SEPANG, Malaysia — Rain proved to be the equalizer in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, as Fernando Alonso posted an unlikely victory for Ferrari.
Alonso had to hold off Sauber’s Sergio Perez during the final circuits to claim the victory.
“It was a big surprise today with the win,” said Alonso. “We were not competitive in Australia, we were not competitive here and our goal for this first race is to score as many points as possible. But today we did 25 so it’s an unbelievable result, so great job from the team and trackside I think we maximised the potential we have in our hands at the moment.
“Good qualifying yesterday going into Q3 and then today keeping calm in some extreme conditions I think, at the beginning with the Inters with a lot of water and then switching to the Inters and then switching to the dry tires in the perfect moment with perfect pitstops. Congratulations to the team because I think they deserve this victory. It’s a tough time for us at the moment but this Sunday we will remember.”
The full field started on intermediate tires despite the rain having begun before the start of the race. On lap five, competitors began stopping for rain tires, but on lap six conditions had become so poor that race officials deployed the safety car and red flagged the race on lap nine.
With dusk approaching, the race resumed behind the safety car with all competitors on wet tires.
With only light rain falling competitors began moving to intermediate tires at the end of lap 13. Alonso pitted on lap 14 and Perez one lap later.
From the 17th lap until the finish, it was Perez against Alonso, the youngster against the old stager, with polesitter Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull drivers unable to do anything to challenge either of them.
Alonso dived for the pits on the 40th lap and took on medium slick tires. Perez came a lap later and took the harder tires.
At lap 42, Alonso led by 7.1 seconds, but Perez steadily chipped into the lead and trailed by only 2.2 seconds when the checkered flag waved after 56 laps.
“I was catching Fernando toward the end of the race, I knew I had to get him soon because all the sectors with the high speed I was losing already my front tires with a lot of degradation going behind Fernando, so it wasn’t easy,” said Perez. “Then I ran wide in the quick corner, I touched a kerb and I went to the dirty side. It was completely wet and that was the end of the win, probably. It was very difficult obviously to get Fernando but I think today the win was possible.
“I have to say the team has done an incredible job. They called me always on the right time, especially the first pitstop we did, it was really at the right moment. Unfortunately Fernando pitted one lap earlier than us, towards the end of the race when the track was already dry and he opened some gap there, and even then we managed to get him, the pace was fantastic, I was really quick. I have to say many thanks to the team, they have done a great job and I’m very happy for them.”
Behind the two leaders there was some great racing, but Hamilton had an untroubled run to third, unable to match their pace, as Mark Webber came through to fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for Lotus.
Alonso’s unexpected victory puts him into the lead of the world championship with 35 points to Hamilton’s 30.BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.