite. Former GPDA director David Coulthard says drivers will be conflicted – risk versus a golden opportunity for the lower orders to score points.

Go on, admit it, you were just dying for an opportunity to hear more from Eddie Jordan, weren’t you? In contrast, DC was born to be a commentator, as we said during his whole long Indian summer of driving – we could listen to his lovely, soothing, Scots tones all day.

Lee McKenzie digs out Fernando Alonso, looking very damp. He says the race should not restart because someone will be in line for a serious accident. DC still ambivalent – of course he sympathises with this point of view but says sometimes teams have a better overview of what is happening. He says: “None of these drivers have any intention of racing – but it is out of their hands.”

Eddie Jordan explains that Charlie Whiting will be in discussions with team principals, balancing his two objectives of doing everything possible to get the race restarted while observing the safety requirements.

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Lap 33: Drivers, particularly Seabass, on the radio complaining the track is undriveable – and the race is red-flagged! Everyone must now line up on the grid to see if a restart can go ahead. But first they have to get back. Heidfeld and Fisi both beached. Cars everywhere. Mechanics allowed to work on the cars. Brundle comments that he wouldn’t like to be Kimi Raikkonen, up to his sidepods in water and sitting on a bunch of KERS batteries…

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Lap 32: Button back in for full wets. His pit crew must be sick of the sight of him. He comes out in the lead and immediately behind him Glock takes Heidfeld. Trulli and Barrichello are pitting and there is now standing water on parts of the circuit so inters are useless. Top three are Button, Glock, Heidfeld. Trulli and Barrichello were fourth and fifth before they pitted. Safety car comes out so no overtaking from this point on. It looks like general conditions rather than a specific incident. Button, Glock, Heidfeld, Webber, Hamilton is the top of the field – probably.

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Lap 32: Red flag! The race has been stopped. Drivers reporting on the radio that the track is undriveable – that was Sebastien Bourdais. Now they will line up on the grid to see if the race can be restarted. Vettel spins off on his way back round. Hamilton spins and recovers without losing a place.

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Lap 31: Now the rain is pouring down and we momentarily lose the television feed as a lighning strike hits the Malaysian grandstand complex. Cars are now being forced in for full wets. The order is all over the place and we’ll have to wait for it to settle down. Fisi’s had a spin and Vettel also appears to be parked. Yellow flag and the rain, although late, is now falling out of the sky.

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Lap 30: Button has pitted for inters and he comes out second on the back of Timo Glock in the lead who is getting the payoff for being the first onto inters. Button tries to take him and Glock most unexpectedly dives into the pits for – wait for this – full wets.

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Lap 29: Halfway point and everyone dives back into the pits for inters. An urgent decision is needed from Ross Brawn about Jenson Button… Button and Barrichello now seventh and eighth.

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Lap 28: Webber is coming up towards the back of Barrichello and Glock has taken Trulli. Hamilton has pitted for inters and he has been fuelled to the end of the race. Rosberg is also back onto inters. Button, Barrichello, Webber, Glock, Trulli, Heidfeld, Massa, Rosberg, Puqiet, Alonso, Hamilton, Nakajima, Vettel, Raikkonen, Buemi, Bourdais, Fisichella, Sutil.

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Lap 27: Button has an 18-second lead over Rosberg. Barrichello tries to take Trulli for third place and succeeds. So it’s Button, Rosberg, Barrichello and Trulli. Massa has taken Hamilton for eighth. Barrichello takes Rosberg and is through into second. It looks like their untested wet tyres work OK, doesn’t it? Rosberg makes an unexpected dive into the pits.

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Lap 26: Hamilton’s got a gearbox problem – he reports on the radio that some kind of limiter is kicking in on his fifth gear. Massa is closing on him and Glock is closing on Nick Heidfeld. He cruises straight past.

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Lap 25: Webber is the current winner of the Red Bull-McLaren duel. Hamilton’s KERS is enough to get him past, but Webber’s superior car means he can’t make it stick. Vettel, in the midfield, has just taken Nakajima. We should not forget Vettel is a wet-weather specialist. The commentators remark that the track is wet but not enough to cause spray. Glock alone of the drivers has stayed on inters and it’s paying off for him and Toyota since the track does not seem to be wet enough for full wets. Is this some kind of karmic payoff for Interlagos last year?

