I had the Sepang race all mapped out this morning. By the time the afternoon was well on its way, all my theories, permutations, and combinations were resting comfortably in the trashcan. My pulse was racing in a way it hasn’t in a long, long time. I was sitting at the edge of the sofa, eyes glued to the television, my Twitter account open, but forgotten. Now, that’s what I call an F1 race. It’s been a while since we have had one of those, hasn’t it?
Anyway, people are calling Sepang 2012, the race of the underdogs. But there is nothing underdog-ish about Fernando Alonso. Sergio Perez was pretty promising in Melbourne, so his podium finish at second shouldn’t be a surprise. Of course, Michael Schumacher’s ‘podium finish’ (we all thought that was in the bag, isn’t it) came to an ungainly end, after the heavens opened with thunder, lightning, and giant globs of rain. But in its defence, the race did start out as a routine one (grumpy Lewis Hamilton at pole, cool Jenson Button in the second, and Schumi in the third). But, the rain gods had a different plan. Ninth lap in, the safety car was out and the race came to halt. For the first time in a while, I think, most of us probably had no idea what to do. Besides that is, looking at wet, bedraggled racers in their cars, under colourful umbrellas and tents; or if you were anything like me, looking at Alonso in complete astonishment. My, he does look good with wet hair, very yummy. Meanwhile, a Twitter comrade made toast, and Lotus offered up more ice creams!
Within 30 minutes of our wait in the rain, Narain Karthikeyan started trending on Twitter. Surprise, surprise. But why shouldn’t he? As we followed the safety car around the circuit at lap 9, Karthikeyan was at the 10th spot. Probably the highest HRT has been in… erm forever maybe? His instant “rise” though, should be attributed to brilliant HRT strategy – to race in wet tyres.
The race restarted after 3 restless laps behind the safety car. Karthikeyan quickly slipped back to 23. Post-race he said: “We were running in 10th at one point, which I think is the best position we’ve ever been in but, unfortunately the rain stopped and the track dried out and it was impossible to keep ahead of the rest.” A bit telling, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, Button slipped back, so did Schumacher, and the drivers made pit stops and some more pit stops. Then, Button ran into Karthikeyan damaging the wing, the Ice Man crawled up the points ladder bypassing all the others, as did Bruno Senna, Massa slipped and slipped, and Pastor Maldonado stuck to a promising 10th, until blue smoke! His engine gave out. The last two laps were brilliant, I bit my nails down to the quick, and Perez crept up behind Alonso. Close, closer, closest, he went. Alonso fought back, but the win seemed as if it would slip. Until Perez made a mistake, went wide, and lost precious seconds. It was all over. But Perez was still the first Mexican on the podium since 1971. The new line-up was pretty clear: Alonso, Perez, Hamilton, Webber, Kimi, Senna, and Paul di Resta.
It was nothing short of a brilliant race. The kings of the podium, Vettel and Button ended up way behind at 11th and 14th. Schumacher sat pretty at 10. For complete results, click here.
This was, no doubt, an unusual race under unusual circumstances. What happens now in China, two weeks hence, will perhaps see the usual suspects end up at the top of the grid. I hope not. I am a Button girl. But, it is heart-warming to see the young ‘uns fight their way to the top – battling bad cars and world champions, like Senna who went from 22nd to a 6th. Williams is probably feeling better right now. It feels good too to see Alonso fight his way to a podium finish in a car that is obviously not up to the mark. Sepang was a battleground this year, a good fight to the finish. May it stay this way the entire season.
On a totally random note, I came across a brilliant picture created by fellow blogger NicF1Fan. She has kindly allowed me to use it. And, it’s perfect for this season!