Malaysian Grand Prix 2012

/ Commentary

Race

15:30 Welcome to ESPNF1's live commentary of the Malaysian Grand Prix. We should be in for another great race and guess what ... rain is on the way!

15:31 The two McLarens are on the front row (again) but we are expecting them to be pushed hard by the Red Bulls that have better race pace than one-lap pace. Michael Schumacher is also in the mix and will start from third on the grid. Last year his Mercedes was very quick off the start line so there's a possibility he could be leading at the end of lap one. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

15:32 The cars are now heading out to the grid on slick tyres but there are some very heavy-looking clouds overhead. Tyre strategy is expected to be very finely balanced this weekend but it will all go out of the window if the contents of those clouds are let loose.

15:33 On the subject of strategy, Sebastian Vettel will start the race on hard tyres (assuming it's dry) while everyone else in the top ten is on mediums. That's because Vettel opted to qualify on the hards after struggling to get the mediums to work for him. It will allow him to go longer into the race before making a pit stop and that is significant as the performance difference between the two tyres is not that great this weekend.

15:35 Last time we had a torrential rainstorm on race day at Malaysia was in 2009 and the running was cut short. Some of you might remember the scene of the cars lined up on the pit straight with the drivers remaining in the cockpit eager to get back out. Although not all the drivers were so keen ... Kimi Raikkonen snuck back to the Ferrari hospitality for an ice cream. Well, the media team at Lotus have a good sense of humour and released this press release with a special gift this morning...


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15:41 There is a danger we could start behind a safety car if it rains heavily. That would suit Hamilton who admitted yesterday that he might come under attack in to the wide turn one.

15:43 Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he is expecting rain as the cars are on their parade lap. That could make things interesting as the teams decide which tyres to put on.

15:45 It is now spitting with rain and umbrellas are going up in the grandstands.

15:47 The spits of rain have now turned into globules and there is also the odd sound of thunderstorms in the distance.

15:50 The teams have covered the cockpits of the cars now to ensure the drivers' seats stay dry.

15:52 It's hard to know who the rain will suit most. Schumacher must be quite happy given his strong record in the wet. Last year his most impressive race was arguably Canada and that was a wet one. It will also help Mercedes preserve their tyres.

15:53 Race director Charlie Whiting is looking at the sky. He's the man that has to decide whether we delay the start or go out behind the safety car.

15:55 The rain isn't really settling though. There are some big drops coming down but they are evaporating as they hit the track.

15:58 All the drivers are on inters apart from the Red Bulls on slicks and the HRTs on full wets according to our data.

15:59 A correction, our data was wrong. The Red Bulls are on inters. The rain is still falling. Pedro de la Rosa has failed to leave the grid so will have to start from the pit lane.

16:00 The pit straight is now clear so we should be good to go when we get back to the grid. Rosberg says the second sector is very wet but the start of the final sector is drier. De la Rosa was on wets as Massa is told that he won't stay long on the intermediates if the rain stops.

Lap 1

Good start for the two McLarens. Hamilton on the inside with Button on the outside. They almost touch but remain on track.

Great start by Webber, he's up to third. Schumacher spins, was he touched? We need to see a replay. Vettel is fourth. Grosjean was up there but has now dropped back . Perez pits early on from sixth.

Lap 2

Heavy rain in the pit lane so will Perez take on full wets?

Alonso is now fifth ahead of Rosberg and Maldonado. Perez takes on wets but Button is happy with his inters as he talks over the radio to his team.

Hamilton says it's very slippery on his inters. Rosberg is told he needs to make a call on his tyres.

Lap 3

A replay shows that Grosjean and Schumacher touched in turn four before spinning out in unison. They are now 18th and 13th respectively.

Lap 4

Hamilton is 1.9s clear of Button at the front with Webber 2.5 behind Button.

Lots of action in the pit lane as the rain increases in intensity.

Massa has taken on wet tyres as we see Grosjean in the gravel and out of the race. He was just about to pit for wets.

Looked like Grosjean lost the rear around the back of the circuit and couldn't hold on.

