McLaren hit back as Alonso leads Sepang one-two

Malaysian Grand Prix 2007 review

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McLaren decisively turned the tables on Ferrari with a clinical victory for Fernando Alonso in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Team mate Hamilton withstood massive pressure from both Ferraris at different stages in the race to complete a McLaren one-two, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Pole sitter Felipe Massa was quickly dispatched by the McLarens and even lost out to Nick Heidfeld by the end of the race.

With rain having fallen overnight most drivers started on the soft compound tyres. When the lights went out the start belonged to the McLarens – Alonso nosed past Massa while, behind him, Hamilton was weaving the same magic he had in Australia.

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He braked later and deeper than Kimi Raikkonen into the first corner, and drew alongside Massa as the Brazilian hung wide of the apex at the long right-hander. This put Hamilton on the outside for the tight second bend – and he sliced past Massa into second.

Behind him the start was less orderly, with Adrian Sutil’s Spyker clipping Jenson Button as he disappeared into the gravel and out of his second race.

Team mate Christijan Albers would join him in retirement six laps later, when the Ferrari engine in his Spyker began belching smoke.

Meanwhile Hamilton was having to employ his full range of defensive skills against Massa. But however the Ferrari driver came at him, Hamilton positioned the McLaren perfectly.

Massa got down the inside of Hamilton into Langkawi on lap three, but slithered wide with a flash of oversteer, and Hamilton nipped back ahead. Raikkonen took a quick look at his team mate, but held back.

The Brazilian tried the same again on lap five after Hamilton struggled to get the power down exiting the second turn. But this time Massa went off the circuit completely and fell to fifth behind Nick Heidfeld.

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Alexander Wurz was having more success with his overtaking efforts. Having vaulted up from 20th to 16th at the start, he then passed Anthony Davidson, Scott Speed, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard to take 11th by lap 17.

He’s also profitted from Kubica’s early pit stop on lap 12 due to a faulty wheel sensor.

Wurz then came in on lap 17 along with Massa. On the next lap leader Alonso did likewise having built up a lead over 13 seconds.

Raikkonen came in too but his in-lap was compromised by traffic, and he rejoined the track behind Giancarlo Fisichella. As a result when Hamilton pitted (taking a front wing adjustment) he resumed comfortably clear of the pair of them.

Rosberg pitted on lap 19 having run a solid sixth. He, like all the other drivers that had pitted so far, remained on soft tyres.

The pit stops left Heidfeld in the lead, 3.5s ahead of Alonso, before his stop on lap 21. Hamilton’s car tweaks helped him set the fastest lap of the race thus far on lap 22.

Having started outside the top ten the Renaults had fuelled heavily and gotten into the top six before their pit stops. Heikki Kovalainen pitted on lap 22 and Fisichella on the next lap, and the world champions’ cars fell to tenth and eighth respectively.

A tight battle had developed at the back of the field, with Barrichello, Schumacher, Button, Speed, Sato and Davidson covered by less than four seconds covering the gaggle from 14th to 19th.

By lap 25 Alonso led Hamilton who had ten seconds on Raikkonen. Heidfeld still ran ahead of Massa and Rosberg was still sixth ahead of Coulthard (the only driver yet to make his first stop). Fisichella led Trulli and Kovalainen. Just outside the top ten was Wurz on the long haul up from the back of the grid.

Coulthard’s stop on lap 26 dropped him to 12th behind team mate Mark Webber.

Hamilton clearly had a quicker car underneath him during the second stint as he nibbled away at Alonso’s lead (down to 8.4s on lap 29) and putting air between him and Raikkonen.

He was aided in his pursuit of Alonso by the fact that his team mate’s radio had stopped working during the first stint – just as Raikkonen’s had in Melbourne!

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Now tucked up behind Kovalainen, Wurz made an early second stop on lap 34. Barrichello, Speed and Speed also took the opportunity to dive out of the train at the back of the field.

Coulthard joined the Spykers in retirement on lap 37 with brake problems having been running 11th.

Hamilton was first of the leaders to make his second stop on lap 38 – switching onto the harder tyres. He resumed fifth behind Massa, who still hadn’t got past Heidfeld.

Alonso arrived on pit lane on lap 40 to make his switch to hard tyres. Having led Raikkonen by 22s he resumed shortly behind the Ferrari.

