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Button Rains Again

April 6, 2009

Jenson Button managed to secure his second victory in succession for Brawn-Mercedes at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday when torrential rain cut the race short.

Rain flooded the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur forcing race director Charlie Whiting to red-flag the event 24 laps early. The treacherous driving conditions caused many of the drivers to spin off the track as their extreme weather tyres drowned in rivers of monsoon rain.

Despite his poor get-away, Button put in an outstanding drive to secure his second race victory of 2009 after just 32 laps.

The race started out dry, with Nico Rosberg making a quick get-away from fourth on the grid to take an early lead, which was short-lived when Button leap-frogged both first-place Rosberg and second-place Jarno Trulli in the first round of pitstops on lap 19. Then the rain came on the 22nd lap creating an early second stop.

Perhaps the team who gambled the most were Ferrari, who put Kimi Raikkonen on full wet tyres when he pitted on lap 18, even though the track was not wet enough. The Finn lost pace and was soon being passed by the rest of the field as his tyres crumbled. Raikkonen, who had started seventh on the grid, lined up 14th behind the safety car as the race was red flagged. He soon bailed from a potential re-start and his F60 was wheeled into his garage with KERS problems. He was later seen in a pair of shorts with an ice cream, even before race control called time on the race. 

Timo Glock gained the most from the heavy downpour. Having started third on the grid he had soon found himself further down the pack. When the rest of the field came in for their full wet tyres, the Toyota driver took a gamble and opted for the intermediate tyres. The gamble paid off and soon saw him jostling with Button for the lead. The rest of the pack were soon forced to change their full wets to intermediates as the track was still too dry, just minutes before the rain got really heavy forcing them to come back in and get back on the full wets. Glock’s gamble meant he finished back where he started in third.

With blots of lightning hitting the grandstands, and cars swimming through rivers of water, the safety car was deployed and within a lap race control had suspended the race, with the drivers once again lining up on the grid to await any kind of re-start. At one point it looked like race control were going to give the go-ahead to allow the race to continue behind the safety car, allowing for the race to reach its three-quarter distance and full points to be awarded. However, failing light and poor visability meant the drivers would be unable to see to continue, and the race was abandoned.

Defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton, who started from 12th on the grid in the MP4-24, finished in seventh, scoring one world championship point. Hamilton, who had received the most media attention throughout the weekend – for all the wrong reasons – struggled for grip on the full wet tyres and had to go defensive on more than one occasion. He was one of several drivers who spun in the extreme conditions behind the safety car. The Briton’s teammate Heikki Kovalainnen once again finished his race on the first lap, after driver error saw him beached in gravel. Another early retirement came from Robert Kubica. Having barely got off the grid, he ground to a hault on the second lap.

Because the race had not reached three-quarter distance, the points scorers only received half of the points normally awarded. Button scored five points, extending his lead in the championship from 10 to 15. Nick Heidfeld, who finished lap 31 in second received 4 points, whilst Glock in third received 3. Trulli finished in fourth with 2.5 points. Button’s teammate, Rubens Barrichello who qualified fourth and received a five place grid-drop for changing his gearbox, finished in fifth with 2 points. Mark Webber was next in sixth with 1.5 points, followed by Hamilton in seventh on 1 point. Rosberg, the last of the points scorers in eighth place received 0.5 points.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who only managed to qualify in 16th, failed to score again in Malaysia, finishing in ninth. With both of the Ferraris having retired in Australia and failing to finish in the points in the second round, the Italian team have yet to start their championship campaign. Only one point better is McLaren despite finishing third in the season opener last weekend.

For Button and Brawn-Mercedes, who would’ve thought they would be on top so early on in the season. For the British team, getting both of their drivers in points-scoring positions in Malaysia is somewhat of a big success story, for the car has never been driven in the wet before. As for last year’s frontrunners, two rounds in, they have a fair bit of catching up to do if they want to be fighting for the title this season.

 

The next race is in China in two weeks time, with qualifying at 7am and the race live on BBC One at 8am on Sunday 19 April.

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