• Malaysian Grand Prix - Driver by driver run-down

Driver by driver run-down

ESPNF1 Staff
March 25, 2012
Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez had a thrilling battle for the lead © Getty Images

Fernando Alonso - 1st
At the final pre-season test, Alonso would probably have sacrificed a body part to be at the top of the championship with a victory to his name by the second race. But despite the many failings of the Ferrari F2012, he has managed to achieve that result fair and square. Felipe Massa's performance in an identical car highlights just how impressive Alonso's has been, but it also shows that Ferrari is still nowhere near where it should be. Nevertheless, damage limitation doesn't get much better and there are updates coming to the car over the next three races that should help to close the gap.

Sergio Perez - 2nd
If there were any doubts about Perez's potential, his performance at Sepang should have put them to bed. For most of the race he was the fastest man on the circuit and it could be argued that Sauber lost the race rather than Ferrari winning it. But that should not detract from what was a sublime display of driving skill in difficult conditions and under a huge amount of pressure. A mistake towards the end of the race dropped him out of contention for victory, but he was still beaming in the press conference - and rightly so as his afternoon's work more than doubled his Formula One points tally.

Lewis Hamilton - 3rd
Although he finished in the same position he managed in Australia, Hamilton was much happier with his third place in Malaysia. Oddly he couldn't take the fight to the Sauber and Ferrari in front, but that disappointment was balanced by two of his biggest title rivals - Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button - finishing outside the points. He was unlucky in the pit stops, with pit-lane traffic blocking him from leaving at his first stop and some stubborn electrical tape over his brake ducts delaying his second, but it's also true that the McLaren looked out of sorts on the wet track.

Mark Webber - 4th
It's quickly becoming apparent that this year's Red Bull is not the easiest car to drive now that rear downforce has been limited by the ban on exhaust-blown diffusers. Webber struggled with the balance of his car throughout the race, but still put in a solid performance to finish fourth and keep nicely in touch with the top of the drivers' championship. And no doubt he was the only member of the team smiling when Sebastian Vettel made contact with Narain Karthikeyan's HRT towards the end of the race.

Kimi Raikkonen - 5th
Another solid race performance from the returning 2007 champion, but he is still hankering for a completely dry and straightforward race weekend. It was his first experience on the wet and intermediate Pirelli tyres and he said he took it easy as a result - although one could argue that he sat out of wet practice in Australia by choice when he had the perfect opportunity to sample the new Pirelli Cinturatos. Overall, the feeling is that there's still more to come from Lotus and hopefully Raikkonen will be able to show the E20's full potential at the coming races.

Bruno Senna - 6th
After a pit stop under the safety car dropped him to last on the grid at the restart it looked as though Senna was in for another disappointing result. However, his Williams came alive when he took on intermediate tyres and appeared to have significantly more grip than the cars ahead of him. His confidence grew and then spilled over into his final stint on the medium tyres as he continued to slice through the field from ninth to sixth.

Paul di Resta - 7th
Another consistent and impressive performance from the Force India driver. He stayed out of trouble to take advantage of others' problems, even though the car still isn't showing the kind of pace that was expected from it after pre-season testing.

Jean-Eric Vergne - 8th
He was unlucky not to score his points on his debut in Australia, but put in an even more impressive performance this weekend. The key to his race was staying on intermediates up until the red flag when he was effectively given a free pit stop by switching to full wets on the grid. But he also showed decent pace on the slick tyres towards the race and was closing on di Resta before backing off and settling for the four points.

Nico Hulkenberg - 9th
His ninth place finish meant Force India was the only team to have two cars in the points. It was a solid if unspectacular performance, but that was what was called for in the tricky conditions. He also benefitted from some well-timed pit stops to move up the field.

Michael Schumacher - 10th
One point is better than none, but Schumacher will still be hugely disappointed after starting from his highest grid position since his return. He was tapped into a spin by Romain Grosjean early in the race and from that point onwards faced a tough battle. He showed reasonable pace at the start of stints but the Mercedes' appalling tyre consumption meant he became a sitting duck for cars that were over a second slower than him in qualifying.