Lap 5

Button and Alonso pit for full wets from second and fifth. Clean pit stops for both of them and the track certainly looks ready for full wets. Hamilton may have made a mistake by sticking out there on intermediates.

Button passes Schumacher who is still out on his inters. It's clear that the full wets are the better option.

Hamilton complains of aquaplaning and comes into the pits.

Lap 6

Hamilton pits followed by both Red Bulls. Clean stop for Hamilton. Webber just gets out in time as Vettel follows him in. Not too much time lost.

Button is right on the back of Hamilton but the No.4 McLaren still leads. They nearly touch heading down to turn four but Button backs off in sector two. Perez is up to third after stopping earlier for wets. Great job by him. As I type he goes off the track at turn 13 but recovers back to the track ahead of Webber in fourth.

Lap 7

Safety car is out as Button says the last sector is "like a lake". Huge forks of lightning overhead and claps of thunder too. This could be red flagged.

Karthikeyan is up to tenth after starting on wet weather tyres. Vergne is seventh but is still on inters. He's the only man not to pit. A replay shows that Vettel ran off the track when he passed Vergne. His undertray took a whack as he returned to the circuit at turn 13.

Lap 8

Senna pits from the back of the field. He takes on another set of wets and returns at the back.

Safety car is still out. The conditions look pretty bad but we are hearing over the radio that the rain is clearing. Some corners on the track still have a lot of standing water though.

Raikkonen is asking for his clear visor helmet (no ice cream order yet).

I guess it makes sense for Senna to pit and take on a new set of softs as he was running 22nd anyway. The question is whether Vergne pits for wets from seventh.

Lap 9

Hamilton is told the rain could last for another thirty minutes. But I haven't heard a reliable weather forecast yet this weekend.

Red flag. The race has been stopped. The cars will now return to the grid and line up in race order of where they are now. Hopefully we'll get the race started soon, but if the McLaren forecast is correct we could have a 30 minute wait at least.

Under this year's regulations a race cannot go longer than four hours (including race stoppages) but in Malaysia the bigger time restraint is sunlight with the sunset due in three hours. The teams rush out to their cars with unbrellas as the drivers stay in their cockpits.

Lots of activity on the grid as the teams check over the cars. Those who watched the Monaco Grand Prix last year will remember Hamilton had his rear wing repaired during a red flag period. So damage can be addressed.

McLaren have set up full awnings over its cars. Several other teams have similar systems for keeping their precious vehicles dry.

Nigel has written in to say: "For KL, if you insist to run the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix during the rainy season, which is a mistake, as we see again this yr, at least the race has to start early in the day, when the probability of rain is lower-- but still highly probable.

"Analysis of the weather over decades indicates that this is the wrong time of yr to hold this race in Malaysia (ie statistics for the no. of rainy days, rain per day, etc.) In contrast, late March -early April you have the most perfect racing weather for Japan and South Korea. When the races are held in Jpn and SoKorea it is actually far from the best time of yr. as it is when Japan is subject to typhoons, -as we have seen during races in Jpn in recent yrs, and Korea often gets the residue of such storms.

"It seems that the race schedule was decided by people who maybe do not know Asia well, and are more aware of European weathern patterns."

Meanwhile, Ferrari has assembled its awnings for Alonso and Massa. They weren't quite as quick to pitch their tents. Poor old Karthikeyan has no such luxury. He has to hold his own umbrella. But he is tenth so I imagine there will be a smile behind that helmet.

The rain is still coming down hard and rivers are still running across certain corners of the circuit.

Someone asks: "When is the race going to start? Pl. Update."

No word from race control yet. We will inform you when we hear. The drivers usually get ten minutes warning.

I was unlucky enough to be on live commentary for last year's Canadian Grand Prix so I've had practice in trying to keep you entertained. I'll do my best... did you know "race car" is a palindrome.

More importantly, if the race is stopped at this stage - and we hope it isn't - the drivers will receive half points. 75% of the race has to be completed for full point to be dished out.

