The Fast Lane – F1 gets spicy in the Sepang heat

2 weeks ago I found myself quite disappointed after an Australian Grand Prix that (predictably) didn’t live up to the pre-season hype. It was almost a little dull. The action earlier today in Malaysia couldn’t have been further from that, what a cracker!

From the very off it was obvious that we were in for a good race. It was one of the most explosive starts I’ve seen in ages, the big winners of course being the Renault’s. Heidfeld’s launch off the line was incredible and showed the real speed of this years Renault (or is it Lotus?!) package. Kubica must be unbelievably annoyed to be missing out on this season – that is a championship winning car.

The big loser from the start was Mark Webber, who due a KERS problem (the one thing Red Bull haven’t got right!) hasa hideous start, falling back to 10th. Of course Red Bull were clever and due to good strategy and the demise of a couple of other competitors, Webber made it up to finish fourth, just outside the podium. Webber is a tough one to rate for me. He’s clearly a good driver, but I don’t think he’s quite championship material anymore and now that Vettel has fully taken over Red Bull, I do wonder what hope Mark has for the future.

Another great start was made by Michael Schumacher, who seems to have finally perfected his launch since his return last year – strange as it was the one weakness he had in his 1st F1 career. It was impressive to see the Mercedes make it around the outside of several competitors and even give the Ferrari’s a run for their money (well for about 5 seconds). But as always seems to happen with Schumi these days, he can’t keep that pace up for the entire race.

A lot of this is – I’m sure – down to the performance of the Mercedes which once again seems quite poor. Schu

mi also seems to have quite a large tyre degradation problem compared to his competitors, but I feel that as a race driver, he’s still not quite up to speed. He makes half-hearted moves and seems to fall back into the clutches of others easily. Schumacher’s still not quite back.

The tyres turned out to be a big part of the story for todays race, with most cars making three stops and some making four! The Pirelli’s really don’t hold out well – and that for a spectator is BRILLIANT! Watching the drivers have to try and maintain their tyres whilst going flat out was a joy and created overtaking moves. That’s genuine, entertaining moves without the hep of KERS or DRS or any other flippin’ anagram. We don’t need them, we need Pirelli.

Another thing we didn’t need was rain. The race was competitive and thrilling without any (well not much) water having fallen. I just wish it wasn’t always the subject of the sport. All anyone cared about in the lead up was whether it would rain, yet today it was proved that F1 can be terrific without rain. So Bernie, if you’re reading, can the sprinklers!

Throughout the race there were several great overtaking moves, around 65 percent of these coming from Kamui Kobayashi. He tussled with Schumacher, Webber and Petrov among others and really gave them a run for their money. I would love to see Kamui in a better car as he is already a remarkably entertaining driver and with a bit more speed, he could win a race or two. Great entertainment as always!

But one attempted move will overshadow all others. I am of course referring to Alonso and Hamilton. Fernando made a dramatic mistake and clipped his front wing on Hamilton’s rear wheel causing him to have to pit and fall to 6th place. It was a racing incident, but what annoyed me is the amount of abuse for Alonso I then witnessed on Twitter. People saying he was a dangerous driver who should be banned. Some even suggested it was deliberate to sabotage Hamilton’s race. Of course it wasn’t – what good would that have done?!

Regardless of what the truth of the situation was, the FIA have decided to put a dampener on proceedings as for as this move was concerned. The stewards issued a 20 second penalty to both Alonso (for contact) and Hamilton (for chaning position on track too much). I find this appalling. All both drivers were doing was racing. I know with DRS, KERS and other tacked on technology it’s easy to forget, but racing is actually the point of this sport. The FIA can’t keep doing this every time there is a slight bump on track, otherwise they may as well ban all racing on track!

Mind you, at least neither of them went flying like Petrov, that was an incredible shot! I feel sorry for Vitaly, but he has already far surpassed everyone’s expectations this year and is likely to be causing a lot of trouble for the top two teams throughout the season.

Sepang has always given us an entertaining weekend and this was no different. The only thing which stayed the same was Sebastien Vettel’s stunning victory (he is in a league of his own). But I remain hopeful that he can be caught, probably later rather than sooner, but hopefully in time for a close season finale.

F1 (without steward interventions) was back on form today.

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