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Lap 24: We’re in a no-mans land where it’s still not wet enough for the tyres to kick in. Order is Button, Rosberg, Trulli, Barrichello, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Webber and Massa – ie the leaders unchanged after the tyre changes. Webber has taken Hamilton and is lining up Heidfeld. Then Hamilton uses his KERS button. For a moment it looks like they could both be off but then Webber concedes. Brundle calls the McLaren KERS the finest on the track. Webber takes the place back but then runs wide and loses it again. These two duelling is enough to make you go cold.

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Lap 22: Button has a lead of 11 seconds over the third- and fourth-placed drivers. Those annoying back lights are starting to flash which indicates how dark it’s getting. Definite rain on Barrichello’s in-car camera and he’s fighting the car already. Alonso has come off! He’s trundling over the grass but hangs on, keeps the car going. Hamilton’s McLaren has also runs wide. Button pits for wet tyres at the head of a very long queue.

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Lap 21: Bourdais for Toro Rosso has put on wet tyres too. Barrichello leaves the pits side by side with Trulli but no-one wants to tangle with the Italian this week. Rubens slots in politely behind him. Order is now Button, Rosberg, Trulli, Barrichello. Alonso and Hamilton are fifth and sixth but haven’t stopped. Heidfeld up to seventh on his long strategy.

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Lap 20: Button has come out in second behind the unpitted Barrichello and Ross Brawn has sent him out on dry tyres. Raikkonen is so clearly on the wrong ones it is embarrassing and still the rain refuses to fall. Barrichello pits from the lead.

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Lap 19: Button has gone past the pitlane and has another lap to extend his lead. He is putting in flyers right now. Ferrari mechanics are out and are switching Raikkonen onto full wets. Button’s taken a hell of a risk, Massa is looking very, very well-placed right now. Raikkonen’s stop is 11.1 and he’s out. Lightning in the background but the track dry. Hamilton sixth, out of position.

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Lap 18: Trulli pits, 9.8 sec stop. Comes out in fourth behind Rosberg and Button now leads the race before his stop. Barrichello is second and Jense needs to put his foot down. Massa instructed to tell the team as soon as he sees rain.

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Lap 17: Button is beginning to put serious pressure on Trulli. Perhaps the Toyota mechanics will pop out to blindfold him in case he sees some secret detail of the diffuser. Webber pits from sixth for a nine-second pitstop.

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Lap 16: Rosberg comes out in fourth, Glock pits. General pitstops starting and the rain three minutes overdue. Trulli has 0.8 sec lead on Button and is expected to pit first.

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Lap 15: Frontrunners expected to pit over the next three or four laps. Glock now lining up Alonso but can’t do more than look this time. Alonso seventh, Glock eighth. Lewis Hamilton is in ninth and has just set his fastest lap of the race – regrettably that’s two seconds slower than the kind of times Button is setting up at the front. The McLaren just doesn’t have anything to offer him in the high-speed corners. Rosberg pits from the lead.
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Lap 14: Vettel pits. It’s a 10.7 pitstop – lots and lots of fuel has gone into that car. He stays on the soft tyre rather than going for inters.

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Lap 13: Webber takes Alonso and can’t hold the place. He has another go and succeeds. Alonso pulls up alongside Webber, is temporarily in front but Webber wins out. Glock was also having a look but couldn’t make it stick. There’s the lightly-fuelled Vettel behind the look of them. Webber pulling away from Alonso.

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Lap 12: Raikkonen now 1.7 seconds ahead of Alonso. Commentators point out that the soft tyres will be fine on a damp track but as soon as it rains with any sort of seriousness everyone will have to go in for inters at the very least.

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Lap 11: Raikkonen already opening up a gap on Alonso who is now sixth with an impatient Webber almost certain to take him in seventh. Glock then Vettel behind them and neither looks satisfied to stay there. Button is chasing down Trulli for second.

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Lap 10: McLaren radio says rain in 10 minutes. Do we believe them? Massa is now less than a second behind Nick Heidfeld. The field’s tight at the front up to Button, then ten seconds to Barrichello. Alonso goes wide and Raikkonen is past.

