Every Underdog Shall Have His Day

25 Mar

The Malaysian Grand Prix rarely disappoints when it comes to on-track action, and the 2012 race was certainly no exception. The weather played a predictable hand which helped bring great, potentially unpredictable achievements for many drivers/teams who could be considered to be underdogs, while those who were predicted to excel struggled.

The Underdogs

Alonso & Ferrari – the F2012 has been one of the most highly criticised cars at the start of this season, and nobody expected a victory for them. I’m not really a fan of either Alonso or Ferrari, but I was genuinely touched by their emotion after the win, and their determination to improve.

Perez & Sauber – we’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Checo in previous races, but today was the start of something new for the young Mexican. Had he not made that one mistake he may have won, but second place is still an incredible achievement and his delight at his first podium was truly infectious. His achievement today will only further fuel rumours about his future, particularly given Felipe Massa’s performance.

Image via Sauber F1 Team

Image via Sauber F1 Team

Senna & Williams – after a disappointing first race in Australia, Bruno Senna gave the best performance of his F1 career today by finishing sixth, showing both what he can do and what the FW34 can deliver. It was a real shame that Maldonado’s engine failed, as he is starting to really show his skill. If both of them can keep this up then Bruno should be able to step out from the shadow of his uncle’s legacy and build his own reputation, while Maldonado starts to shake off his reputation of just being a pay driver.

HRT – a mixed bag for who many see as the joker in the pack today. First achievement was meeting the 107% requirement, and despite an issue for De La Rosa at the start and drive-through penalty caused by a team member being on the track at the wrong moment, a clever early tyre strategy saw Karthikeyan up in tenth before the race was red flagged, the team’s best ever position. Sadly for them it inevitably wasn’t to last, and at different stages Karthikeyan got hit by both Button and Vettel. Button conceded responsibility for his incident, but Vettel harshly blamed Karthikeyan, who ended up with a 20 second penalty being applied to his race time.

Webber and Red Bull – the Bulls are struggling at the moment, but Mark Webber is quietly getting on with racing and gathering points while his team-mate struggles. He has out-qualified him in both races so far, and is currently ahead of Vettel in the tables.

Marussia – this back marker team had another strong race, with Pic up in 7th position at one point during a pit-stop phase. Both cars finished the race despite the tricky conditions and the team appear really pleased with their performance.

Caterham – both cars finished their home race, despite a minor incident for Heikki. Petrov finished ahead of his team-mate, while for one brief moment Kovalainen set the fastest lap of the race. The pace of the car was good and it will be great to see how they perform in a normal dry race.

Vergne & Toro Rosso – the young French rookie climbed ten places up the grid and scored his first points in Formula 1; quite an achievement in what would have been incredibly difficult race conditions. It’s early days for him at Toro Rosso, but these early points will certainly please his lords and masters.

How the Mighty Fall…

The two most obvious casualties of the race were Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. As noted above, JB showed his maturity and admitted he’d made a mistake while the current world champion was particularly ungracious in defeat. As a Vettel fan I was really disappointed in how he conducted himself on and off the track, and felt Karthikeyan’s penalty was unfair.

JB should be able to put this behind him quickly and focus on China whereas Vettel, who is already unhappy about the performance of the RB8, will have a greater mental hurdle to overcome in the next three weeks. I’m sure there’ll be some serious head-scratching going on in Milton Keynes over the next couple of weeks.

It was also disappointing to see the Mercedes perform poorly after such an excellent qualifying effort from Michael Schumacher. I hope they can turn this around and deliver some strong results.

 

 

 

 

 

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