As the heavens opened at the Sepang International Circuit, Romain suffered a bout of bad luck, while Kimi managed to pick his way through the crowd to take home a good haul of points from Malaysia.
A matter of minutes before the scheduled 16:00 start time, the grid became a flurry of activity as rain began to fall on the grid. Within seconds the track was sufficiently damp to warrant a switch onto intermediate tyres before the lights went out.
Romain got a phenomenal start, launching well and using his KERS to weave his was up to P3 on the run down to the first corner. However the Frenchman’s poor fortunes from Australia continued as contact with Schumacher at turn 5 left him facing the oncoming traffic, subsequently dropping to P20. Things were to get even worse for Romain, as severe aquaplaning through turn 5 on just the third lap sent him backwards into the gravel and out of the race.
Conversely, Kimi struggled to get his E20 off the line, but managed to find a path through the confusion that unfurled during the first few corners to sit in P9 at the end of the first lap. Huge forks of lightning and torrential rain ensued, as the safety car emerged to bring some calm to proceedings. As giant raindrops continued to fall Kimi pitted for wets, falling to P13 before an immense downpour brought out the red flags and a break in the action of almost hour.
After a safety car restart the team immediately brought the Finn in for an early switch over to intermediate tyres, which proved the right call as Kimi moved up 3 places during the stops, with another position gained as Button collided with Karthikeyan. Progress continued for the former World Champion, as he jumped up to P6 by lap 16 as rivals once again dove into the pit lane for fresh rubber.
With the DRS enabled on lap 20, Kimi honed in on the back of Vettel, following the German past his compatriot Nico Rosberg on lap 24, pulling off a superb move around the outside of turn 1 after engaging the DRS down the straight.
As the laps fell away, Webber began to pile on the pressure as the team chose to remain on the intermediate tyres despite a drying track, with further rain forecast in the coming moments. Unfortunately this was not to be, and having final pitted for slicks on lap 41 Kimi was jumped by Webber who came in 1 lap earlier to put on the dry tyres.
Having withstood further pressure from Senna and Di Resta, the Finn jumped another place as a puncture for Vettel on lap 47 moved him back up to P5.
The remainder of the race was a lonesome affair, and in clear air Kimi set the fastest time of the day on lap 51, and then again on lap 54 to become the only driver in the 1 minute 40 second bracket by the time the chequered flag dropped.
All in all a mixed day for the team, but with more points in the bag and further signs of encouraging pace in varying conditions at a number of different circuits, the outlook is one of optimism for the coming races. As we head to China, Kimi occupies 7th place in the Driver’s Championship, the luckless Romain sits in 24th, while Lotus F1 Team hold 5th position in the Constructor’s Championship.
Kimi Raikkonen, 5th“It was a bit difficult today. It was my first time on the wet weather Pirellis and I didn’t know how the intermediate or wet tyres would react - I had only completed one installation lap on them before. I just tried to stay on the road and push as much as I felt comfortable with. When I changed to the dry tyres it took a couple of laps to get heat into them, and my visor was pretty dirty so seeing the dry line was difficult. Once I found my way I could push much harder. It was difficult to have another mixed weather weekend. The conditions changed a lot today so it was always a case of adapting and looking for grip. Overall, we seemed to have a pretty strong package again this weekend, so I’m relatively happy. A fifth today was okay, but we’re always looking for better results.”
Romain Grosjean, DNF“It felt like a perfect start off the line; I got a good jump on the others and with the KERS I managed to weave through the cars in front without touching anybody. Coming out of the first two corners I was up to third, which was an amazing feeling. In turn four Mark (Webber) managed to carry a bit more speed through the corner and edged in front. Michael (Schumacher) tried to follow him through but there was not enough space so we touched and I spun. From there things became really tough. The visibility was so poor I couldn’t see anything in front of me. We made the decision to stay out on the intermediate tyres but the rain got heavier and there was far too much water. I had massive aquaplaning into turn five and unfortunately ended up going backwards into the gravel.”
James Allison, Lotus technical director“What we would give for a normal race! We had to fight back from a grid penalty for changing the gearbox on Kimi’s car. We also had two drivers learning Pirelli’s wet tyres for the first time today. This made for a difficult time here at Sepang. Our pace at the end of the race on dry tyres looks extremely promising from the perspective of both degradation and pace. Give us a normal race, with two clean getaways from the good qualifying positions of which we have shown we are capable, and I think we’ll be able to collect a good reward.”
Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal"Today’s result is a bit frustrating. Whilst it’s good to have a car finish in the top five after starting from tenth in conditions which were very tricky, we can’t help thinking that we could have achieved more from this race. Obviously, it’s disappointing for Romain, as it’s another DNF for him in the early laps of the race. He had never driven in the rain with these intermediate tyres so we have to take that into account. He had a very good start off the line, but the contact with Michael ruined his race. At the restart, we recovered well from our position and on the plus side, the car looked strong again. Kimi had a flawless race. He was very consistent in all conditions and his best lap shows what could have been without his grid penalty. I’m sure when we have a ‘standard’ weekend - without bad weather, penalty or interruption - we will do very well."
Ricardo Penteado, Renault track support to Lotus “Another points scoring finish for Kimi here. Again it was a shame for Romain but over the course of the weekend we confirmed the pace seen in Australia of the Lotus-Renault package. The changeable weather made it very difficult to manage fuel consumption. We burned a lot of fuel at the second start, which allowed us to be lighter towards the final laps. This played out well as Kimi set the fastest lap of the race on lap 53. Overall the engine has worked perfectly and we’re now looking forward to China, which presents a very different challenge.”