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Lap 9: Rosberg has a lead of 2.8 seconds. Brundle: “I was speaking to Patrick Head last night, and he wasn’t expecting this…” This is probably quite literally the calm behind the storm. Hello. Heidfeld runs wide and is taken by both Vettel and Hamilton. Massa stuck in 12th and unable to make much impression. Rob Smedley has been on the radio telling him to adjust his front wing.

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Lap 8: Martin Brundle is wondering why Raikkonen doesn’t use his KERS to cruise past Alonso…

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Lap 7: We’ve hit that processional bit that always comes at this point in proceedings, that moment when the urge to go and make a cup of tea becomes strong. Button being told on the radio that heavy rain is expected soon.

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Lap 5: Glock trying to take Webber in a dramatic fight for sixth and seventh but has to drop back and abandoned it. Sky as black as Newgate’s knocker. Vettel is trying to pass Heidfeld – the lightest and heaviest car out there. Vettel wants to watch that he doesn’t drop that car.

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Lap 4: Barrichello is past Alonso and Raikkonen is now looking at passing the Renault. Skies looking very grey. Hamilton is 11th – Vettel has taken him – and Massa is in 12th.

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Lap 3: It transpires that Kubica was left stranded on the grid, which explains his rapid trip backwards. It looks like his car is broken and he’s retiring. Buemi is in the pits and the mechanics are grappling with his nosecone. Kubica’s car is parked up and smoking. Barrichello is on the back of Alonso, Button is off up the road. The Spaniard is backing up the field and, as Rubens fights with him, his team-mate is on the back of Trulli. Raikkonen looking dangerous in fifth.

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Lap 2: Rosberg leads by 1.2 seconds. Kubica is running last, Kovalainen is walking back to the pits. What an absolutely wonderful moment for Williams fans. Button is pulling away from Alonso and his heavy fuel load in third.

– – – – –

Lap 1: And, out of nowhere, Rosberg’s at the front. Button tries to take him, goes wide, drops to third and is struggling to hold off Alonso. Trulli’s in second and Alonso has taken Button for third. Hamilton is up to 10th. Raikkonen and Webber are fifth and sixth and Kovalainen is out – again. Barrichello has passed Raikkonen to get up to fifth. Button has re-taken Alonso for third and Barrichello is looking at him.

– – – – –

Parade lap: We learn that Jenson Button’s nosecone had been left out in the rain and the electrics had gone, meaning he wouldn’t be able to do the in-car adjustments necessary. Tut tut…

Kubica is heard on his radio sounding anxious in Polish. And his engine doesn’t sound too good.

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Grid walk: Brundle is closely examining the safety car, on the grounds we’ll almost certainly need it later – the GP2 race took place underneath a tropical rainstorm. Jenson Button is smug about his extra tyres. He’s less smug about the fact he’s never yet driven his Brawn GP car in the wet.

Full wet tyres are standing in stacks on the grid in case of need. A great mob of Toyota mechanics is stood around the back of the car trying to prevent prying eyes from investigating their diffuser. Brundle taunts them like someone teasing a dog on the end of a short rope.

Toyota confirm that the team is expecting rain. A bloke from Bridgestone says it’s time to switch tyres when your times are about 15 seconds down on what you’d expect.

Brundle corners Whitmarsh, who looks dismayed to see him. He confirms that McLaren are expecting rain and says that, while McLaren’s performance isn’t good enough at the moment, it was worse a couple of weeks ago. He says the rain will come about half an hour in.

Jarno Trulli is reportedly in civvies in the paddock at this late stage, which David Coulthard finds astounding. He also says Toyota are being ridiculous about their diffuser, since anyone who likes can photograph it on the circuit.

Fuel statistics show that Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg are fuelled lightest while Nick Heidfeld is fuelled heaviest.

Big news – ten minutes off the start and they’re changing the nosecone and front wing on Jense’s car. Lee McKenzie reports: “Ross Brawn looked very stern and tried to shoo me away.” But apparently the team is “very calm.”

Jarno Trulli is now on the grid in his race suit. Relax, everyone…

And our fear has come to pass. Jenson Button is trolling round with the legend “Virgin” in big red letters on the front of his car…

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