F1: Malaysian Grand Prix live blog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, March 23rd, 2008

 
 

It’s hot and humid and just possibly rainy in Malaysia – and it’s snowing here at home as we crawl out of bed and get ready to go with the second Grand Prix of the season.

Massa’s on pole, but everyone’s expecting him to blunder the lead to Kimi at some point and Hamilton reckons a podium is realistic from ninth on the grid.

As last week, we’ll have the action as it happens, with the latest happenings at the top.

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It’s two weeks to Bahrain, when we won’t be required to get up at quite such an unsocial hour…

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World championship standings:
Hamilton – 14 points
Raikkonen – 11 points
Heidfeld – 11 points
Kovalainen – 10 points
Kubica – 8 points
Rosberg – 6 points
Alonso – 6 points
Trulli – 5 points
Nakajima – 3 points
Webber – 2 points
Bourdais – 2 points

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Ferrari tipped to be strong in Bahrain due to the fact the team carried out a winter test there. The other team to do this? Toyota.

Raikkonen is doubled up in pain after getting the podium fizz in his eyes. The price of greatness is a high one…

Podium: Martin Brundle probably isn’t going to win any comedy awards for the impersonation of Kimi Raikkonen he’s just done (far too much emotion in the voice, for one thing) but his performance today definitely shows why the BBC needs to get his signature on a contract right away.

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Final positions:

  1. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
  2. Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)
  3. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
  4. Jarno Trulli (Toyota)
  5. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
  6. Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)
  7. Mark Webber (Red Bull)
  8. Fernando Alonso (Renault)
  9. David Coulthard (Red Bull)
  10. Jenson Button (Honda)
  11. Nelson A Piquet (Renault)
  12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India)
  13. Rubens Barrichello (Honda)
  14. Nico Rosberg (Williams)
  15. Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri)
  16. Takuma Sato (Super Aguri)
  17. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams)
  18. Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) – retired
  19. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – retired
  20. Adrian Sutil (Force India) – retired
  21. Timo Glock (Toyota) – retired
  22. Sebastien Bourdais – retired

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Lap 56: Raikkonen, 22 seconds ahead of Kubica, is into his final lap. Hamilton has a look at Trulli but can’t do much. Button is going across the grass in 10th but seems to have held on to it. Hamilton’s last chance to overtake… and he can’t take it.

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Lap 55: Raikkonen and Kubica look utterly safe for one and two. Good damage limitation from Kovalainen sees him in third. Hamilton now has the distance to Trulli down to nearly a second – but he’s surely running out of road… but no dice.

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Lap 54: Hamilton’s closed the gap to less than two seconds. Trulli driving as fast as he has in the race and should have a wise enough head on those veteran’s shoulders to hang on to his points…

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Lap 53: Trulli has just put in a personal best lap with four to go. Kovalainen in third is 40 seconds behind Raikkonen in the lead proving how the red cars are right on the pace.

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Lap 51: Hamilton 2.9 seconds behind Trulli and is being held off with five laps to go. As things stand he will come out of the race with a three-point drivers’ championship lead over Raikkonen – cut from nine last week.

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Lap 50: Running order is Raikkonen, Kubica, Kovalainen, Trulli, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Webber, Alonso, Coulthard, Button, Piquet, Fisi, Barrichello, Rosberg, Davidson, Sato and Nakajima. Hamilton is still closing on Trulli but has yet to find the extra bite he would need to take fourth.

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Lap 49: Hamilton taking a second a lap out of Trulli. Alonso catching Webber too, but precision on the subject is wrecked by the loss of all the timing screens. Fisichella has got his Force India up to 12th, to general acclaim.

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Lap 48: Trulli has 5.6 seconds on Hamilton – he is closing but will have to get a move on if he’s to get himself up to fourth. He took a second off the Italian driver in lap 47 with his harder tyres finally paying off.

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Lap 45: Raikkonen, Kovalainen (still to stop) Kubica, Trulli, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Webber, Alonso, Coulthard. Kovalainen comes out of it all in third place after his stop. Hamilton’s going to have a job getting past Trulli whose car is living up to its qualifying performance.

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Lap 44: Hamilton comes in – still having problems with the front wheel but nothing like last time. He’s out in just under nine seconds and he beats Heidfeld out to retain track position. Looks like he’s finally got shot of Webber.

