Raikkonen confirms Lotus the pacesetters in hot conditions of Malaysia
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Mar 2013   |  11:33 am GMT  |  274 comments

Kimi Raikkonen, the winner of the Australian Grand Prix, eradicated any doubts that his Melbourne performance was due to exceptional weather and track conditions by topping the time sheets in Sepang on Day 1 of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

With track temperatures over 30 degrees, the 33 year old Finn edged out Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, but the margins were tight; just 9/100ths of a second separated first and third.

Lotus’ technical director James Allison confirmed that only Raikkonen had the new updates on his car today, with Romain Grosjean thus disadvantaged. Lotus has a new exhaust package and was trialling a new front wing today. The Frenchman was 6th, some seven tenths of a second slower than his team mate.

The session was punctuated with a rain shower; the track was soaked but dried quickly. Nevertheless the times never got back to the levels of the first part of the session.

There was some encouragement for McLaren and Jenson Button when the track was damp; he was closer to the pace than in the dry. But the reality for his team is that without rain, he will once again be trailing Force India in the bottom of the top ten. Also showing strong pace in the wet once again was Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and the Mercedes drivers.

Raikkonen’s pace was strong on both low and high fuel and in the wet conditions and with tyre degradation looking severe, especially on the harder compound, the Lotus’ ability to cover the distance in one less stop than its main rivals while maintaining good pace, may turn out to be a big advantage again.

Allison observed that Malaysia is traditionally one more stop than Melbourne, which indicates that his team is planning for three stops on Sunday. The question is whether Red Bull and Ferrari can also do the 56 laps at pace in three stops.

Williams, another team that has had a disappointing start to the season, ran an evaluation programme today hoping to solve some of its problems which are partly aerodynamic and partly set-up geometry. Early indications looked positive, but by the end of Free Practice 2 it appeared that they were still some way off, with Jules Bianchi’s Marussia ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado only half a second ahead.

“We haven’t made the progress we had hoped for today,” admitted technical director Mike Coughlan. We need to look at the data we have from both sessions to maximise the package we have. We will then head straight back to the factory to work on some improvements ahead of Shanghai.”

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX, Sepang, Free Practice 2
1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m36.569 28 Laps
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m36.588s + 0.019s 27
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.661s + 0.092s 33
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.985s + 0.416s 23
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m37.026s + 0.457s 29
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m37.206s + 0.637s 26
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.448s + 0.879s 32
8. Paul di Resta Force India 1m37.571s + 1.002s 30
9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m37.574s + 1.005s 32
10. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m37.788s + 1.219s 10
11. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m37.838s + 1.269s 21
12. Jenson Button McLaren 1m37.865s + 1.296s 29
13. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m38.068s + 1.499s 31
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m38.645s + 2.076s 23
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m38.738s + 2.169s 31
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m38.801s + 2.232s 27
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m38.904s + 2.335s 31
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m39.508s + 2.939s 30
19. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m39.660s + 3.091s 28
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1m40.757s + 4.188s 29
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m40.768s + 4.199s 32
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m41.438s + 4.869s 23

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James , firstly congrats on the Friday drivers interview- very well handled and good guidance to the floor and drivers. Next can we remind people that this post is about Lotus confirming its pace at Malaysia and not about Alonso and Massa.

Im sure also Grosjeans package is not 1+ seconds behind Raikkonens for all those thinking its a disaster.I would like to see Romain on level terms but there are very few racers that ever existed like Raikkonen at his best. This should answer people’s question mark on whether its is the E21 or Raikkonens driving style that has made him win so comfortably in Melbourne. The keen observers will note how Kimi uses clear air to make up ground then just attacks when drivers make a mistake of pit . For mid field cars he just passes them like they are not even there.

Only car & driver in perfect unison can be so strong- especially when they are not fastest on Saturday !

That is abundantly evident to me clearly still lacking in many people perceptions.


Thanks for the response, I appreciate it. Perhaps for the sake of the fans they should put a green light on top of the cars for when they are in an ‘eco’ mode 🙂


It’s typical red bull. Totally ok for them to play with engine maps and blow off throttle and also to fun flexible wings but the second they can’t use the tyres (homogenised throughout the field) they throw their toys out of the pram. I dislike Vettel intensely for his smug looks when he wins and his Button-esque moaning when he loses. This is why in the eyes of many fans he’ll never be a legend of F1. To me, the jury is still out on his true ability but I dislike his attitude to racing.


