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Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 11:31 UK

Martin Brundle column

Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC Formula 1 broadcaster

Jenson Button on his way to victory in the storm-hit Malaysian Grand Prix
Button drove brilliantly in Malaysia - wet track or dry

Did we get our money's worth out of the Malaysian Grand Prix? Well, it was short - but fascinating all the same.

The safety car period closely followed by the red flag which suspended the race caused enormous confusion. Drivers were walking around after the race still apparently unsure where they finished.

There were effectively two simultaneous - and contradicting - situations as the cars sat on the grid in the pouring rain after the red flag.

Firstly, officials needed to sort out the grid order should the race have been restarted. That would have been based on where the cars were as they splashed round to the start-line.

Establishing exactly where everybody was as the red flag dropped is a complex issue, and created the confusion and delay.

The sky was black as black could be, lightning bolts were hitting the grandstands - but bizarrely it still wasn't raining that hard

The second scenario was what order the cars would finish in if the race was declared over - which is what eventually happened.

In that case, the positions would be decided from the running order at the end of the last complete lap - which was two laps earlier on lap 31.

In theory, the race could have run beyond the specific two-hour time limit.

That is because clause 41 of the sporting regulations (which declares that the timing system does not stop when the Grand Prix is suspended) is supplemented by clause 5, which states that any suspended time is added on to the two-hour limit.

In Malaysia on Sunday, though, because the race started at 5pm, nightfall would have intervened first.

Jenson Button

Watch highlights of Jenson Button's win at the storm-hit Malaysian Grand Prix

Ten more laps - either behind the safety car or racing - would have cleared the magic 75% race distance required for full points.

As it is, half points were handed out. And Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock, in second and third places, were informed on which step to stand on the podium literally as they walked out.

But while the end of the race was mired in confusion, there was still plenty to glean from the stormy showdown in Sepang.

Jenson Button can take even more satisfaction from his win there than from his victory in the opening Australian Grand Prix.

There was no luck involved at all; it was simply another great drive from Button.

He had a poor start from pole but kept his head in difficult conditions and numerous pit stops.

This win wasn't the slam-dunk that it was in Melbourne. There, it was Brawn GP's race to lose, but the competition was much closer in Sepang.

Button got it spot on by making the most of his fast early pace before the heavens opened.

The cars line up on the grid waiting in vain for a restart in Sepang on Sunday
The weather made for a fascinating - if truncated Grand Prix - in Malaysia

At the end of the first dry stint, when Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg dived into the pits, he punched in two very quick flying laps, and his in-lap was a cracker too.

Button rejoined comfortably in the lead, helped by the fact that Rosberg's in- and out-laps were less impressive.

Tyre gambles and strategies were the story of the day.

The teams were understandably confused because they could see the heavy rain on the radar but it was later arriving than their systems predicted.

And when the rain did finally arrive, it was initially light.

The sky was black as black could be, lightning bolts were hitting the grandstands, and for a split second the electricity went down - but bizarrely it still wasn't raining that hard.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen had gambled on full wet tyres on a bone-dry track. They were destroyed in no time at all and he would later retire at the red flag with an apparent car problem.

Politics and pressure will be impossible at Ferrari after no points from four starts

Glock - who was down the field and had less to lose - was the only driver to choose to switch to intermediates, with their smaller tread, as his first choice of rain tyre.

The German was initially 10 seconds faster than anyone else shod with the full wets - all of whom were desperately waiting for the heavy rain.

Button went directly to full wets before pitting again for intermediates. Fortunately for him, by that time, Glock had practically used up his inters and Button was able to pass him.

Once the torrential rain finally arrived it was back in for wets - a very challenging time for teams, drivers, timekeepers and commentators alike.

Then we had a 50-minute wait to find out if the race would restart. The drivers seemed universally reluctant to restart - even the full wets were simply not good enough to prevent aquaplaning at minimum speed.

I was impressed by the performance of the Red Bulls on the wet track.

Nico Rosberg
Rosberg will be disappointed with his eighth place after a strong start

Both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were steaming through at one point. The cars seem to have good grip and balance, giving the drivers a lot of confidence in wet conditions.

It was unfortunate that Vettel, who battled torrential rain to win his first Grand Prix for Toro Rosso in Monza last season, fell off the track because he was on the wrong tyres.

Red Bull have the fastest 'conventional' car at the moment - ie without the controversial 'double diffuser' run by Brawn, Toyota and Williams. McLaren have the best Kers power-boost system.

Williams bared their teeth again and Rosberg is bound to be disappointed after finishing eighth once the red flag fell.

In Melbourne, he pushed the super-soft tyres too hard and fell back in the closing stages. He was leading beautifully in Sepang before losing out in the melee of tyre changes to finish eighth.

What we saw quite clearly again in Malaysia was F1's new order taking a grip on the championship - for now.

Ferrari are last in the constructors' championship with zero points from four starts. Politics and pressure will be impossible there, especially after they also dropped the ball in qualifying with Felipe Massa's car and failed to get the Brazilian through the first part of qualifying.

So far the season has been all about the dominance of Brawn, Toyota and Williams - the three teams with double diffusers.

606: DEBATE
corzellian

Toyota were loathe to let me get a good look at their latest triple diffuser design on the grid, but I can tell you the rest of the pack will be working on their own versions as fast as possible

We have to presume that the seven other teams will unveil step one of their remodelled aerodynamics at the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

The diffuser affair may well be settled in the appeal courts on 14 April but the teams will be working on the assumption that the diffuser design is legal.

We have had a manic, breathless, exciting and controversial start to the 2009 season. We can draw breath for a few days now before flying off to China for round three next week.

Martin Brundle was talking to Sarah Holt



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see also
Classy Button wins abandoned race
05 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Drivers back Malaysia abandonment
05 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari problems frustrate Massa
05 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Malaysian GP practice as it happened
03 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button seals dream Australia win
29 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Malaysian GP circuit guide
04 Apr 09 |  Formula 1


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