As the grid lined up for qualifying there were some conspicuous absences from the paddock this week. Technical demons continue to plague Sauber's PessimistPrime, the team's season 2 leading point scorer kept to the sidelines yet again. The Swiss speedsters find themselves already facing a gap to their WCC rivals Williams, and on the majority of the field. Whilst it's still early days, Sauber will be keen to get their full complement on the grid soon. RFR were down a car this week with the absence of title sponsor Fredzfrog.
AGP2 rookies Predz (Mercedes) and Minnow (Force India) are still yet to compete in a championship round. With Nobody's retirement after round 1, this left Force India without a car on track to compete this week. Mercedes continue to rely on Wingnut as their sole entrant in Minnow's absence - a lot of pressure for a relatively new driver in the sole WCC winning team on the GP2 grid.
Whilst the field were greeted with sunny conditions for qualifying, all eyes were on the forecast for the race. With a better than 50/50 chance of a wet race, how would the teams set up the cars? The temptation to aim for qualifying points at the expense of race pace has been removed this season, leaving the drivers free to plan for the main event.
STR's Jase set the early pace with a 1:36.559 but reigning champion SOJ immediately countered with a 1:35.942. Jase closed the gap to just over a tenth a short time later. They were the only two cars under 1:37 in the early running. Ploddy, ET, millen, Toggsie and rogue were closely matched, whilst Sora, EffSea and zdievo were also on similar pace.
In the end, SOJ would remain the only runner in the 1:35s despite improvements from the STRs of Jase and millen. Toggsie would close out the second row, ending an impressive session for Ferrari. Ploddy and rogue were again closely matched, the Lotus taking the qualifying honours for the second week in a row. ET and Effing lined up on the 4th row with Williams' zdievo leading Sauber's Sora on the 5th row. A special mention here to lone Mercedes driver Wingnut, who closed his qualifying gap to the field from 5 seconds in Melbourne to just 3 seconds in Sepang - watch this space in the coming weeks as he continues to improve.
Despite the forecast, the race got under way in dry conditions. Both Ferraris were a little slow off the line, allowing Jase to got the drop on SOJ, and Ploddy to get by Toggsie. SOJ managed to retake the lead through turn 2. Some tentative breaking from rogue eclipse allowed ET to slide up the inside into turn 1 before taking Toggsie out of turn 2 in a fantastic start for the RFR driver. In what GP2 fans will recognise as something of a rarity, the field made it through the tight opening corners trouble free. It wouldn't quite last the whole lap though, as Wingnut gave Effing a nudge at the sector 2 hairpin.
We were treated to some fantastic close racing between millen, Ploddy and ET over the early laps, with rogue and Toggsie involved as well. It became a game of who could hold their nerve, as errors caused most of the early position changes. Indeed an error at turn 14 from ET cost him dearly on lap 3. On lap 4 we started to hear the first radio calls anticipating light rain in the next quarter of an hour. The weather would play a crucial role in how this race played out.
It stayed close at the front, Jase giving SOJ plenty to think about, as millen fought to get free of Ploddy and Toggsie. rogue and ET pushed to hang on to the lead group, whilst further back Sora, zdievo and Effing were battling closely. The early contact with Effing had dropped Wingnut back, but he rallied to start putting in some consistent lap times. On lap 8 the leaders caught the Mercedes and some contact between SOJ and Wingnut would force the Ferrari to take a drive through penalty, promoting Jase to the race lead. Meanwhile, an epic battle was unfolding between Lotus' Ploddy and Ferrari's Toggsie. Lap after lap they raced wheel to wheel, finally allowing rogue to catch up and get involved.
The question now became all about the rain. With the field all selecting the options in qualifying due to the wet race prediction, the timing of the first pitstop would be critical. By lap 12, the tyres were certainly looking worse for wear and still the rain hadn't come. It would finally start falling on lap 14, albeit unevenly. Whilst sectors 1 and 3 were getting progressively more precarious, sector 2 stayed dry, creating a dilemma for the whole field. Pit for inters or tough it out a little longer on shot options? Lap 15 and 16 drew in most of the runners, some hoping the rain would stay light taking inters, one or two taking the plunge for wets given the intensity of the rain that was being reported. Half the track seemed perfect for inters, half for full wets as the sky darkened and the monsoon set in.
The indecision didn't last, as those who banked on inters cursed and were forced to stop again, whilst those on full wets came into their own. Ploddy jumped from P6 up to the P4 thanks to his canny wet weather strategy, and it was this choice, coupled with his established wet weather credentials, that would ultimately get him on the podium. rogue tried valiantly to catch his rival, only to fall short, lucky to hang on to P4 from a fast finishing ET. Toggsie would finish P6 after looking like he might snatch his second career podium earlier in the race. Jase ended up P7 after some tyre choices that didn't work out and a penalty, the last car on the lead lap. EffSea came home ahead of zdievo in P8 in his first race of the season. Sora rounded out the points ahead of the valiant Wingnut - an impressive display by all to get the cars over the line given the conditions.
At the front SOJ proved he is still the man to beat, continuing his perfect start to the season with victory number 2. STR's millen put in another strong performance to take his second P2 of the season, so far looking the strongest challenger to SOJ's attempt to retain the WDC.
"Brilliant, just a fantastic performance today. We felt we'd ticked every box going in and were just focusing on ourselves. It would have been easy to make a mistake with tyres or out on track today but we did everything well. Great to see another great performance by millen, if we had slipped up he was always there looking to pounce, so well done to him. Great job by Plods also who again showed his wet weather skills, in difficult conditions. Overall, good race by all." - SOJ - Ferrari
"Great race overall. Congrats to SOJ and Ploddy for the other podiums spots. Bring on China!" - millen - Toro Rosso
"An amazing race, so many good moments and highly competitive throughout. I raced well at the start but got creamed in the middle, it really was my wet tyre undercut that saved the day for me. After that kind of race I will take the podium with both hands. A great result and it felt every bit as good as any other." - Ploddy - Lotus
"Another week, another pressure filled race! We made a mistake taking the inters at the first stop, which probably cost us the podium in the end. Couldn't keep it clean enough in the closing stages to get Plods and was lucky to hold off ET too. Well done to all." - rogue eclipse - Williams
"Good, fun race, I'm really enjoying the season so far. Well done SOJ and Millen and Plods. I made a few mistakes during the race but all in all, wasn't a terrible drive. It was fun chasing down Toggsie over the final few laps and was so close to getting rogue, but just couldn't close him out." - E.T. - Red Bull
"Come the rain, come the fully body sweats! I'm exhausted... but happy to be further up the points tally compared to last season... Oh, and of course keeping the Ferrari team up there as 'Da Boss'." - Toggsie - Ferrari
"I had a good battle with SOJ for the first hand full of laps but after that I got a penalty for sliding into Wingnut and it went downhill from there. I was on the wrong tyre for a few laps and couldn’t stay on the road but once on full wets I felt the grip and braking was very good but by now I was way off the lead and just drove around till the end. So I let the team down again but I will be back on the grid for China." - Jasegp - Toro Rosso
"I don’t regret the call to get onto the inters when I did, think I would of lost more ground to Effing on the options in the wet anyway, and most of the track was still too dry to get onto the wets after 1 lap. But WHAT IF? What If I had gone into the pits for wets when I knew Effing would need to as well, 8th was a real possibility. But all things considered, VERY happy with 9th." - zdievo - Williams
"In all honesty, I didn't have a lot of expectations coming into Malaysia. Given the situation, I couldn't get the practice done since the car had problems so we sat out all the practice sessions. So the overall goal was to just get points. 1 point is quite good considering how badly I fared on this track. However, that means I need more time for Shanghai next week. Plus given it is my home race, expectations will be high." - roxas3sora3 - Sauber
|8||7||Effing Sea||Lotus||+1 lap||28||01:43.293||8||4|