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GP Week : Issue 146
30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Despite coping well with the changeable conditions and making the right strategy calls, the reigning champions were once again unable to match the pace of the leaders. Webber took the flag in fourth place, after leap-frogging Raikkonen on the switchover to dry-weather tyres and was closing on Hamilton when the chequered flag fell. Team-mate Vettel lost radio communication with his team early in the race, making life difficult, but he was nevertheless on course for fourth place until tangling with HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan. The Indian incurred a post-race penalty while Vettel had to pit for new tyres, dropping him to 12th. Mercedes scored their first point of the 2012 campaign courtesy of Michael Schumacher’s 10th place finish, but it could have been so much more for the German team. Starting third, Schumacher was pushed into a spin by Grosjean at turn 4, dropping him down to 16th and effectively ending his fight for decent points. He fought back hard to take 10th at the flag, only thanks to Maldonado’s engine failure. Rosberg ran fourth at one stage but excessive wear forced an extra stop for new intermediates. He couldn’t recover and took the flag in 13th. Lewis Hamilton recorded his second consecutive third place finish from pole position on Sunday, but this time had a slow second pitstop to blame for him losing the lead. He stayed in front off the line and through the first round of stops, but a slow second stop cost him two places. He didn’t have the legs on Alonso nor Perez for the rest of the race, but still had enough pace to hang onto third. Button had a frustrating race in the sister car after contact with a HRT in the first half of the race forced a pitstop for repairs and dropped him to the back of the field. He was unable to get his intermediates to work and there was nothing he could do by the time he switched to slicks. Romain Grosjean’s inexperience showed again in Malaysia as he failed to convert a competitive grid position into points for the second race in a row. Starting sixth the Frenchman first spun at turn 4 on the first lap after hitting Schumacher, before then spinning into the gravel at turn 6 on lap 4. Raikkonen meanwhile showed his experience to battle hard for his second consecutive points finish in fifth place. The Finn had an early switch to intermediates to thank for climbing from 13th to sixth after the safety car, before holding his own to finish fifth at the flag, thanks to Rosberg’s demise. Double world champion Alonso showed his class yet again to claim an unlikely victory with arguably the fourth or fifth best car on the grid. A quick start and quick second pitstop were crucial to him taking the lead, but he remained under pressure from Perez for much of the distance. He didn’t make a single error and did just enough to hold off Perez’s challenge to cross the line two seconds ahead. Massa was running eighth following the safety car, but excessive degradation on the intermediates forced an extra pitstop. That relegated him well down the field from where he recovered to 15th. Force India recorded their first double points finish of the year with Paul di Resta in seventh and Nico Hulkenberg in tenth on Sunday, elevating them to sixth in the championship. The points were especially welcome after both cars dropped out in Q2 on Saturday but both went on to make good use of the uncertain conditions to climb into the top ten. Di Resta climbed into the points following the switch to intermediates after the safety car period, while Hulkenberg rose into the top ten soon after. Both then pitted for dries at the same time as their rivals to consolidate their position and come home in seventh and ninth respectively. Red Bull Mercedes McLaren Lotus Ferrari Force India F1 >>> MALAYSIA TEAM-BY-TEAM: MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX