Alonso’s mega-start and Button’s killer laps (Malaysian Grand Prix analysis)

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Fernando Alonso passed six cars on lap one

Here’s a closer look at some of the outstanding moments of the Malaysian Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso’s incredible getaway, Jenson Button’s race-winning pace, and Timo Glock’s inspired switch to intermediate tyres.

Lap 1: Alonso’s terrific start

Malaysian Grand Prix position change on lap 1 (click to enlarge)

Fernando Alonso blasted his Renault R29 off the start line with indecent speed given its truck-like appearance and handling. He actually made up six places at the start, rising from ninth to third. But he was re-passed by Jenson Button half way around lap one, knocking him back to a still-impressive fourth.

That pass by Button turned out to be absolutely crucial to the Brawn driver’s hopes of victory. Team mate Rubens Barrichello was stuck behind Alonso for an extra couple of laps, and the extra time it cost him meant he had no chance to use his longer first stint to jump into the lead.

Lap 18: The real speed of the BGP001

Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg (click to enlarge)

Was this the first time this season Jenson Button unleashed the full potential of Brawn’s BGP001? Stuck in third place behind Jarno trulli, but in sight of leader Nico Rosberg, he was content to lap away in the mid-37s. Once the cars in front of him had pitted on lap 18 unleashed a fastest lap a full second quicker than his pace up to that point.

His in-lap (19) was similarly rapid – a second quicker than Rosberg’s and 1.5 faster than Trulli’s. Job done.

Laps 26-30: Glock’s perfect gamble

Timo Glock on intermediate tyres (click to enlarge)

Having lost out badly at the start of the race (see above), Timo Glock brought himself back into play by gambling on intermediate tyres when the rain first began to fall.

At one stage he was cutting up to ten seconds per laps out of the leaders. While the rest hastily followed him onto the shallower-grooved tyres the weather began to turn – and the canny Glock got himself onto full wet tyres at exactly the right time.

The race result was eventually declared based on the standings on lap 31 – hard luck for Glock, who’d passed Nick Heidfeld for second on the ‘phantom’ 32nd lap.

Full race history and lap charts

Malaysian Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)
2009 Malaysian Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Author information

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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37 comments on “Alonso’s mega-start and Button’s killer laps (Malaysian Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. Interesting. Do you input all the race data into excel yourself, or do you download it from somewhere? It would be interesting to have a big online database of F1 race data, in a Wikipedia style. These charts are super-sexy :)

    1. Yep I’ll add the raw data to the F1 Fanatic when I get chance. The same info for all the 2008 races is in there already in Excel format.

  2. These charts are literally outstanding. Especially love the “Button shows the BGP001’s outright speed” chart.
    Awesome stuff.

    1. Thanks! I’m a maths geek so I love this stuff :-)

    2. Are you a regular reader of , Keith? Comic strips about maths and graphs!

    3. I love xkcd

  3. Hmm.. Didn’t the Renault cars have unreal launch-control back in the day? I remember seeing Alonso and Fisichella getting insane starts. Guess they’re just that good at getting amazing starts. Makes you think, what’s going to happen when a KERS-equipped car gets pole position. :D

    1. Makes you wonder what sort of carnage we’re going to see at Monaco…

  4. Bigbadderboom
    7th April 2009, 13:19

    Is it possible Ross Brawn is concealing the cars true pace? Are they preserving engines? are they compromising performance for reliability because of their lack in testing? I thing the brawn car has a lot yet to give.

  5. I think Brawn is definitely holding the car back, for all the reasons you say Bigbadderboom, and also maybe because if they were to completely annihilate the opposition in these races it wouldn’t look so good come the hearing on the 14th.

    1. An old saying says that a good driver should win a race by the smallest margin. Brawn is the smartest guy on the block, by winning using the least of the efforts he can keep the rest of the field thinking they’re very close to them and at the same time, the FIA and the WMSC can not make a big fuss regarding the diffusers row.

  6. At last someone noticed Alonso’s start, all the BBC commentators were banging on about was Rosberg’s. Watch it again and you’ll see it was 4 cars into the first corner relatively far down the straight. I wonder just how quick a brawn would be with Alonso in, oh and dont forget he has an ear infection.

    I think there should be a once a year charity event with F1 drivers in GP2 cars at monza or spa so see who really is the best.

    1. It’s the best idea I have ever heard. A race with the best drivers and all of them EXACTLY with the same car. That would be gorgeous. And I think that Alonso, Vettel and Kimi would be the fastest.

  7. – it has almost everything about f1 you can think of … a lot of statistic. but you have to pay for it, but not much

  8. Alonso had a cracking start at Sepang in 2006 as well:

  9. with indecent speed given its truck-like appearance and handling.

    :-) LOL :-)

    Indeed this car looks like a behemoth, but I also reckon I think it was Glock who complained after this year’s Australia race that the Renault is the most difficult to follow, much like a 2008 car?
    Also if you remember – in 2003-2006 Renault had the best starting car (launch-controlled or not) ;-)
    Once they sort-out certain things I’d see them really competing for the wins this year.

    1. I think glock was on about the renault’s kers and the fact that he couldn’t get past, not due to turbulent air

  10. Keith. If you’re producing these graphs yourself, I’d copyright them before steals your stuff and Bernie Ecclestone claims he put them together. Really informative stuff; great attention to detail. Nice work.

    1. Everything is copyrighted by their author, unless otherwise stated. Of course, having proof of authorship helps immensely.

