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GP Week : Issue 3
31 www. GPWEEK. com After his debut difficulties, Nelson Piquet was happy to complete a full day’s running on Friday and shaded his team-leader Alonso by mere hundredths of a second in both sessions. Alonso had suffered gearbox trouble in the afternoon, but remained optimistic about the team’s pace. Saturday showed why. Piquet was the faster of the Renaults in final practice, setting the seventh fastest lap, but in qualifying it was Alonso who shone. Q3 and ninth place was the Spaniard’s reward, although he, like Heidfeld, complained of McLaren blocking. Piquet meanwhile also went a Q session better than Australia to take 13th place. Alonso fought a race-long duel with Coulthard and Webber to finish in the final points position of eighth, admitting that in race trim the team is slightly below where it needs to be if it wants regular points. Piquet meanwhile fought through the energy-sapping heat to record his first race finish in F1 in 11th, a fine performance from the exhausted but determined rookie. AT&T WILLIAMSF1 7 8 RED BULL RACING 9 10 Following his first F1 podium, Nico Rosberg was bursting with confidence on Friday, and duly took his Williams to fourth in the morning before a more realistic 12th in the afternoon. Nakajima, meanwhile, had a clutch release bearing problem in the morning leaving him 18th, before improving to 10th in the afternoon. Saturday was a slap in the chops for the squad. The new asphalt and comparatively cold conditions meant the drivers struggled to get heat into their tyres leaving Rosberg 16th and Nakajima 18th before the application of the Japanese driver’s 10-place penalty held over from Melbourne. The race refused to reward either driver with the glories of Melbourne. Rosberg was caught in the first lap dogfight, and lost his front wing in an altercation with Glock. He recovered to finish 14th. Nakajima had a good start and was fighting to gain position until a puncture on his second set of tyres changed his ultimate strategy. A spin near the end put the frighteners on him, and he guided the car home in 17th. If Red Bull had been hoping to put its Australian disappointments behind it, it seemed destined for doom in Malaysia. A broken track rod mounting in practice led to Coulthard’s trip over the run off, short flight, violent landing and an FIA investigation into the structural integrity of Red Bull’s suspension. Webber started Friday with an engine failure and finished it in 16th place. The omens were not good. Saturday went far better than expected however with the FIA declaring the cars safe to run before P3. Qualifying saw Coulthard through to Q2 and 12th, with Webber making it into Q3 to take 8th on the grid. The race itself saw Webber keeping pace with the McLarens and BMWs early on, while Coulthard fought off advances from Button and Piquet whilst having a go at Alonso. In an impressive turn around in fortune, both cars made it to the chequered flag, with Webber coming home a delighted seventh to record the team’s first points of the year. ING RENAULT TEAM 5 6 F1 malaysia >>