I don’t doubt his statistics, in fact yes they are possibly the most successful statistics given the competitive nature of the sport in the current F1 age. What I mean is as a driver, he doesn’t seem as gracious as many other drivers. And that I feel can be hard to overlook for me and to me suggests that maybe it has literally been the car and the in season engineering that has been so superior and not himself as the driver that as such. Statistics don’t lie and I appreciate that, but my perception of him needs to see him “struggle” and succeed to cement that legend. He certainly deserves these statistics as he’s clearly got them forever, but due to his cars advantages over the last few years, I just don’t feel he’s earned it.


Daniel, he’ll be a legend in the history books no matter what,his statistics in F1 are mind-blowing. Why do so many people overlook this just because they don’t like him?

I think this is a fair question, based on the below, what exactly is the jury debating about his ability?

Races: 102

Championships: 3 (2010, 2011, 2012)


Podiums: 47

Career points: 1,069

Pole positions: 37

Fastest laps: 15


A man has won 25% of races entered very soon people would say he has to win in the Marussia to be great very sad.


Similar numbers to Jackie Stewart


It is going to be very interesting to see what happens on Sunday if it is dry, in terms of strategy between the Top 4 teams.

Lotus will be aiming to do 3 stops, and are very capable of doing this.

Mercedes I believe can do 3 stops as well. In Australia, I felt Hamilton was only 4 laps away from making 2 stops work, and he admitted the balance of car wasn’t as good as it could have been. So by improving this, meaning better pace, and better tyre durability, 3 stops is definitely possible.

Red Bull probably have the outright fastest car in Malaysia, but I think they will continue to chew up the tyres, so 4 stops is likely for Red Bull.

So what about Ferrari? Ferrari are on the edge of 3 or 4 stops. The key to Alonso and Ferrari beating Vettel and Red Bull will be whether they can make the tyres last long enough to do 3 stops. If they can, Alonso will win. If they can’t, Vettel will win.

What do you think, James?


Shame there are forecasts for Rain Sunday, Kimi is terrible in the Rain.


Since when?


Check all his finishes in the rain.


Poor sauber. For the past couple of seasons they’ve been the savior of the tires. Now they have to deal with this other team that can save them just as much and is a good bit faster while doing it.


The Lotus is a great car, but it still takes someone with Kimi’s talent in order to get the most out of it and deliver the results.

Look at where Grosjean finished in Australia. You would never guess that the Lotus had race- and potentially championship- winning pace judging just from his running.


Car was broken – have a read next time.

I am Kimi’s fan – but I wouldn’t say Grosjean isn’t actually faster than him – just not as experienced or as good.


Not to take anything away from Kimi, but he got the updates early; Romain didn’t get them until just before quali and so his setup wasn’t quite there.

He’s fast and he’ll show it – just hopefully not with an insurance claim 🙂


I am always surprised at how much negative commentary discussions of Massa generate. Sure his form has taken a long time to improve since his head injury, but he is starting to come on nicely. It is like people aren’t happy if the sport isn’t relentlessly ruthless regardless of circumstances.

Whether it has been Ferrari patience, circumstances of the driver market, luck or a combination of all of these that kept Massa in his seat long enough to rediscover his form, it makes for a nice story.


I think all the comments about Felipe posted here are wrong.

Felipe occasionally beat Michael Schumacher fair and square when allowed to. He beat Kimi more often, and was prospective WDC for a few seconds in 2008. He suffered a horrendous accident and is still racing.

I was in a hotel breakfast room in 2010 when Felipe came in to speak to his brother. His brother was at the back – possibly twenty metres away. So Felipe just shouted to him from the doorway – to hell with everybody else in there.

That’s how F1 drivers are – they’re arrogant and believe they are the best thing on the planet. If they didn’t think like that they wouldn’t be in an F1 car in the first place.

When they are sitting on the grid they all believe they are the one who will win the race despite all the platitudes they’ve previously offered the press.

