By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian driver Felipe Massa is the new leader of the 2010 Formula One championship having secured a respectable point finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix last Sunday, the third event of this year’s F1 calendar.
Starting from the back (in 21st position) Massa delivered a great performance, passing fourteen opponents and finishing seventh. He also had to count on a little bit of luck though, as his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso suffered an engine failure in the penultimate lap, dropping several positions and finishing the race in thirteenth place. The Spanish driver led the championship after two rounds, but now trails Massa by two points.
After bad results in the Bahrein and Australian GPs, the Red Bull Racing Team reacted strongly last weekend and utterly dominated the Malaysian GP to register a one-two victory. Sebastian Vettel was the winner, closely followed by his Australian team-mate Mark Webber. The podium was completed by Nico Rosberg, of Mercedes, who claimed the third place.
Throughout the race the Red Bull Racing team’s supremacy was unquestionable, and there was no dispute over the top positions as no one got even close to the leading duo on the track. However, the race was far from uneventful, and the struggle over the intermediate positions was sufficiently intense to mark the race out as one of the most exciting in the recent history of Formula One.
This was due in large part to a disciplinary penalty applied to Ferrari and McLaren, which forced them to start the race from the back of the grid. Because of that penalty the big guns Lewis Hamilton, and Jenson Button of McLaren and Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) had to perform a “recovery race”, weaving a way through the other vehicles with aggressive driving and high speed overtaking more reminiscent of the early days of Formula One.
Having gained several positions and established themselves in the sixth to ninth positions, Massa and the three others started a personal duel. Lewis Hamilton came out on top and finished sixth, while Button was passed by Massa, and finished eighth. Alonso, with his mechanical troubles during the last sprint, finished twelfth.
Brazilians Rubens Barrichelo (Williams), Lucas di Grassi (VRT) and Bruno Senna (Hispania) put in modest performances, finishing in twelfth, fourteenth and sixteenth places respectively, but importantly for them the Malaysian GP was the first ever race that Senna and di Grassi successfully completed in Formula One. The two drivers are debuting the category in 2010 and both failed to finish the opening two races of the season in Bahrein and Australia.
The next race of the season will be the Chinese Grand Prix, taking place in Shanghai, on April 18th.