Some of the drivers are getting out of the cars. They should get ten minutes warning before the race restarts so they can pop out for a "comfort break" if they wish to do so.

Vettel was just talking to his engineers about changing his set-up to stop the car aquaplaning, but Red Bull tell him it will be tough to do anything to stop it.

Leighton says: "Why is everyone getting so upset about the rain? If every race was scheduled for sunny weather then the season would get pretty boring at times. It's Nice to know that there is always going to be a few wet races throughout the year."

Vettel is one of the only drivers still in his car. He's still talking to his team about what can be done to help with the wet weather set-up.

Camilio via Twitter: "What happened to races where you could see wet track specialist drivers? Boo to FIA"

Miriam says: "Drivers should take a coffee break now instead of an ice cream break! It would be cold so a nice warm honey lemon should do the trick. It's not raining at the north side of the same state where Sepang is now but it is cloudy. Usually in March it is still a monsoon season. They should try adjusting the Malaysian GP once in a while in the calendar to find the suitable time. Yes, the racing planners should get in touch with me! :)"

There are signs that the rain might be clearing to one side of the circuit. When it does stop raining it should dry quite quickly because it's still very hot.

Nitesh asks: "How do the teams and drivers manage the water entering the open cockpits of the cars during wet races?"

They currently have tents pitched over the cars to stop the rain coming in. That or an umbrella for some of the smaller teams. During the race the airflow over the cockpit actually keeps the drivers pretty dry.

The rain is now easing off and the images from the circuit are showing that some of the rivers running over the circuit aren't quite as full as they were.

Benjamin says: "I am sure the person that decide to race in Malaysia this time of the year did their homework. Unfortunately the rain came down hard this time earlier than expected. But then again it is because of all this unpredictable situations that make F1 interesting and keep everyone from the drivers to the viewers at home on their toes. THAT'S WHY WE LOVE F1."

The medical car is out on track to try to gauge the conditions. That's a good sign for a restart.

Karthikeyan has now whipped his helmet off and I can confirm he has a huge smile on his face.

The race will be restarted at 17:15 behind the safety car and wet tyres must be fitted as a result. That only driver that applies to is Vergne, who is on inters.

So, it's roughly 12 minutes to the restart now. Schumacher and Massa, who were chilling and chatting in the pits are told and jump to attention.

Raikkonen is climbing back into his car while Schumacher does his stretches.

The car awnings are down and the umbrellas are being folded. The restart is just eight minutes away.

So Vergne has done quite well out of the stoppage. He's gone from 18th on the grid to 7th in the race and is now on the same tyres as everyone else. Although at the rate the track is drying he might have wanted to stay on the inters.

Lap 10

The engines are being fired up again and the tyre warmers are coming off.

The safety car leads the cars away and we have 23 cars leaving the grid cleanly.

There is still a lot of spray out there although 23 cars fitted with full wet tyres should help shift that.

It looks as though the track is ready for racing but the safety car is staying out for another lap.

Lap 11

An incident involving de la Rosa's car is under investigation as team members stayed on the grid too long. That could result in a drive-through penalty. The teams have to clear the grid three minutes before the start.

The drivers are ready to start racing according to the team radios and Massa says it won't be long before he needs intermediates. But the safety car is staying out for another lap.

Lap 12

Toro Rosso and Ferrari are blow-dying their pit boxes. The track is looking pretty good now. Turn 13 is still wet but it looks raceable to me.

Lap 13

The safety car is staying out for another lap. Rosberg confirms that he will swap to inters when the safety car comes in. And I can tell you that will be at the end of this lap.

Drive-through penalty for de la Rosa after his mechanics stayed on the track too soon to the restart.

Exciting stuff as the McLarens prepare for a straight fight at the restart. He's backing up the back and Button is under pressure from Perez.

Lap 14

Racing resumes with Button pitting as Alonso takes on Webber and beats him through the first two corners.

Hamilton has a healthy lead from Perez, that worked well for McLaren. The two Red Bulls scrap with Vettel passing Webber into turn four and Webber taking the position back in turn five.

