8.45am Good morning and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix 2011.
The news this morning is that there doesn’t seem to be any imminent possibility of rain, although it is overcast. The latest predictions have thunderstorms coming mid-afternoon. What is most interesting about all this is that no one really knows how the Pirelli tyres will work in the wet.
“The rain could help,” concedes Vitaly Petrov in an interview with the BBC, starting from eighth in the Renault.
8.53am It’s now seven minutes before the start and spots of water are starting to appear. Even if the rain doesn’t come down, tyres could still play a part. It is cooler than yesterday in Malaysia and so wear is unlikely to be so pronounced, but nevertheless it will probably be a talking point.
People have been justifiedly wittering all weekend about how hard it is for the drivers, with the heat. The humidity is currently 83%. David Coulthard says that drivers can expect their core temperature to go up to 40 deg C during the race. Stifling.
8.57am “It’s currently raining 4km away from the circuit,” says the BBC’s Ted Kravitz as the cars depart on their formation lap. It will be a dry start, however.
8.59am Mark Webber has radioed the Red Bull team, saying that he has a problem. We are all in the dark as to what it is or how significant it is as yet.
Lap 1 And they’re off! The field pounds down to the first corner and Nick Heidfeld had a great start. Mark Webber not so much – he’s down to tenth….Heidfeld is second!
Lap 2 It’s Vettel, Heidfeld, Hamilton at the front. Then Button, Petrov, Massa, Alonso, Schumacher.
Lap 3 DRS enabled and Vettel leads by 2.4 seconds. There’s been contact between Maldonado and Perez as the whole field scraps over the same piece of tarmac.
Webber had a terrible start and was swallowed by the pack as he made his way down to Turn 1. He did not use his KERS, which may have been the problem we referred to earlier. The Renaults positively flew off the line and now sit second and fifth.
Williams’ Rubens Barrichello has a puncture and will have to pit.
Lap 4 It’s formation flying at the moment.
Lap 5 Petrov loses a place to Massa, and now goes off track before the penultimate straight! Alonso is through. Petrov recovers but Schumacher is on his tail.
Lap 6 Schumacher gets told to look after his rubber.
Lap 7 The order is Vettel, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso, Petrov, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Webber, Alguersuari and Buemi, Rosberg, di Resta, Perez, Maldonado.
Lap 8 Webber and Kobayashi are battling it out, their relative strengths and weaknesses meaning they occupy exactly the same piece of track. Webber got past on the pit straight last time round but Kobayashi used his KERS to get back past.
Lap 9 Hamilton is harrying Heidfeld now. Maldonado pits.
Lap 10 Vettel is entering phase two, or so he says over the team radio. This means, roughly translated, that his tyres are going to the dogs. The amount of marbling that is happening is very evident already; ten laps in we can see lots of rubber piling up on the penultimate straight.
Webber pits. I would.
Lap 11 “Look after the tyres if you can’t get past,” McLaren advise Lewis. There are spots of rain starting to appear on camera lenses now.
Lap 12 Massa and Alonso are catching Button.
Lap 13 Lewis Hamilton pits, which is strategic because he is a bit stuck behind Heidfeld. The idea is to get him some clear air so he can leapfrog the German into second once he pits.
Lap 13 It is now raining.
Lap 14 Vettel and Button pit, both going on to dry tyres despite the rain. Heidfeld has also pitted, and he is out behind Button!
Lap 14 The rain is coming down, but word is that it will be brief.
Lap 15 Hamilton overtakes Buemi and Schumacher in one breathtaking move at the last corner. Amazing.
Lap 15 Massa had a torrid stop, a sticky front left costing him big time. Red Bull tell Vettel that they are on “Plan B”. Purposely obfuscating? If I were FOM I’d have a word with the Milton Keynes team; no-one has any idea what they’re on about at the moment.
Lap 16 Alonso passes Button! Candy from a baby, that. Button doesn’t seem to be able to put up a fight.
Lap 17 The order is Vettel, Hamilton, yet-to-pit Kobayashi, Alonso, Button, Heidfeld, Webber, Massa, Petrov, di Resta.
Lap 18 Kobayashi pits, rendering the order a bit more representative. He emerges into tenth or thereabouts….11th actually, behind Schumacher.
Lap 19 Vettel’s margin is 5.9 seconds from Hamilton, and the Brit leads Alonso by a further four and a half seconds.
Hamilton is hunting that Red Bull down, though, taking six tenths out of the German that last lap.
The rain in the pitlane has stopped – it was the briefest of showers. Hasn’t really had any concrete effect on the racing.
Lap 20 A piece of something just fell off the back of Petrov’s Renault. This can not be good.
Lap 21 The cars are driving on a grey ribbon of tarmac between carpets of marbles. Nothing else is happening.
Lap 22 Webber is being hustled by Massa. As is their wont, Red Bull cryptically tell the Australian that they are sticking with Plan A. Massa has little time for this tomfoolery and passes him for sixth.
