Yesterday was the running of the Malaysian Grand Prix and as all grand prix lately, it had it’s dramas. This was a race that had it’s start time moved from the traditional 2pm start to 5pm to satisfy the European TV viewers and that alone produced the most drama of the day.
In Malaysia monsoon type rain and thunderstorms are very typical anytime after 5-6pm and there was plenty of concern about this throughout the weekend. It didn’t disappoint.
Friday practice was fairly uneventful, but it looked like the F1.09 was just off the pace and really didn’t look all that impressive. After practice Mario Theissen said that they completed their schedule and it was very successful. Saturday qualifying was a different story and it was Robert Kubica who managed a great 6th position on the grid.
Considering that just about everyone ahead of him were in cars with the controversial 2 step diffusers, that was about the best case scenario for him.
Nick Heidfeld on the other hand was putting up very fast sector times throughout Q1 and for the better part of Q2, but after a brief stop in the pits for new tires for a last flying lap, traffic completely ruined the lap and he was eliminated in Q2. Nick had been taking a lot of criticism for his qualifying problems in 2008 and once again the quick to talk jumped all over him. Truth is, he was as fast and at times faster than Kubica, but found himself in slower traffic on his most important lap of qualifying.
The race started with the serious threat of rain and the ever present late afternoon/evening black clouds, but a dry track. The parade lap was where it went all wrong for Kubica when you could hear him radio that he was hearing funny engine noises. The team elected to keep him out for the start, but when he throttled up at the start, no power and on lap 3 pulled off the track with an engine fire.
Nick Heidfeld started the race full of fuel and the heaviest car on the track due to his lower qualifying spot and the serious threat of rain. When the leaders with lighter load cars came in for fuel, Nick was able to stay out and gain positions. By his first stop rain was almost on them and he was able to use that stop for fuel and full wet tires. This may have been a mistake when the rain came only a little and not enough for full wets. Being known as a smooth driver easy on tires he was able to preserve his wets until the rain came in buckets. When it did, all of the leaders came in to switch to wets leaving him in second place. Not long after the race was red flagged and eventually called off.
This isn’t the first time Heidfeld has used great pit and tire strategy on a rainy track. Last year it was both Monza and Spa Belgium where his tactics gained him a podium finish.
It was a great podium finish for the team and we await the diffuser appeal that will be heard April 14.
Courtesy of BMWF1blog.com, the number 1 BMW Sauber and Formula 1 related blog.