    2. Umm. Thanks for the info, I guess. It was just kind of a joke on Ecclestone’s dearth of ethics.

  11. Keith,

    As a suggestion, could you make your chart use more than just varying colors to indicate the driver. It can be very hard to track which driver is which when some of the colors are nearly identical (webber vs. nakajima, massa vs. piquet, sutil vs. fisi, etc.). Perhaps something based off team colors w/ driver 1 being a solid line, driver 2 being a dashed line? Maybe even a higher resolution will help as well.

    1. Can I also add to above request – where each driver stopped and tyre choice eg I am not sure whether Glock had softs on from laps 16-26 or whether he stopped with everyone on lap 22 and changed to inters. What I am trying to unravel is why the other strategy teams didn’t pick this up in real time and gamble with Glock.

      Also looking forward to the excel file on individual lap times for all drivers – thanks

  12. Great job Kit.
    One consideration. I think the two starts of ’09 Gran Prix have been excellent, contributing to merge the group and have some great fights.
    I think one of the things we missed in the past was “shift starts”: thanks to starting electronic systems the cars didn’t spin or lost momentum at the start, so you could have at the first corner the same position you had in qualifying…fastest cars set the pace and there was no chance to see overtake.
    Now I see starts are much more a fight than before, so it may happen that cars that were slower in qualifying got a good position at the first corner, and best ones are force to fight.
    Don’t know why it is like that, but hope it will last for the whole year and not be a case…

  13. What is the point of the countback rule? With todays electronic timing they should score the cars based off of their position when the race is called rather than 2 laps before.

  14. Sush Meerkat
    7th April 2009, 18:45

    Is it possible Ross Brawn is concealing the cars true pace? Are they preserving engines? are they compromising performance for reliability because of their lack in testing? I thing the brawn car has a lot yet to give.

    If anyone has managed to download the race I think so, re watch it and i’m certain you can hear Brawn say to someone,

    “turn off your limiter and go for it”

    I don’t have the laptop to download the race right now, otherwise I would.

  15. The position change on lap one chart doesn’t look correct. Barrichello went from 8th to 5th (=3) and Kovalainen from 14th to 20th (=-6) Or am I missing something?

    Actually, I’d say it makes more sense to look at how many cars the drivers really overtook after the start. Passing Kubica and Kovalainen really doesn’t count. Then I get the following:

    Driver Overtaken
    Jenson Button -2
    Jarno Trulli 0
    Timo Glock -5
    Nico Rosberg 3
    Mark Webber -2
    Robert Kubica x
    Kimi Räikkönen 0
    Rubens Barrichello 2
    Fernando Alonso 4
    Nick Heidfeld 0
    Kazuki Nakajima -4
    Lewis Hamilton 1
    Sebastian Vettel 1
    Heikki Kovalainen x
    Sebastien Bourdais -2
    Felipe Massa 2
    Nelsinho Piquet 2
    Giancarlo Fisichella 0
    Adrian Sutil -1
    Sebastien Buemi 1

    This list is a real display of what KERS can do. The 7 KERS cars overtook 9 cars and the 12 non KERS cars lost those 9 positions.

    Only Rosberg and Barrichello are really an exception.

    Looking at that Rosberg start, it really looked like he had KERS though.

  16. What is the update on engines? I think I heard that McLaren were the only team not to use a new one at Malaysia. Is this correct?

    At this rate Kova will only need one or two for the whole season.

  17. Looking back to the start of Alonso, it wasnt his getaway from startline that pushed him up the grid. He saw a great gap on the inside took 3 or 4 cars into the first corner.(then overtook Button on turn 2) It was very classy stuff.

  18. fabulous
    now i can spend my spare time checking on stats
    great post!

  19. thanks for putting this piece together. well done, too. i think the numbers within sports are absolutely fascinating.

    Fernando Alonso blasted his Renault R29 off the start line with indecent speed given its truck-like appearance and handling.

    that made me :D

    does anyone know what the purpose of counting back to the penultimate complete lap is? to me, the last complete lap would be the intuitive thing to do. i guess it does serve at least one purpose – maximum motivation.

  20. I was hoping Alonso will be in a good car this season, turns out they’re worse off than they were last season. Not only does the car look like a truck, it drives like one too. Hopefully they’ll be able to run some new bits cone the next race.

    Alonso was not happy at Sepang with ear infection and all. Him wrestling the car to Q3 was an achievement enough. If Renault’s performance doesn’t pick up, Marranello may be his next port of call…maybe even Brackley? Or will that be Hinwill?

  21. I think team Brawn have genuinely got a shot at the title this season. I would never normally get so bold this early in the season but think about it. A car that has been developed fully whilst the others were busy racing last year, a team principle who is experienced at being at the sharp end,pots of cash thanks to Mr Branson and finally, a first class driver line up. I have always loved Jenson’s smooth driving style – now he’s up the front, he won’t make silly mistakes. If I was a betting man, I would put a few quid on him lifting the drivers championship 2009!

  22. How many laps the race had btw?….in graphics only show 32 race laps if is 32 so the results are wrong because the countback rules says penultimate lap will count for race results.

  23. Nice graphs. I have one suggestion. Could you give the Safety Car laps a grey background. That way one can understand why the Gap to Leader drops for everyone.

  24. Hey Kieth; please show a graph of Kimi’s falling lap times after that ridiculous of putting full wets on a dry track. That way, we can know till how many laps would that gamble have been feasible.

  25. great graphics! please keep making these for all the future races!

    kind regards!

  26. Magnificient article as usual Keith!

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