Felipe can beat Alonso I have no doubt. Whether he will probably depends on Domenicali. But I’m sure as far as Montezemolo is concerned he couldn’t care less providing a red car crosses the finish line first.

In a way I appreciate the fact that Ferrari seem honest in the way they set about their task of winning. I don’t feel the same about Red Bull with Marko in the background, and now I feel the same might happen with Lauda at Mercedes (think which driver speaks German). And wasn’t it the same at McLaren in the Dennis days.

I wish for the year of the number two driver – Kimi excepted. End of year Massa has more points than Alonso, Webber more than Vettel, Perez more than Button and Rosberg (I know he isn’t really number two but nobody told the media) more than Hamilton. Guess who wins?


Well said 🙂


Feels like 2005… Go kimi


Sick of hearing about these Pirelli tyres and I’m not a fan of red bull

It’s all about tyre saving throughout the race, these cars and drivers should be going flat out every race from the start to the finish

It’s all fake racing, just when a drivers doing well his next set of tyres go off within a few laps and his race is ruined


It all looks very good for Kimi at the moment. A bit early to really be able to put your money on this leading to a WDC for Kimi. It is going to be an interesting season, I feel. Three or four teams being stronger at different time of the season. Consistency as in most case will be very much a must. I hope McLaren will make it a five teams contest before too long in the season. We will have to wait and see. JB is really showing something special to date, would you agree? No, not that JB, I meant Jules. Marc


Looking at the sector times today it seems to me that red bull is missing out on the drs for the hole lap. There still the fastest in the aero dependant middle sector and losing out more on the 1st and last sector which has a lot of straight lines and the lack of drs everywhere means there losing out more. I could be massively wrong tho. Also the merc is running more rear wing this weekend with it being slower on the straights than even the red bulls. Hope it’s a dry Saturday and Sunday now because I think the race could be very tight between kimi amd vettel amd the ferraris again.



Why do they say that Alonso is the greatest driver ?

I mean he is so mean and political – every team he has been in he has picked up a story with some political issues and as well as bad doings –

Was watching senna the movie – and a lot of resemblance with Alonso and Prost – remember the scene in 1991 season where Prost keeps speaking bad about everything around him but him and his driving – senna spoke about it

Some how alonse never has the character like Kimi or mika or Lewis or Damon hill .

I know this is off topic but no one every thinks about the negatives of alonso but praise him as the best – every one has their opinion and mine is that Alonso may be a good driver but not a respectable one !


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director believes his tires are making F1 more entertaining.

He is quoted by Autosport as saying,

“We had the most exciting Melbourne in years. Do you want us to make boring races?”

My answer to him is, “Yes.” Stop meddling with natural talent.

I would rather watch F1 cars racing flat out.

The fastest guy’s pushing their machine to the limit.

Seeing who got the skill to go that bit harder to win.

That’s what this sport is meant to be about, (RACING.)

Not what he is turning F1 into, “a tire endurance competition.”


Alonso has never been sacked by any team.. so please rephrase your last sentence please!

And now lets be honest;

Ferrari, since M.Schumacher, prefers to have a clear number 1 and a clear number 2.

After Schumacher left, Massa got his chance against Raikkonen, but Raikkonen became WDC in his 1st year for the Scuderia..

Then there was this odd year 2008, where Massa was WDC for a few seconds.. that basically was his only real moment in F1.

Alonso is the clear number 1 at the Scuderia, pure by results.. because it is clear that Massa is being loved very much by the team. If Massa was able to match Alonso race after race, than there never had been any discussions about the current strategy that is being used by the Scuderia.

Face it, Massa isn’t leader material, you need someone else to handle those kind of pressures, someone like an Alonso…


Thanks god, leader material is not necessary to become World Champion.

At the moment it seems a down side, as Alonso yet to win the title he came for, with all his leader qualities and support.


The above post of my was a reply to someone, but I think I made a mistake..

So just to make sure, it was not mentioned to James Allen!

Antonis papadakis

Come Sunday and Kimi wins then do an article

about Ferrari and Kimi. Luca should have

paid him more… not to drive


Thank god it’s Raikkonen and and not Button that is getting the benefit of winning the tyre lottery. If it was Button then we’d have to endure a load of nonsense about how Jenson is the tyre whisperer and his smooth driving style is the pinnacle of f1 mastery.


