Following on from an Australian grand prix I had looked like winning, only for engine failure to rob me of 10 points, I would take on Sepang, Malaysia, and continue my efforts to master tracks more thoroughly. As established last time, there’s no racing line to assist me in braking or cornering, so I need to learn the appropriate braking zones. Malaysia was trickier than Australia.
Grip is a touch more important here, with the winding, bending turns 1 & 2, the sweeping turns 5 & 6, and the sequence from turns 9 to 14 all requiring good downforce. It’s easy to let the car drift wide at turns 11 & 13, by carrying too much speed and too little grip. Meanwhile, turn 4 is a beefy and bumpy right-hander and turn 9 is a similar beast (only 9 is a left-hander). Meanwhile, turn 7 requires only a gentle application of the brakes, proving faster than it looks, and turn 8 is flat out.
The practice sessions, once I had found my rhythm, brought about some good times. The aforementioned danger points did get the better of me a few times, but by and large, I had nailed the track. Unfortunately for me, every practice session took place in dry conditions, and Q1? Torrential downpour. In fact, it’s the first occasion I can think of where full wets were required. With zero practice in wet conditions, I would end up qualifying last, a second slower than the next slowest car.
Had the race itself been a wet one, I doubt it would have yielded any points. Thankfully, the race itself was to be dry, and therefore I felt I’d have a chance. Still, coming right from the back… Well, I would just have to see how things went! The start of the race was excellent – I was late on the brakes into the first corner and managed to jump several cars, getting up to 11th, and by the end of the first couple of laps I was in ninth.
My chase of the points positions was on. As the laps progressed I’d manage to sneak my way the field, including some nice drag races down the outside of the final straight, before diving down turn 15 and using my better exit to blast past several cars. Then came the most fun moment of the race.
Barichello was leading but I was closing in nicely, and on lap nine (I think) I was racing side by side with him down the back straight. Once again I darted down the inside of turn 15, and a second drag race took place toward turn 1. Barichello had a little too much pace so I stayed behind him around turns 1, 2 and 3, then lunged down the inside of turn 4.
So, I now led the race, and truthfully I hadn’t expected to end up in that position. With the first set of stops looming, I eked out a gap of around 6.5 seconds, but would slide back down the order after my stop. It was a short-lived situation, as I would soon catch and pass Barichello again.
From that point on I would build a substantial lead, and would close out a remarkable and unlikely victory. It’s the first time I’ve won from the back of the grid, and it means I am up and running in my title defence. Sebastian Vettel (who had been second in Australia) was also second here, so he leads the title race, but I am coming from him!