Malaysia F1 Excitement as Great Duels Involve Heidfeld, Webber, Button & Massa

Barry RosenbergContributor IIApril 10, 2011

Jennson Button (2nd), Sebastien Vettel (1st), Nick Heidfeld (3rd)
Jennson Button (2nd), Sebastien Vettel (1st), Nick Heidfeld (3rd)Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Malaysia has been a race like all F1 races should be. The field was liberally dotted with tight, fast, skilled duels between a variety of cars and drivers. Everyone on the track did extremely well depending on each individual's place in the pecking order overall. Some of the individual battles were resolved in expected ways, while others provided surprises.

For this observer there were more happy moments than usual, and a few less happy moments. I was happy to see Felipe Massa ahead of Fernando Alonso in their Ferraris nose to tail at the chequered flag, although I'd have been more pleased had they finished in first and second place. All the same, Sebastien Vettel drove a magically wonderful race in his Red Bull, and earned the top step of the podium without a doubt.

My next favorite thing was to see Jenson Button ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and I was even happier to see Button on the podium next to Vettel. My heart was lifted again to see Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber conduct a battle for third place on the podium. I was internally conflicted, because I like both Mark and Nick a lot. Nick was heroic, of course, because he was a late comer to the Lotus-Renault team as a replacement for the tragically injured Polish driver, Robert Kubica, who is recovering from a Rally incident in Italy. In the end, I was happy to see Heidfeld hold off Aussie Webber for his first podium since the Malaysia Grand Prix of 2009.

Mark Webber's drive in his Red Bull was also worthy of deep respect. He was notified by his pit at the last second before the start that there was a problem with his KERS equipment. This made his start a poor one which slipped him back in the field off the line. He then proceeded to use his skill and experience to pull his car back up to fourth position and very nearly the podium finish of which Heidfeld robbed him.

Throughout the race, great battles were seen all up and down the field. Massa held off Hamilton's McClaren for some time. Hamilton was very unhappy with the harder tires toward the end of the race and he finally took a little trip wide of the track and Webber was able to nip past to claim fourth at the end.

I almost feel sorry for Lewis Hamilton, because his privileged entry into the top flight with the long arm of the McLaren organization robbed him of the lessons that he has yet to learn. Had he not entered F1 in one of the best cars and teams on the track, he'd have had to serve an apprenticeship in lesser teams, like several of the young drivers are doing this season. He'd have learned how to cope with inferior equipment against superior teams. As it is, it seems to me that if everything ain't right on, neither is Lewis.

There was one terrifying, picturesque moment when young Russian driver Petrov, who earned a third place podium previously in the Australian Grand Prix, took flight. In a never-before seen failure, his $50,000-plus steering wheel full of buttons and controls came off in his hands. Imagine his feelings as he vaulted off the track in his Lotus-Renault, then back onto it again, flat out over curbing that sent him flying gracefully into the air, all four wheels dangling. What goes up must come down, of course, and Vitaly landed with a helluva crunch and came to rest alongside a Styrofoam sign showing 150 meters to the next turn.

Finally, I must comment on one of the things I find most exciting about Formula One: it is so truly international, if only the rest of society could function so well together with so much trust and respect. You have a Spaniard communicating with an Italian, Brazilians communicating with Brits, Russians and Germans communicating with French and Indian, and so on. All speak to each other in English, the world language thanks to the broad exploration and colonization of much of the world by Great Britain a few centuries ago.

In the spectacular sport of Formula One, all of the world's societies become united in the admiration of this highly specialized sport. I like to think, when watching an F1 race, that the two dozen men who are in the 24 cars are almost the only people on earth who can handle those amazing machines. Thankfully, there is always a crop of new, amazing drivers coming along, with similarly amazing new car innovations, and that's why F1 will always be spectacular.