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Lap 43: Raikkonen leads from Kubica after the second stops and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t file round like this until they reach the podium. The two McLarens behind them on a characteristically long middle stint and yet to come in. Hamilton’s slated for the first stop and a switch to hard tyres.

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Lap 42: Kubica still leads, and has still to pit. Raikkonen behind him, then Kovalainen. The Pole comes into the pits and is fuelled to the end. He comes out into third – but Kovalainen has yet to pit himself.

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Lap 41: Yellow flag thanks to Vettel’s engine. Heidfeld pits. Hamilton curiously hesitant about lapping Rosberg. Alonso pits and comes out 10th. It looks like Heidfeld’s taken Webber in the pit-stops after the Aussie was held up behind a Super Aguri on his out-lap.

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Lap 40: Trulli pits, taking the pressure off Kovalainen. Vettel’s Ferrari engine blows – exactly as Bourdais’ (and arguably Raikkonen’s?) did last week. Another blank sheet for Toro Rosso – a first -corner loss and a blown engine.

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Lap 39: Webber pits, finally freeing Hamilton into clear air. A quick, efficient pit stop from Red Bull brings him out behind Piquet in 11th place. Kubica currently leads with Raikkonen second but he has yet to pit. McLaren have been saving up their hard tyres while the leaders, Ferrari and BMW, must use their soft. Is this the strategy that Whitmarsh spoke of?

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Lap 38: Second round of pit stop underway and Raikkonen is burning some of his 24-second lead over Robert Kubica. He comes out just behind the yet-to-pit BMW. Hamilton is getting frustrated on Webber’s back bumper in sixth place – and let’s hope he keeps his head. Brundle thinks he can see a minor problem on that wheel that got stuck. Alonso in eighth and his car described as lacking pace. DC and Button ninth and tenth.

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Lap 36: and it’s off to commercials again. As you were.

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Lap 35: Ferrari say the telemetry reveals nothing about the cause of Massa’s crash. Brundle is tactfully blaming driver error with this lovely phrase: “I have a sneaky feeling that ambition got ahead of adhesion in that corner.” Dark clouds on the Sepang skyline.

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Lap 34: Massa, interviewed by Louise Goodman, blames “strange behaviour at the rear” and says he has no idea what happened.

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Lap 33: Webber on the radio says: “What’s the gap to Alonso – I’m not worried about Hamilton or Heidfeld” – demonstrating considerable faith in both the gods of F1 and in Adrian Newey, we think…

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Lap 32: Hamilton is, as he has been all race, inextricably caught up behind Webber. Trulli is looking at a challenge to Kovalainen, just half a second back. Let’s hope the Finn can keep his concentration.

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Lap 31: Bad news for Ferrari – Massa in the gravel and can’t get the car going. He’s beached and likely out of the race. Yellow flag. A replay reveals that he lost the back and dumped it entirely unassisted by any other driver between turns seven and eight. Brundle calls the incident “highly unusual”. Raikkonen, Kubica, Kovalainen now in a podium position, Trulli, Webber, Hamilton, Heidfeld and Alonso is the top-eight running order after that.

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Lap 30: Rosberg pits (out of sequence because of his early stop for a nose-cone). Raikkonen now has nearly five seconds on Massa.

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Lap 28: the half-way point of the race is marked by commercials coming thick and fast on ITV1 – which should tell you how exciting the action isn’t. We’re on our second cup of tea here – what a contrast from last week when you couldn’t look away for a second without missing a major crash… No sign of the projected rain at the moment.

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Lap 27: Renault revealed to be optimistic after a successful stop for Alonso – they reckon he is on for sixth place. He’s currently running behind Webber, Hamilton and Heidfeld, so we’ll see how that optimism plays out. Our verdict: you don’t become a double world champion without learning a fair bit about scoring points…

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Lap 26: Race has settled down into a distinctly quiet middle phase after the first pit stops. Will we regret typing this?

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Lap 25: Trulli is hassling Kovalainen for fourth place and Hamilton is all over Webber. Button is 11th following Piquet’s pit stop. As you were for the rest of this lap.

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Lap 24: Running order is Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica, Kovalainen, Trulli, Piquet (yet to stop), Webber, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Vettel (yet to stop), Alonso, Barrichello (yet to stop), DC, Button, Nakajima, Fisichella, Rosberg, Sato, Davidson. Kovalainen has got past Trulli in the pit stops but Hamilton failed to take Webber.