Massa came in straight after Alonso which suggested the Ferraris hadn’t fuelled much longer than the McLarens – a view confirmed by Raikkonen’s stop on the next lap.

Alonso’s advantage over Hamilton had stretched to 11 seconds over the pit stops and Alonso turned the screw further with the fastest second sector of the race following his stop.

Hamilton continued to struggle for pace on the harder tyres as Raikkonen started to draw in the McLaren driver at up to a second per lap.

Having made a late first stop Heidfeld might well have run longer than lap 43, but the BMW brought him in and, crucially, got him back out ahead of Massa.

Rosberg’s excellent drive for Williams came to a disappointing end on lap 44 with smoke billowing from the rear of the car.

Webber, tenth, had saved his soft tyres for the last stint and was using them to put pressure on Wurz. Up front the pressure was decidedly on Hamilton, who with ten laps to go had just 5.6s on Raikkonen.

Kubica’s difficult race got worse on lap 47 when he pirouetted off the circuit at the Klia curve. He resumed 18th and last.

As the laps ticked away Raikkonen remorselessly drew in Hamilton, taking around half a second off the McLaren on each lap. With six laps to go, the gap was down to 3.3s.

Massa too was less than a second behind Heidfeld but still didn’t look capable of passing the BMW.

As the final lap began Raikkonen had the gap down to 0.8s but Hamilton tenaciously clung on to second place – the Finn never getting a chance to make a passing move.

Alonso took the win with a comfortable margin in his second race for McLaren, with Hamilton and Raikkonen behind him. Heidfeld rebuffed Massa’s advances as the Ferrari driver ran wide at the last corner late in the race.

From twelfth on the grid, Fisichella drove a steady race to sixth, just ahead of Trulli. Kovalainen scored his first world championship point with eighth.

Just outside of the points was Wurz, having battled up from 20th, ahead of Webber, the last driver not to be lapped.

The Hondas of Barrichello and Button were a lap down in 11th and 12th ahead of Sato and Speed. Ralf Schumacher slumped from his high starting position to finish 15th with Davidson, Liuzzi and the unfortunate Kubica behind him.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on “McLaren hit back as Alonso leads Sepang one-two”

  1. Great race, which just goes to prove there can be overtaking from start to end, and the tension can continue up to the last lap.

    Alonso showing why he’s World Champion, and Hamilton showing it’s not just about the hype.

  2. I agree – Hamilton’s opening defence against Massa was seriously impressive. I was watching it with my brother who remarked that he didn’t think that a driver like Fisichella would have even bothered defending at all at that stage in the race, let alone so well.

    I think Massa will be smarting after that one.

  3. I think I’m going to have to start supporting Fisichella – poor blighter gets criticised whatever he does. You must admit he has done as much as humanly possible in the Renault so far this season. Well, okay, Alonso would probably have finished a couple of places higher but is he human? ;)

  4. My point about Fisichella was that his racecraft on occasion has been very poor – Suzuka in ’05 with Raikkonen and last year in Shanghai with Schumacher.

  5. The old goat about to speak, listen up, esspecially my new friend Steve R,….. “GREAT RACE”???? Were you watching a NASCAR event? There is no overtaking in F1 and this race makes my case. After the first lap the race just became an Alonso runaway, just as Melbourne was a Kimi runaway, runaway races are NOT “great”.
    The ONLY top line driver to even attempt a pass was Massa on lap five and he paid a price. At Melbourne three weeks ago the ONLY top line driver to attempt a pass was Coulthard and he too paid a price. “overtaking start to end”??? We didn’t even get any pitstop ‘passing’ this race. It was a total bore. The Sepang circuit is 70 feet wide and no F1 car could pass another, oh sure Sato passed Speed about lap 33 but I’m speaking of those who are running in the points. And what’s all this hype about Hamilton, if DeLaRosa were in THAT car he would have finished second and there would be no cheering for him. Its the McLaren CAR that is the star this year. After years of languishing they have finally got something able to win races and we’re led to believe it Alonso and Hamilton. Bah Humbug!
    And poor Fisichella, I think Clive and I are his only friends, much as the McLaren has improved, the Renault has not.
    Fisi and Kova are taking a beating mostly from old Flavio who can’t see where the problem is. Fisi is not so bad, he finished 4th in the driver standings last year and he scored enough points to give Renault the constructors championship, who gave him a pat on the back or a small ‘Thank You’? This year the Renault has been overtaken by McLaren and BMW and he’s doing the best he can with inferior equipment.
    So far we’ve been treated to two boring ‘parades’, it’s a sad point to bring forth but did anyone see the last two NASCAR races at Bristol and Martinsville when the 1st and 2nd places (BOTH races) were decided (after 500 miles) by 5 feet and 10 feet.
    Now that’s GREAT RACING! But I’m on this site for a reason…..I like F1 even with it’s flaws. After years of languishing Toyota have finally scored points in two consecutive races, Honda had better dump that weird colour scheme and bring back the Lucky Strike logo,
    if Renault have not kept pace with the leaders Honda has lost even more ground than Renault.
    Super Aguri, it’s nice to see a junior team making progress but their pitstop crews need improvement. Enough for today….. Number 38

