After a tough qualifying, both red cars seemed on-track to finish on the podium in the World’s Hottest Race, but it was not to be after Felipe Massa had a wheel nut jam during a pit stop, dropping the Brazilian down the order and preventing him from challenging for an almost certain third place.
Instead fifth was the best Felipe could manage in a race which saw a total of 60 pits stops for tyre changes after sweltering 34C heat and humidity played absolute havoc with Pirelli’s tyres.
The 56-lap race was characterised by the number of overtaking manoeuvres, which easily exceeded a hundred – or an average of one per minute – vindicating the tyre company’s rather risky decision to supply compounds with high degradation rates in order to ‘spice’ the show.
Fernando Alonso had also seemed poised for a place on the podium after fighting his way back up the order after being squeezed down to ninth during the scramble through the first turn, but the Spaniard was forced to settle for sixth after a malfunctioning rear wing prevented him from cleanly overtaking Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was issued with a retrospective 20-second penalty after the race for weaving while defending his position, ultimately dropping the Briton to eighth.
Alonso attracted a similar penalty after crashing into the back of the McLaren driver in his attempts at overtaking. However, Fernando was able to retain sixth place, and now occupies fifth in the drivers’ championship.
One thing was evident throughout the weekend: Red Bull Racing were in a class of their own, with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel raising the bar even higher by delivering a driving display of the highest order.
Two wins in two starts point to a driver who has matters totally under control, while his margin over team-mate Mark Webber, who finished fourth, simply underscores the young German’s current superiority.
SebVet played it cool during the preliminaries, for example only placing tenth in the first qualifying session and third in the second. However, come Q3 he absolutely nailed his car to ensure himself of the pole position from where he went on to control the race.
Jenson Button’s ultra-smooth style enabled the 2009 word champion to make the most of his McLaren, the Briton closing to within five seconds of the winner at the chequered flag, with Nick Heidfeld eventually taking the third place that both Ferrari drivers had set their sights upon at some stage.
Ferrari has made no secret of its disappointment at a lack of top results after two races, but all is not lost given the team has incredible strength in engineering depth. Midnight oil is being burnt on a daily basis back at base in Maranello.
It is therefore far from doom and gloom for the PUMA partner team, with both Fernando and Felipe leaving Malaysia for Shanghai, scene of next Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, with high expectations after a race which promised so much.