Lap 23 Vettel lost another six tenths to Hamilton on that last lap. Webber pits – it sounds like Plan A is a four stop strategy. With no KERS I don’t know if any strategy would help him.
Fifth-placed Nick Heidfeld has a little off-track moment, but has recovered.
Lap 24 Jenson Button pits. Hamilton has the gap to Vettel down to 3.8 seconds. Vettel says his tyres are slowly entering Phase Two.
Lap 25 Hamilton pits, and emerges behind Petrov after having a little difficulty getting away from his marks.
Race leader Vettel pits too…that was fast. Vettel comes out behind Massa and Heidfeld, though, which is not good news for him.
Lap 26 Hamilton passes Petrov. This could be crucial as he can now pump in fast laps while Vettel is stuck behind Massa and Heidfeld.
Alonso pits from what was the lead.
We have lost Sergio Perez to a mechanical problem.
Lap 27 Vettel makes it past Massa with excellent use of the DRS.
Lap 28 The order is now Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Heidfeld, Massa, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Petrov, di Resta, Rosberg, Alguersuari, Sutil, Buemi, Kovalainen.
Lap 29 Schumacher pits, and Vettel is told not to use the KERS. That is not good for him. Some issues with it, it looks like. “We believe he cannot use his KERS…if we can get close to him we have a chance,” McLaren tell Button.
Lap 31 “Repeat the KERS message?” asks Vettel. “Do NOT use KERS,” reply Red Bull. He can’t believe it. If McLaren get anywhere near him he will be a sitting duck.
Lap 32 Button is maintaining a good cushion over Alonso.
Lap 33 Webber pits for the third time. Vettel has managed to get the gap back up to 5.4 seconds so he obviously hasn’t taken the KERS news too hard.
Lap 34 Yes, Vettel’s a second a lap quicker than Hamilton at the moment. Button looks to be catching his team mate too. Ferrari point this out to their star man who is chasing the Englishers. Alonso says, “I’m pushing, I’m pushing, don’t worry”.
Lap 36 “Something came out the car of Buemi and hit me, and I lost power,” says Perez by way of explanation for his retirement. Things have been falling off Buemi’s car all weekend, can anyone lend them a screwdriver?
Lap 37 Right, this has become a bit soporific now. Vettel looks comfy at the front and has extended his lead to 8.8 seconds.
Lap 38 Hamilton pits. He was delayed by a problem with the front left, but it might not be a disaster for him. Webber is on his tail as he emerges. Looks like Button might jump Lewis then.
Lap 39 Button pits, and gets out ahead of Hamilton! It’s all falling apart for the ’08 world champion. He has got to make these hard tyres last for 18 laps. Webber is right behind him.
Lap 41 Button sets the fastest lap. It might play into his hands, this one. He is quick.
Lap 42 Vettel and Alonso pit. Both relatively problem-free.
The order is Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Petrov, Heidfeld, Massa, Schumacher, Kobayashi, di Resta Sutil, Buemi, Alguersuari, Rosberg.
Lap 43 Schumacher falls off the road and Kobayashi capitalises.
Lap 44 Webber pits again for the fourth time.
Lap 45 Alonso is right up behind Hamilton! Hamilton defends, this is great racing! The Brit doesn’t like these tyres one bit, but Alonso’s rear wing is not working.
Lap 46 And they’ve come together! Alonso got too close to him and clipped the back of the McLaren! As he swept out from under the rear wing, it looked to me like that was Alonso’s fault really. Although he might argue that Hamilton didn’t give him enough space.
Lap 47 Alonso is forced to pit to change his nose. Lots of damage to the Ferrari – as yet little visible on Hamilton’s tyre.
Lap 48 Webber has caught Massa in fifth.
Lap 49 Massa and Webber are locked in a dogfight now, very entertaining.
Lap 50 Webber went right round the outside of Massa into the first corner to take fifth! What a move. Great stuff. This is what fresh tyres will do for you.
Lap 51 Heidfeld gets Hamilton down to the first corner. Very easy for him – Hamilton is going backwards now on account of these tyres.
Lap 52 And Hamilton is off, and Webber’s through! And the Englishman has to pit by the looks, yes he is in. A torrid late afternoon for the McLaren man. He comes out behind Petrov!
Lap 53 Webber is threatening Heidfeld…and Petrov is out! He went off the road, gave it some welly to get back on and ended up taking off over a rain gully. The landing broke the steering wheel off, and then he was a passenger. Lucky not to have a bigger accident.
Lap 54 Webber is fighting Heidfeld now!
Lap 55 What an end to this grand prix. Literally don’t know where to look, the action is furious here.
Lap 56 The last lap and can Heidfeld hang on for third?
SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX
Button is second, and Nick Heidfeld will be third. Mark Webber has resigned himself to fourth and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso are fifth and sixth. Lewis Hamilton, surely disappointed, arrives seventh. Kamui Kobayashi is eighth and Michael Schumacher will be buoyed by ninth. Paul di Resta finishes tenth.
That’s all from me, thanks for following.