Sebastian Vettel - 11th
A fourth place finish looked on the cards until he collided with Narain Karthikeyan and suffered a puncture. He placed the blame squarely at the HRT driver's door and the FIA agreed by giving Karthikeyan a penalty. He lost his radio towards the end of the race, which didn't help and meant he did not hear his engineer's exasperated calls to park the car due to overheating brakes at the end of the race. Fortunately he didn't have a failure.

Daniel Ricciardo - 12th
Although he didn't make any glaring errors he wasn't left jumping for joy by his performance as he finished four places shy of his team-mate. But to be fair to him, Vergne got lucky with his strategy while Ricciardo did not.

Bruno Senna came through the field after an impressive drive as Kamui Kobayashi struggled © Sutton Images
Nico Rosberg - 13th
Another disappointing race for Mercedes, with Rosberg now failing to score in either of the first two races. Ran as high as fourth early on but the car can't look after its tyres and he needed to pit for fresh intermediates. That he was pleased to hold off Button on slicks is scant consolation for a team that claims it's made progress.

Jenson Button - 14th
"One of those days" he called it, and fortunately for him it was one where - of the genuine title rivals - only Hamilton and Webber scored solid points. He was his own worst enemy as he clumsily ran in to Karthikeyan, and then had the error compounded when he failed to switch a set of intermediates and needed a further pit stop.

Felipe Massa - 15th
The day couldn't have gone much worse for Massa. Not only was he out of the points as his team-mate won, the driver hotly tipped for his seat pulled out a remarkable second. The excuse that he doesn't know why his car reacts differently to its tyres compared to Alonso's is beginning to wear thin.

Vitaly Petrov - 16th
An impressive result as he looked after his tyres to ensure only three stops were needed and showed a consistently strong pace to allow him to battle with the faster cars making their way back through the field. To beat Kovalainen will be a real confidence boost.

Timo Glock - 17th
Marussia has been improving quickly and in the shape of Glock it has a driver that tends to make the most of any situation. In the tricky conditions he brought the car home ahead of a Caterham and rightly praised the team for delivering a reliable car despite a lack of testing.

Heikki Kovalainen - 18th
It's true that he lost time replacing his front wing and that explains his position behind Glock, but even without it he would have lost out to Petrov. A lack of balance was to blame and meant he couldn't reel in the Marussia ahead in the closing laps.

Pastor Maldonado - 19th - Engine
A disappointing result after a good race. Having thrown away points last weekend in Australia it was the car that stopped him scoring today as an engine problem two laps from the end dumped him out of tenth place. Made it difficult for himself by missing his pit box after the race restart but rose impressively through the field after that.

Charles Pic - 20th
Is proving himself to be a safe pair of hands at the very least, but inexperience cost him slightly. Said he was unsure when to pit after the restart and lost a chunk of time, while a clutch problem also hampered him later in the race. Did well to see the flag in such tough conditions.

Pedro de la Rosa - 21st
Was frustrated by a fuel pressure problem which left him static on the grid for the formation lap, negating any progress he could make on wet tyres at the start. He then was penalised for having team members on the grid too close to the race restart, but ensured HRT gathered data with long runs.

Narain Karthikeyan - 22nd
A great first stint on wet tyres saw him up in 10th place when the race was suspended, and his high position could have confused Button who ran in to him soon after. Was harshly penalised for causing a collision when Vettel chopped across his front wing late in the race, but his own error when he went off at turn nine didn't help his final finishing position.

Kamui Kobayashi - 23rd - Brakes
In total contrast to Perez he never got the strategy right, twice staying out on intermediate tyres too long. His pace wasn't helped by a brake problem though, which eventually led to his retirement.

Romain Grosjean - 24th - Accident
Made a strong start but again made contact with another car early in the race, inadvertently tapping Schumacher and himself in to spins after twitching in the wet. Naively pushed too hard too early trying to make up time, however, and spun out of the race on intermediate tyres even before the safety car had been called for.