  6. It was a good race and McLaren showed they are ready and reliable to take on all comers. I think this year is going to go back and forth between McLaren and Ferrari. I am disappointed with the performance of Honda and it is pretty bad if they have to redevelop their car once they are back in Europe. So much for cost cutting measures.

  7. Ok. It wasn’t a great race, more a great tactical win. I think McLaren are beating Ferrari at their own game, and it bodes well for the season. All the talk of F1 missing Michael, don’t forget who won the World Drivers Championship the past two years.
    As for the hype about Hamilton, I feel he drove a mature race and had another good start. It’s difficult to say if De La rosa would have done the same, but I personally don’t think he would have.

  8. With respect, I think “number 38” is missing the point of F1.
    That’s not to say that the current version of F1 is perfect – far from it – but PLEASE don’t suggest NASCAR is a better form of motor racing.
    If I wanted to watch good ol’ boys knock 7 bells out of each other I’d watch Americam WWF wrestling.
    Ovals? Yeuch!
    Cars that look like something grotty parked outside the local Wallmart. Double yeuch!
    I’d sooner watch cricket (OK that’s an exaggeration!)
    So please 38 if you don’t get it, just switch your TV off when F1 is on, stay off this web site and keep your carping to yourself.

  9. From Richard (previous commentor)

    “…..stay off this web site and keep your carping to yourself.”

    Well, I guess I’ve been booted out……but he did say “please”.

    Goodbye friends…….#38

    p.s. I’ve burned 35 years of F1 programs, I took all my trophies
    to the re-cycler, I cut my driving suit into shop rags and I gave my tele to a charity. I’ll never trouble anyone again, EVER!

  10. No-one’s booting anyone off my website! Can we make the comments a little less personal and stick to the racing please.

    I’ve heard a lot of Ferrari fans griping about Raikkonen and Massa’s drives in the race – the cries of ‘bring back Schumacher’ are starting already. Are Ferrari missing the champion?

  11. Keith, I wonder if it’s not so much Schumacher that Ferrari will miss this season, but Ross Brawn. The Ferrari team did not seem to be able to adjust their tactics enough to cope with the McLaren challenge – or was it the drivers?

    Tactics seemed to be bang-on for Australia as far as Ferrari were concerned. At the start of the race weekend everyone seemed to be convinced Ferrari would walk it.

    A week is a long time, so I’m sure Ferrari would have had a long hard think, and will be ready and raring to go this coming weekend. Then again, so will McLaren.

  12. Exactly my thoughts, Steve. Massa did make errors, but I assumed he’d get ahead of Heidfeld again. Was shocked that he didn’t. Ferrari must get Ross back – but it seems Honda are also willing to pay. After all, they are
    in much more trouble than the Scuderia.

    But most of the blame is on Massa, he lost out to Alonso (perfectly alright – he IS the only champ on the grid), lost out to Hamilton (how did THAT happen?), and went to the Malaysian countryside trying to get ahead again (he rushed it way too much).

    Hamilton was great again. Still waiting for that inevitable mistake though. On a positive note, if Lewis continues at this rate, it may be a matter of time before Alonso will have to fight for his corner of the garage.

    Number 38, in all fairness, I think NASCAR has brilliant passes. But sometimes, there are too many of them. That’s why the value of an overtake is much, much smaller there. And then there are the restrictor plates, where we have NASCAR becoming an F1 clone, with no passing. NASCAR has potential to be a great sport, but they have to solve that set of extremes first with the Car of Tomorrow.

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