Vettel looking scrappy and could come under attack from Massa who has passed Vergne.

Lap 15

Hamilton pits and that puts Perez in the lead as they cross the line. Alonso and Webber also pit. Hamilton comes out behind Alonso, terrible stop for McLaren and Button comes out between the two of them!

So of those that have pitted, it's Alonso, Button, Hamilton. A replay shows that Hamilton could not leave his box as cars were coming down the pits.

Button tangles with Karthikeyan for position and the McLaren has damaged its front wing. New nose cone required.

Hamilton passes Karthikeyan safely.

Lap 16

Perez pits and comes out ahead of Alonso. Vettel has also pitted. Slow stop for Button a replay of the incident shows that it was Button's fault as he tried to pass into the hairpin in sector two.

Alonso has taken the lead from Perez. Hamilton is third ahead of Rosberg, Raikkonen and Webber.

Lap 17

Rosberg is still on the wets as is Raikkonen, so they are out of sequence with the front runners.

Alonso is 2.4 s ahead of Perez who is 3.8 clear of Hamilton. Di Resta is the only other driver still on wets in the top ten.

Lap 18

As they cross the line Alonso leads Perez by 2.9s and the Sauber has increased his gap to 4.6s.

Vergne and di Resta are scrapping over tenth with the Force India on wet tyres coming out on top at the moment. Button is the fastest man on the circuit by about two seconds and is back in 20th.

Lap 19

Great move by Ricciardo to pass Senna in turns four and five for 14th place.

Lap 20

Alonso leads Perez by 4.3 seconds as DRS is enabled again. Remember you have to be within a second at the detection zone to use the DRS. The Vettel, Raikkonen, Webber battle could be about to become more interesting.

Vettel lining up Rosberg as Raikkonen closes on his gearbox.

Hamilton is now 5.8s off Perez so is not making much of an impact on the Sauber and Ferrari in front.

Lap 21

Vettel and Raikkonen deploy the DRS in unison but it didn't make a huge difference and they remain in position.

Alonso is now 4.7s clear of Perez. Meanwhile Ricciardo pulls a great move on Kobayashi to move up to 13th.

Lap 22

Button is having trouble with his front tyres and is told to put more heat into them. He's not happy at the moment back in 20th place.

Vettel is closing on Rosberg but that Mercedes is very fast in a straight line even without DRS. Raikkonen is lurking in the background and is still on wets (as is Rosberg).

Lap 23

Vettel makes a move stick into turn one on Rosberg. He went round the outside and found plenty of grip with his intermediate tyres. DRS helped too.

Meanwhile Senna takes a place back from Ricciardo into turn one. Senna back up to 14th and he's on wets.

Lap 24

Glock's radio says another shower could be on the way and he has to look after his tyres.

Raikkonen beats Rosberg into turn one too. The Mercedes put up a better fight againts the Lotus than it did against the Red Bull but still didn't have an answer. Webber is now lining up Rosberg.

Lap 25

Alonso is now 5.6s clear of Perez, who has a 7.9s gap over Hamilton. Vettel is 7.4s off the McLaren with Raikkonen 3.5s behind him.

Rosberg is reporting rain at turn four.

Senna has passed Schumacher for 11th. That Williams, still on wet tyres, is on the move.

Button pits but has to take on another set of inters. Things going from bad to worse for the Australian Grand Prix winner.

Webber is past Rosberg too as both Mercedes lose a position on that lap. They seem to be struggling with their tyres again.

Lap 26

Alonso leads Perez by 6.0s. The Ferrari driver is managing this race to perfection.

Massa is off the circuit at turn 10 and loses a place to di Resta and nearly another one to Vergne.

Lap 27

Vergne uses his DRS to find a way past the Ferrari. Senna is also on the move and is up to 10th behind Massa.

Massa is about to pit according to his radio. Senna is now putting the Ferrari under pressure.

Lap 28

Alonso leads Perez by 6.1 seconds now. Hamilton drops to 8.4s behind Perez.

Massa takes on a new set of intermediates.

Lap 29

Alonso starts lap 29 and has extended his gap to 7.7s over Perez. That Ferrari is looking sublime in these conditions and a completely different to beast to the F2012 we've seen in the dry.

But it must have been a bad lap for Perez who is now 7.0s ahead of Hamilton, losing 0.9s on that last lap.

Lap 30

Button is one of the fastest men on the track on his new tyres but he's still back in 19th.

Kobayashi is closing on Schumacher as the Mercedes continues to lose pace and Kobayashi passes around the outside of turn five - impressive stuff.

Lap 31

Raikkonen now has Webber on his tail. But despite having a DRS advantage it looked as though the Lotus gained on the Red Bull down the pit straight.

Alonso increased his lead to 7.7s over Perez on that last lap as there is another warning of rain coming over the team radios.

Lap 32

Hamilton is 7.7s off Perez. So despite his qualifying pace he doesn't have the performance in his car to take on the Sauber and Ferrari ahead of him in these conditions.

The intermediates are holding up well as the track dries. No one seems to want to pit for slicks at the moment, not least because there are still dark clouds over pits.

Lap 33

Perez is now 6.7s behind Alonso. What a fantastic race the Sauber is having. Hamilton has dropped to 8.2s off Perez.

Vettel is 8.9s off Hamilton and 8.1s ahead of Raikkonen.

Lap 34

Perez is now 6.3s off Sauber. Are the tyres on Alonso's Ferrari reaching the edge?

Ahmad says: "What's happening to Mercedes! They are so slow that cars overtaking them from the outside and even the strategy seems so grey. Any explanations?"

The car is just destroying its tyres we sae the same thing happen in Australia on the slicks. Not good!

Lap 35

Button is now attacking Massa for 16th. Those two have made an extra stop for inters.

Button tries to beat Massa around the final corner but the Ferrari stays ahead and hold him off in turn one. The Ferrari was defending well but the McLaren was faster.

Lap 36

Perez now has the gap down to 4.9s at the front. And he's 10.2s ahead of Hamilton. Will Alonso pit any time soon?

Perez takes 0.7s out of Alonso in the middle sector alone. And still the teams are predicting more rain.

Ricciardo has found a way past Massa too. The Ferrari is down in 18th while his team-mate leads.

Lap 37

Perez is now closing on Alonso with the gap down to 3.9s. Very impressive stuff and he can see the scarlet Ferrari in his sights now.

Hamilton is still over 10 seconds off Perez.

Lap 38

Perez pushing so hard and was 0.7s quicker on that last lap. He ended up running a little wide in the final corner but it didn't slow him too much and the gap is now 3.2s.

Hamilton's front tyres are nearly slick as the tread had been worn down.

Ricciardo pits for slicks. He will be the other teams' barometer.

Lap 39

Perez now has the gap to 2.3s to Alonso.

Ricciardo is about a tenth or two quicker than the leaders on his new slicks. But there is still chatter of more rain over the McLaren radio.

Massa pits for medium tyres and is now Alonso's guinea pig. But Button says the inters will be no good in the rain as they are nearly bald.

Lap 40

Perez has the gap down to 1.3s as he closes on the Ferrari gearbox.

Webber pits for slicks too.

Button pits for slicks.

Lap 41

Alonso pits from the lead but Perez stays out. That could be a big mistake by Sauber. The mediums are much quicker than the worn inters.

Vettel pits too to the sound of his race engineer shouting 'Red Switch' to him repeatedly.

Raikkonen pits for mediums too. We'll have to see how the field shapes up on the next lap.

Lap 42

Perez pits from the lead. Hamilton comes in too. A slow getaway for Perez and he comes out further off the back of Alonso than he was before the stops. Perez took on hard tyres while Alonso is on mediums. Perez also had a big change to his front wing angle, presumably to take some wing off as the car changes from a wet to dru set-up.

Lap 43

Alonso leads Perez by 7.1s. Hamilton is 11.7s off the Sauber. McLaren also had a slow pit stop as the team struggled to remove tape over the brake ducts.

