The race took place on the 24 March, yet here on the 4 April the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix results still have people talking. Many who have claimed they are unbiased have come out with strong opinions yet nevertheless the world of Formula 1 rolls on. In the first of a series of statistics and analysis articles, I will look at the five main talking points of each race.
It feels almost necessary to tackle what has been the latest incident in what has been nicknamed the “Red Bull Saga”. A simple recap; both drivers told to hold station following final pit stop, Vettel doesn’t and overtakes Webber. To say it has got a few people talking is an understatement but the general consensus is that Red Bull now has a crack in the team. The worst thing is that it is between their two drivers. Vettel can apologise all he likes but Webber came out with a comment which says volumes about the relationship between the two now; “there is no rewind button”. Sure we have seen plenty of scraps between the two, the biggest being their collision in Turkey 2010, but all has been fixed. That was a racing incident however. This goes more into metaphorical back-stabbing than anything else and no matter what side of the team orders argument you stand on, you can’t help but notice that Vettel essentially breached his contract to win. It seems that he is becoming truly becoming the new Schumacher, unfortunately in negative ways as well as positive.
Unbelievably there was yet another team order story from this race; that of the Hamilton/Rosberg ‘fight’. Any way you look at it you can’t help feeling for poor Rosberg who really could have been let past by the team to secure Mercedes’ first podium of the year. You have to take your hats off to Ross Brawn however for the way in which he handled the issue. Despite Niki Lauda’s negative comments about the whole thing, Brawn showed the world exactly why he should stay as Mercedes Team Principal. He has a certain way with words that oozes both authority and calmness and when he says it could have easily been the other way around in race for Hamilton and Rosberg, it is hard not to believe him. A 3rd and 4th place give Mercedes vital points which has jump-started their championship hunt following a DNF in Melbourne.
Formula 1’s two crash-happy drivers last season, Grosjean and Maldonado, find themselves in contrasting fortunes. For the latter, a car has been provided which has not been able to showcase the raw speed that he has shown in the past. Maldonado can take some comfort in knowing that he started 2012 with back to back retirements and still managed to win a race, though there is a sense of panic at Williams that if reverting to the old 2012 exhaust doesn’t work then the Grove outfit will be in real trouble. On the other hand, Grosjean seems to have conquered his first lap issues. Last year he found himself in exactly the same place as Maldonado; no points, double retirement. Now, Grosjean had a 10th and 6th place to his name with the prior coming in a car which had some form of issue which kept the Frenchman from pushing. No massive results so far, but all could change in the near future.
McLaren are back on track with the MP4-28. Apart from picking up the fastest lap of the race, the car is now showing signs of doing what Ferrari did last year; not fast in qualifying but competitive once the race had begun. Amazingly the team managed to throw away a strong mid-points to podium position by way of ANOTHER terrible pit-stop. Not much focus has been put on it due to McLaren not being at the front of the pack, however that is where things are. Perez scored his first McLaren points however which will give some confidence in the Mexican that at least he’s on the board.
Finally we shall look at the highly impressive Jules Bianchi. Having already equalled Timo Glock’s best ever finish for Marussia/Virgin, the young Frenchman is drawing many comparisons between himself and a certain Fernando Alonso in his first ever Formula 1 season at Minardi. To be fair Chilton isn’t really giving him a good run for his money, making Bianchi look even better, but having kept an eye on this lad through F3 and Formula Renault 3.5 I would find it difficult to believe that he will be a Ferrari driver in the near future.