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

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books