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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Malaysian Grand Prix

The boys kicked off the second round of the 2008 championship with a surprisingly clean start in clear weather at Sepang. Pole sitter Felipe Massa squeezed out teammate Kimi Raikonnen at turn 1 to take the early lead.

While there were a couple of comings together in the back of the field over the course of the first lap, it was downright quiet compared to Australia a week ago. Big winners at the start included Robert Kubica and the Red Bulls.

The early stages of the race saw some excellent dicing between Heidfeld, Alonso and DC. Wide tracks make for great racing, and at one point the boys were three wide down one of the circuits long straights. I wonder what went through DC's mind as Alonso and Heidfeld pulled along either side of his Red Bull...

Kimi took advantage of the pit stops to pip Massa for the lead, and it looked as though it would come down to a battle between the two Ferraris despite Kubica staying out for a longer than expected stint. But even though Kubica pitted from the lead, a 16 second gap wouldn't be enough, and it looked as though the Pole would have to settle for a quiet third. Pit difficulties for Hamilton -- a right front tire problem -- and tire graining conspired to keep the Briton off the pace, while both he and his teammate continued to try make up ground from the pre-race penalty.

And then it all changed in an instant as Felipe Massa beached it. Reaping the reward at race end was Kubica, who slid into a comfortable 2nd, and Kovalainen, who pulled off third. A flawless race from Raikonnen gave Ferrari the win, but the team must be ruing the points lost without Massa's car at the finish, especially with McLaren and BMW picking up solid points.

Best drives: Mark Webber, who held off Fernando Alonso. Jarno Trulli, who drove a smooth race to give Toyota some major points for 4th, and Robert Kubica, who gave BMW two 2nd's in 2 weeks.

Worst weekend: Williams. A rough and tumble race that saw Nico finish 14th and Kaz 17th (2L down). And I think we'll toss Honda in with the mix. Ross Brawn recently said it may be years yet before they're fighting for anything substantial, and to prove the point Button finished 10th and Barrichello 13th after speeding in the pitlane resulted in a drive through.

All in all, an entertaining race without the rain we so often have come to expect from Malaysia. The teams get a little time before round 3 in Bahrain, and it will be interesting to see what bits and pieces they can develop in that time. Then it's on to Europe, where development kicks to the next level.

Is what we are seeing indicative of how the season will play out, or will someone deliver a major leap forward once the fly-aways are complete? SpeedRead will follow all the action on and off the track between now and the first Bahrain practice session, so stay tuned... Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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