Surprise win for Fernando Alonso in rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix.

 

Fernando Alonso lifted Ferrari out of the doldrums with his 28th career victory at the end of a rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix.

Following a 50-minute delay after the race had been halted at the end of nine laps due to the wet conditions, it was Alonso who went on to master the elements at the Sepang International Circuit.

The Spaniard was pushed to the limit by Mexico's Sergio Perez, whose mistake on lap 50 arguably cost him a maiden race win for Sauber.

Perez, a member of Ferrari's young driver academy and linked with taking up the underperforming Felipe Massa's seat, claimed second place, collecting more points in this one race than he did throughout all of last season.

In a Ferrari that has so far been poor by the team's usual high standards, Alonso's win means he now leads the championship by five points from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to settle for third place after starting from pole for the second successive race.

No rain had fallen on Sepang since Thursday, ensuring practice and qualifying remained dry, however, 20 minutes prior to the start it decided to make an appearance.

It was only light at first, with all teams bar HRT switching to intermediate Pirelli tyres - with more of a groove to cope with the conditions - whilst the Spanish marque opted for extremes.

At least there was no safety car start, and when the red lights disappeared Hamilton made amends for his poor effort in Australia with a clean getaway, keeping compatriot Jenson Button behind him.

But over the opening laps the rain steadily grew in intensity, forcing virtually all drivers to make the move on to extremes.

Come the end of lap six race director Charlie Whiting sent out the safety car, and on lap nine opted to suspend the race as it had clearly become too dangerous to continue.

At that point the field had been reduced to 23 cars, with Lotus' Romain Grosjean spinning into the gravel on lap four, and that after colliding with Michael Schumacher early on lap one.

From his highest grid position of third since coming out of retirement to join Mercedes ahead of the 2010 campaign, the 43-year-old was sent plummeting to 16th at that point.

The weather resulted in the 50-minute delay before the grand prix resumed again behind the safety car and with all cars instructed to be on wet tyres.

Initially there were four laps behind the safety car up until the end of lap 13, and immediately Button made the call to dive into the pits to take on inters, as did a number of others.

As with previous astute decisions in the past it appeared to be the right call.

Although emerging just behind Alonso, Button had done enough to get ahead of Hamilton, but not for long as on lap 15 he collided with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan, losing the right end of his front wing.

It necessitated another stop, arguably robbing him of heat from his tyres because it was not long before he complained he could not get them to work, resulting in a fourth trip into the pits after 24 laps.

As the race then unfolded it appeared at one stage as if Alonso would go on to comfortably take the chequered flag, only for the remarkable Perez to close to within 1.3secs after 40 laps.

At that point the call was being made for teams to move their drivers on to dry tyres, and whilst Alonso did so, Perez stayed out - the team's error on that occasion.

Clearly quicker than the Ferrari, Perez closed to within 0.5secs at one stage, but then came his mistake, running wide at turn 14 and that was enough to ease the pressure on Alonso and give him the win.

Behind the top three Red Bull's Mark Webber was fourth for the second consecutive race, followed by Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and Williams' Bruno Senna, a career-high result of sixth.

Force India's Paul di Resta grabbed seventh ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso, Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, and then Schumacher.

A blown tyre after colliding with Karthikeyan a few laps from home robbed Vettel of points as he finished 11th, whilst Button was down in 14th, the race in stark contrast to his win Down Under seven days ago.

Alonso naturally admitted his win was "a big surprise," but knows there is more work ahead as it was not representative of their current performance.

"We weren't competitive here nor in Australia," said Alonso.

"Our goal is to score as many points as possible and today we've scored 25, so an unbelievable result for the team.

"We kept calm in extreme conditions, and congratulations to the team. They deserve this result.

"But nothing changes for us to be honest. We're in a position we don't want, fighting to get into Q3 and fighting to score points rather than victories.

"These first two races are positive, and going into the next few races there is stuff coming to improve the car, so we will see."

As for Perez, he appreciated he should have been celebrating the win as he said: "I was catching Fernando towards the end.

"It was not easy, and then I ran wide, touched the kerb went into the wet and I lost the win, probably

"But the team has done an incredible job. I'm very happy for them."

Opposed to last week's unhappiness at third, on this occasion Hamilton declared himself "satisfied".

"We would love to have had more points this weekend," said Hamilton.

"But I can't complain, I'm on the podium, I stayed out of trouble with the conditions constantly changing."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform