Bulls pull the double at Sepang

Published on April 5th, 2010

As the saying goes, reaching the top is never the uphill challenge, it’s keeping from falling downhill that’s the part which proves to be the tricky bit for most teams.

We present ‘Exhibit A’ to the court in the form of the Red Bull Racing team. Having started out as the Stewart Grand Prix (remember those times) and then having been tossed around to different owners with the likes of Jaguar amongst the deed holders.

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Needless to say the team weren’t exactly on the right side of the grid during those tumultuous times. Nonetheless, once Red Bull entered the fray things have started to lift up for the better.

From mid-grid runners, the team has developed rapidly into championship-winning potential that even managed to give Jenson Button a run for his money last year. Carrying over the momentum gained from last year, testing this year is a clear indication that 2010 is the Bull’s year to shine.

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However, as we mentioned before, it’s easy getting to the top but not staying there and now that Red Bull Racing are at the pinnacle with their cars that are illogically faster than the rest of the field and capable drivers, it seemed that the driver’s championship was no more a pipe dream.

But as the saying sang, the first two rounds of the year saw a Red Bull sitting pretty on pole but never being able to translate it into a win. The causes for both races were technical failures. Speed was in but reliability seemed to have missed the beat.

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Qualifying for the 2010 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix saw the Red Bull’s having the chance to make it a hat trick of poles at Sepang. Mark Webber didn’t disappoint, leading the time sheets in a rain-drenched qualifying with teammate Sebastien Vettel in third, sandwiching the Mercedes GP of Nico Rosberg.

Finishing off the front portion of the grid were the usual back-markers due to the havoc courtesy of the rain. Instead of the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes GP, it was Force India, Renault and Williams that were in top half. The formers were all kicking it off from the rear due to being unable to post fast times before the rain washed away the session.

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In case you were wondering where the newcomers and our local pride and joy, Team Lotus Racing, were, they were on the wrong end of the grid as well with HRT and Virgin for company.

Perhaps pleasantly, the race was living true to the words of Formula One supreme Bernie Ecclestone and got more exciting. After the Melbourne mourning of dullness, more than a spoonful of Tabasco was added into the mix for the third round.

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Right from the get-go it was sexcitement at its orgasmic best. Vettel managed to pass Webber down the first corner to take P1. Rubens Barrichello in the Williams overcooked it from P7 and dropped 10 places as the rest of the field gunned by.

With the Red Bull machines being insanely faster by more than just a pinch, Vettel and Webber built a gap that just kept widening as the lap counter ringed up. Rosberg maintained third on his own while the Prancing Horses and Silver Arrows gave it their all to climb into point’s contention.

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Hamilton didn’t have it easy from the Renault in front of him. Vitaly Petrov in the Renault fended off the Brit for quite some time before finally being passed. Even so, the Russian was stuck on the former world champion’s tail and Hamilton eventually had to weave in front of him to fend him off. Needless to say race official were not impressed and warned Hamilton.

Amongst the more notable casualties was Michael Schumacher. Seven-time world champion Schumacher limped to the sides on Lap 10 with a loose left-rear wheel nut. Suffice to say, the glory days of yonder are not quite raining upon him yet on his return.

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The finishing roster saw seven DNF’s. Virgin’s Timo Glock spun out early while the Sauber’s of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi not even starting and retiring on Lap 9. Despite a spirited effort in the beginning, Force India’s Vitantonio Luizzi called it quits on Lap 12 and Renault’s Petrov followed suit on Lap 34.

The heat was on though between the Ferraris and McLarens throughout the race. Hamilton clawed his way up the grid to third and stayed out longer before finally pitting on Lap 31 for tyres. He emerged just ahead of teammate Jenson Button. Only Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso stayed out longer than Hamilton, pitting on Lap 37 and joining back just behind teammate Felipe Massa, who himself was hot on the heels of Button.

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As the race neared the two thirds mark, Vettel had established a firm lead ahead of wingman Webber. Following behind was Rosberg, Renault’s Robert Kubica, Force India’s Adrian Sutil, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso and STR’s Jaime Alguersuari.

Having pitted the last, Alonso’s rubbers were fresher and the Spaniard kept pulling off fastest lap after fastest lap to get closer to Massa. Eventually, Brazilian Massa edged pass Button on lap 44 into seventh but couldn’t catch up to Hamilton in the remaining 12 laps.

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Now it was Alonso’s turn to make a move on Button and try he did. Transmission trouble early in the race didn’t make things easy but the double world champion gave it his all and it finally bore fruit.

Down the straight, past the pits on Lap 55, Alonso squeezed past Button into Turn One to give the Tifosi something to shout about. However, lady luck had a frown on as Alonso blew his engine on the second last lap.

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As the chequered flag was brought down, Vettel lead Webber home for a Red Bull one-two that was a long time coming this season. Completing the podium was Rosberg, giving team sponsor’s and race title sponsor’s Petronas something to smile about.

The top ten was completed by Kubica, Sutil, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Alguersuari, and William’s Nico Hulkenberg.

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Looking at the driver’s standings now, it’s a cosy call at the top with Massa leading on 39-points followed by Alonso and Vettel tied on 37, Button and Rosberg level on 35, Hamilton on 31 and Kubica on 30.

Webber follows behind on 24-points after the second place here while Schumacher is a lowly 10th with a measly nine-points.

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On the constructors front, Ferrari leads the way with 76-points whilst McLaren plays bridesmaid on 66. Red Bull move up to third with 61.

After the hectic one week break period from the last race in Bahrain, it’s two weeks again before the Formula One circus pitches its tents in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix on April 18.

text: Dinesh Appavu  pix: Geck, Snapshooter & Nick Menza

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