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Lap 23: Alonso has pitted from fourth place and come out in 13th. Kubica has finally blinked and pitted. Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica and the yet-to-pit DC lead the field. Hamilton scrapping with Webber further back.

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Lap 20: Kovalainen pits uneventfully and puts on hard tyres. He comes out behind Button. Kubica still out and leading.

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Lap 19: Hamilton pits, Kubica still out. The right front tyre sticks, leaving the McLaren driver stuck in the pits for 20 seconds. Huge amounts of carbon fibre come off the brake. He comes out 11th between Webber and Heidfeld with another set of soft tyres.

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Lap 18: Raikkonen has taken Massa in the pit stops. Kubica leads the race. He’s yet to pit and so have the two McLarens.

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Lap 17: Raikkonen pitting after putting in a fastest lap on his light fuel load. Very quick stop – light fuel and hard tyres.

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Lap 16: Webber pits for Red Bull and frees up Hamilton but it’s doubtful whether he has the pace to achieve much at the moment. Webber rejoins behind Piquet in 12th. Massa pits from the lead leaving his team-mate at the front of the field. It’s a good, quick stop and he re-joins behind Kovalainen. Heidfeld and Trulli both coming in. Ferrari mechanics now awaiting Raikkonen.

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Lap 15: Hamilton four seconds ahead of Kovalainen. Raikkonen is currently in possession of the fastest lap, Massa current second-fastest. Rosberg is blue-flagged having had to pit for his new nose and been relegated to the back. The car is said to be struggling badly for grip. Hamilton on the team radio is asking for a little more front wing when he laps – he’s losing time behind Webber.

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Lap 14: Martin Whitmarsh seems to have been rather uncharacteristically talking about McLaren’s projected pit strategy and claiming that something may have to be pulled out of the hat to boost his drivers’ chances.

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Lap 13: Hamilton’s taking a speculative look at Webber for fourth. Let’s hope he doesn’t acquire a share of the Aussie’s bad luck. Ferraris are away up the road, Kubica’s racing himself in third. The idea that BMW Sauber underplayed their hand in winter testing seems increasingly true.

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Lap 12: Commentators are starting to anticipate the pit stops. Button, Nakajima and Piquet are leading a queue that is starting to back up behind DC in 10th. Massa gaining slightly on Raikkonen up at the front.

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Lap 11: Hamilton is starting to find some pace and challenge Webber’s lap times. He’s pulling clear of Trulli and starting to hassle Webber – but Massa’s sixteen and a half seconds up the road. He has nearly two seconds on Raikkonen too. Tyres seem to be an issue – the leaders are on hard tyres and there’s visible graining on Hamilton’s soft tyres.

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Lap 10: Hamilton as you were in fifth. Bourdais is interviewed and admits he “lost the car,” calling it “part of the learning experience.”

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Lap 7: Nakajima is hassling Vettel for 13th place and takes him on the straight.

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Lap 6: Glock interviewed – but not much of an insight into anything, really. Ron Dennis’ presence in Sepang is confirmed when he’s pictured on the pit wall.

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Lap 5: Sutil is off the road – having pulled out of the race and parked his car calmly on a verge. A cautious yellow flag results. McLarens appear to be looking for pace.

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Lap 4: Hamilton eight and a half seconds behind the race leader in fifth – he’s dropped back and is being pressured by Webber. Massa, Raikkonen, Kubica, Webber, Hamilton, Trulli, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Alonso and DC are currently the top 10. Button 11th.

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Lap 3: DC is heard on his radio complaining of understeer. He’s engaged in a fierce duel with Alonso when he runs over a kerb, slows and is taken on both sides simultaneously. Heidfeld cruises past and is off down the road. Alonso pulls back to avoid contact but sails past a couple of turns later.

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Lap 2: Rosberg has lost his front wing in the incident which put Glock out of the race. Another inauspicious start for the rookie – he’ll need to work harder than this to keep his place in the car. Some talk of contact on the first corner between Trulli and Heidfeld, which explains how he has gone backwards into 10th place. DC under pressure in eighth from Alonso and Heidfeld.

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Lap 1: Good start by Raikkonen but Massa comes away in the lead. Calm compared to last week, certainly. Next are Kubica, Webber, Trulli, then the McLarens sixth and seventh. DC up to ninth – both Red Bulls have gained places and Hamilton get past Trulli. A Toro Rosso in the gravel – it’s Bourdais. Yellow flag. Hamilton takes Trulli and is fifth but not catching Webber very fast.

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