Sunday 5 April 2009

Wet afternoon in Malaysia

Only the second race of the season, and already F1 is deep in confusion and controversy. Last week the season started in Australia with a race that finished under the safety car. After the race Lewis Hamilton and McLaren lost their third place points for providing 'deliberately misleading evidence' to the race stewards.

This week we moved to Malaysia for another race that had moved to a new time to please the TV world. Although rain had been predicted from before the race over half the race had passed before the rain finally appeared. Before this point there was the usual second guessing by all the teams as to what sort of tyres they should be running. Ferrari and Raikkonnen blinked first and chose to go to full wet tyres too early - at which point Kimi lost unrecoverable amounts of time. A few laps later most other teams went to full wet tyres - except for Glock who opted for intermediates. This proved to be the right choice, and more pit stops ensued to change and change again.

The threatened rain finally arrived. And then some several cars slid off the track and the safety car almost immediately came out - but the cars could barely been seen behind it; and the race was almost immediately red flagged. The cars were gathered back on the grid. And there they stayed for the next 50 odd minutes. The rain continued to pour down, and the visibility faded and faded as the hour grew later and the clouds continued to roll overhead. It became clear (very fast) that the full race distance would not be run and that the race would be limited by the two hour cut-off. It then became clear that the two thirds of the race required for full points was going to be difficult. The teams have to be given ten minutes notice to start a race. There were nine laps left to run at probably over two minutes a lap behind the safety car. Eventually the two hours finally elapsed and the race was over.

There were still a few details to be shaken out in the wash; the apparent standings turned out not to be the final classification as the results had to be determined on the last full lap completed by the race winner. All change in the first eight.

The controversy still isn't over. The diffuser row (embroiling Brawn GP amongst other teams) is still rumbling away, and a hearing will be taking place in Paris in a week or so.