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GP Week : Issue 111
Jenson Button’s smooth driving style paid dividends on Sunday in Malaysia as he scooped his first podium finish of the year in second place behind reigning champion Sebastian Vettel. The Briton was able to preserve his tyres to complete a mammoth 19-lap stint on the hard Pirellis to finish the race, a feat that team-mate Hamilton was unable to replicate as he struggled to complete 15 laps before falling back through the field. “ Today’s race was all about looking after the tyres,” said Button. “At the end, the Prime tyre was really working for me. In the closing laps, the team told me to take it easy on the tyres, but I chased down Sebastian as much as I could all the same – still, it wasn’t quite enough.” Throughout the first three quarters of the race, Hamilton was looking strong to challenge Vettel for the lead, but poor tyre conservation forced him to pit before the race leader on all three occasions, ending his hopes of ever truly challenging for the win. A problem with his right-front wheel at his final pitstop dropped him behind team-mate Button, before having to pit for a fourth time in the final five laps with severely degraded tyres. “At the start, I was on the outside going into the first corner, I got squeezed and it was difficult to defend without risking hitting Jenson or Nick [Heidfeld],” Hamilton commented after the race. “ Then, during the race, my tyres kept dropping off; we pitted earlier than was optimal, and ran out of tyres at the end. I’d hoped to make the end of the race on a set of used Primes, but they didn’t last so we had to pit right at the end of the race. Tyre wear hobbles Lewis Four stops almost brings Aussie first podium of 2011 Mark Webber produced one of the drives of the day in the Malaysian Grand Prix by coming from tenth place on lap five to fourth at the flag, after being hit with a KERS failure before the start of the race. He dropped six places on the long run-down to turn 1 as the lights went out by not having KERS, but the inherent pace of the RB7 allowed him to be the highest finisher with four pitstops, just one second behind Renault’s Nick Heidfeld. “It was a tough race today. It wasn’t a good start out of the box and we had a failure with the KERS, so I was out of position on the first lap,” explained Webber. “For the first three or four laps, I was trying to pass people, but they were coming back at me on the straights; it was tough to clear people when I didn’t have KERS.” Without KERS, Webber had to defend entirely on the DRS to overtake, and had to push hard to overcome the advantage his rivals had with their KERS. He was able to pull off numerous overtaking manoeuvres, aided by his fresher tyres, and picked up three places in the closing laps, including an on-track pass on Felipe Massa, to finish fourth. “Anyway, I fought back with a good strategy and got some good points at least,” he continued. “It wasn’t our day today and I was disappointed not to get on the podium. It was close, but not close enough, But, it will come and now we go to Shanghai.” KERS-less Webber fights back to fourth 28