TIGHT:Ferrari driver edges out Sauber’s Perez
1 Alonso Ferrari
2 Perez Sauber
3 Hamilton McLaren
4 Webber Red Bull
5 Raikkonen Lotuses
6 Senna Williams
7 Di Resta Force India
8 Vergne Toro Rosso
9 Hulkenberg Force India
10 Schumacher Mercedes
11 Vettel Red Bull
SEPANG 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.
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.