Senna is looking good still in eighth and closing on di Resta.

The weather radar says there is rain near the circuit but intensity is decreasing.

Lap 44

Perez has the gap down to 5.7s as he reels in the Ferrari again. The Sauber has shown to be quick this season and we know the Ferrari is not without fault. 1.2s up on the first two sectors alone.

Lap 45

Perez has the gap down to 3.9s now. He gets encouragement from his team and told he is doing very well. He's quicker than Hamilton too at the moment. What a fantastic drive!

Perez has a good view of the Ferrari's rear wing as they come onto the pit straight.

Lap 46

Alonso is starting to steady the gap.

Lap 47

But the gap is closing again on the last lap to 2.3s. Remember Perez is on hard tyres and Alonso is on mediums.

Lap 48

The gap is just 1.8s now at the front. Vettel is slow with a rear puncture. His tyre is completely shredded and he makes a stop. A replay shows that Vettel came across Karthikeyan's front wing as he lapped him and that shredded his tyre.

Lap 49

Perez is now within the DRS range and is right on the gearbox of the Ferrari into turns one and two.

So close into turn 10. He'll have a shot at the Ferrari in the DRS zone. He might be able to do it before...

Lap 50

Now's Perez's chance down the pit straight but it's not quite enough. Alonso isn't going to make this easy. Perez is told Sauber needs this position and that there is light rain in sector one. Surely he'll push for the win now though. He's right on the gearbox of the Ferrari.

Perez runs wide at turn 13! He's lost 5.0s to Alonso. A replay shows that he ran a little too wide in turn 13 and took to the run off. The car is still in one piece though with six laps remaining.

Lap 51

Perez is still very quick though and is going about closing the gap again.

Lap 52

Perez has the gap down to 4.7s but only has 5 laps left to close the gap. Great battle shaping up between Vergne, Hulkenberg and Maldonado.

Lap 53

4.5s is the gap at the front and it looks as though Perez will not be able to challenge Alonso unless the Ferrari makes a mistake.

What a shame that he made that mistake he's still quicker and Alonso was having to use all his KERS on the pit straight to defend from the DRS.

Lap 54

3.9s is the gap on this lap. Impressive from Perez but still not enough with three laps remaining.

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap in fifth place but is not making an impression on Webber. The Lotus, like the Sauber, is also on hard tyres.

Lap 55

Smoke from the back of Maldonado's Williams and it looks as though his engine has blown. He's still on track but loses position to Schumacher and is out of the points. He returns to the pits with smoke trailing in his wake. Race over.

The gap is now 3.2s at the front. Hamilton is warned of oil from Maldonado's Williams. That could throw a spanner in the works.

Lap 56

Alonso wins in Malaysia. Perez crosses the line 2.2 seconds behind. Hamilton finishes third and Webber is fourth.

Yet another radio message for Vettel to stay on track. If he's as confused as I am he won't know what to do.

Raikkonen fifth, Senna sixth, di Resta seventh, Vergne eighth, Hulkenberg ninth and Schumacher tenth.

A very happy Perez screams: "YES! YES!" over his radio.

Button admits it was a "horrendous day at the office" as he finishes 14th.

Perez is told to go to parc ferme and reminded to switch the car off properly amid the excitement. "See you under the podium" says his race engineer.

Vettel is told to retire the car as Alonso starts his final lap. He is then told to stay out. He is in 12th and may have wanted to retire in order to change his gearbox and avoid a penalty. Vettel told to stop again!

Hamilton congratulates Perez before heading to the podium. A big hug for Perez from his team and very well deserved.

Domenicali is also doling out the hugs for both Alonso and Perez. Will a 2013 contract be in the post for the Mexican?

What a fantastic race and what a fantastic result. So important for Ferrari to get a win so early in the season after such a bad start in testing.

Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoyed the Malaysian Grand Prix as much as we did. Keep checking the website for all the reaction over the next few hours. There should be some interesting content.