“Meanwhile, at the weekend: Vettel takes controversial GP in Malaysia; Leimer and Coletti triumph; Hinchcliffe and Hawksworth wins in St Pete”
Formula One, Malaysia Grand Prix (Rd 2)
Sebastian Vettel won Sunday’s Malaysia Grand Prix in controversial style for Red Bull, thanks to a late pass on teammate Mark Webber.
Despite receiving orders to hold station, Vettel laid an aggressive surprise attack on Webber on lap 44, with the pair running virtually wheel-to-wheel for several corners until Vettel won out. Complaining vociferously during the race about Webber’s controlled pace, only for the Australian to respond immediately thereafter. Vettel takes a nine-point advantage over Raikkonen going into the Chinese GP in just under three weeks.
Mercedes took 3rd and 4th with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finishing line astern after team principal Ross Brawn ordered his drivers to stay put – much to Rosberg’s chagrin. Felipe Massa assumed 5th after a poor first lap dropped him back from the first row. His Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso retired on lap two when his broken front wing collapsed under his nosecone.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean (6th) led teammate Kimi Raikkonen (7th) home ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber, 8th) and Sergio Perez (McLaren, 9th). Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne took the final point, coming home just 1.5s ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. A stellar drive from Jules Bianchi saw him win out the Marussia / Caterham battle, as the Frenchman continues to show his worth.
In a race dominated by pit action rather than great racing, Force India had torrid day when wheel gun failures ensured the team could not attach their left front tyres.
GP2 Series round of Malaysia (Rd 1)
Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer took the opening race of the 2013 GP2 Series in Sepang thanks to a late pass on Stefano Coletti (Rapax). Leimer spent much of the race battling with Coletti, only for the latter to lose all tyre life in the closing stages, while Leimer’s good pace as he nursed his soft Pirelli’s was particularly impressive. Coletti went backwards still, as ART Grand Prix’s James Calado took advantage of his lack of grip with five laps to go. In the final tours, Felipe Nasr drew toward Coletti, but ran out of laps to take the last podium spot.
Leimer’s teammate Julian Leal drove an impressive race to 5th, leading Jolyon Palmer (Carlin, 6th), Sam Bird (RUSSIAN TIME, 7th) and Stephane Richelmi (DAMS, 8th) home. Simon Trummer finished 9th, while Mitch Evans – hampered by food poisoning – took the final point on his GP2 début.
It was a poor day for Marcus Ericsson (DAMS) who crashed into the back of Palmer on lap one, while Adrian Quaife-Hobbs eliminated himself and MP Motorsport teammate Daniel de Jong three laps later in a clumsy move.
Coletti made up for his race one loss by taking the Sprint Race on Sunday. A startling getaway saw the Rapax man take the lead exiting turn two, despite lining up 6th on the grid. Under pressure in the late stages from Nasr, Coletti held on to the lead and his tyres, while the Brazilian swarmed all over his rear; however Coletti kept a gap to the flag.
Evans grabbed 3rd after he sliced his way up from the fifth row. The Kiwi inherited the podium spot when poleman Richelmi outbraked himself in the final turn on lap 16. Richelmi had enough of a gap to hold 4th ahead of Johnny Cecotto Jr, while Trummer edged Conor Daly to 6th place. Rene Binder scored a point for Venezuela GP Lazarus, finishing only six-tenths up on Palmer who started from the pits following a stall.
IZOD IndyCar round of St Petersburg (Rd 1)
James Hinchcliffe held off late pressure from Helio Castroneves to claim his maiden IndyCar win at St Petersburg on Sunday.
The Andretti-Autosport racer ducked passed his Penske rival during a restart on lap 84, having earlier done the same to Will Power in the other Penske machine. Hinchcliffe ran 4th early on before slipping by Foyt’s Takuma Sato to challenge the Castroneves / Power duo. For Power, his day was derailed, when, under safety car conditions, an embarrassed JR Hildebrand hit him from behind – Power finished 16th.
Marco Andretti picked up a strong 3rd following a late move on Simona de Silvestro. Ripped of tyre grip on the soft Firestones, de Silvestro held a pack at bay throughout the final segment of the race. KV teammate Tony Kanaan also gained 4th from de Silvestro, while Scott Dixon passed the Swiss racer over the line.
It was a fine day for series débutante Tristan Vautier who was in the top four when exhaust damage ended his day, while reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay retired on lap 79 with throttle issues. Former champion Dario Franchitti retired following a rookie error when he slammed the wall exiting the pits on cold tyres.
Firestone Indy Lights round of St Petersburg (Rd 1)
Jack Hawksworth won the opening Indy Lights race of the season at St Petersburg, with a little help from rivals Gabby Chavez and Carlos Munoz. Hawksworth was running 3rd on lap 11, when Munoz attempted to grab the lead from Chaves, only for the pair to collide, gifting the lead and eventually the win to Hawksworth. The Englishman had tried for the lead at the start, only to clash with Munoz, dropping the pair to 4th and 5th respectively and allowing Chavez to sneak to the front.
Moves on Sage Karam and Peter Dempsey brought them into view of Chavez, only for Munoz to try an unrealistic move. From there Dempsey brought the car home in a safe 2nd, with Karam a further three seconds behind. Munoz received a drive through penalty, but had climbed back to 4th when his gearbox gave way on lap 42, promoting Juan Pablo Garcia to 4th, Zach Veach to 5th and Jorge Goncalvez to 6th. Only nine cars started, with three not lasting the distance.
[To be updated soon with summary of IndyCar.]