Instead we have to endure a fanfare of how Raikkonen is the second coming… Although that tends to happen anyway, regardless of how he actually performs.


I agree, the ‘Kimi’ personality cult is growing rather tiresome (no pun intended).



you hit the nail on the head my friend


Indeed. But it’s always the way it goes. British drivers because this is a UK based/ran sport drivers from the UK tend to draw too much attention and praise (helloo mr diResta). Button is just an above average driver. Yes should the stars align ever again he has a good quality or two that may allow him to almost challenge the best drivers in the sport.

I can’t make my mind about Kimi however since his return. He’s been good granted, but has he really been fast? I reckon had Kubica not gotten injured he would’ve flat-out beat KR, and maybe even mounted a serious title challenge last year


What a vague reasoning, have you been watching F1 past two years?


Ha, Ha! I love JB but have to admit the ‘easy on tyres’ thing is just rubbish. I think it’s his smooth driving style that gives the impression. He IS smooth, no doubt.

You want to talk about tyre mastery? Check out Webber in Melbourne last week. He somehow managed to get 4 or 5 laps out of his S/S’s 🙂

Smooooooth as a baby’s ear.


and if it was anyone else, it’d be called “doing a Perez”


I hope it is a rain free weekend so Kimi can continue to exploit the Lotus pace and tire performance.


Hello James,

There are stories emerging on an suposed “unfair tyre advantage” Lotus might have – http://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/rivals-suspect-lotus-has-unfair-tyre-advantage-report/

do you think there’s actually something in it?



The way car changes just after few upgrades, you really have to close your eyes in order to make such gossips even remotely plausible.


Thanks for the link, just read it.

That’s basically saying that Toyota should have stuck around because they would have had the advantage while Pirelli was using their old car.

Just because the Pirelli test car had Renault written on the side does not make it a 2013 Lotus. Two different cars, two different geometries, exhausts, setups, etc…

Case in point: A 2012 McLaren is not a 2013 McLaren 🙂


Read the Race Strategy Briefing from Wednesday. I wrote about it in there.

Whenever someone is winning, these stories come out with Red Bull it’s RRA busting, with Lotus it’s this etc etc


I really wish everyone would stop moaning about the tyres. What I hate is the demand that drivers must use both compounds – that is the false bit and that is down to the FIA and Bernie not Pirelli.

I would far rather see tyres degrade fast than see tyres that last a whole race with ease. It is great to see the difference in the way the cars use their tyres. Red Bull are using identical tyres to Lotus – therefore Lotus have done a better job.

If all cars could make their tyres last a whole race we would lose a whole area of technology. We would not see better racing as the cars would be able to wheelspin any time they liked and risk nothing – they would still not be driving to the car’s limits as some suggest – the limit would be restricted by the ability to grip the track.

I remember hearing about BMC testing cars and tyres in the ’60s. They could destroy a set of tyres in 30 miles with a Morris Minor! It is the way you use tyres that limit their life. It is well known that Red Bull push every boundary they can – they have now been see to go too far with the way they use tyres.

Red Bull are abusing their tyres and blaming Pirelli whilst Lotus are being more sensible – and reaping the rewards.


Good post, Jonathan.

I watched two hours of P2 last night. Most of that time was spent working with long runs to determine how the car will perform under race conditions. Qualifying is an important part of the race but it is only one part of it.

Over the past two decades aerodynamics evolved as an extremely important factor in determining vehicle pace [in clean air]. This led to the necessity to qualify up or near the front to do well in the race. The sport evolved to a follow the leader event with very little passing.

Rather than do away with aerodynamics, F1 has introduced a number of things. Kers, rear wing difussers, tire options etc..

One thing that was predominant a few years back was the constant complaining about no passing or real racing in F1. We now have a much more reasonable balance with technology, racing and entertainment than we had.

How can we complain when so many drivers and manufacturers have been winning races. Were the good old days ever this good? Who out ther wants to go back to the pre-aero days with narrow hard rubber tyres?


I agree about having to use two compounds, but there are reasons for that:

If there was only one compound there is the risk that if the supplier messes up and brings the wrong tyre to an event (as Michelin did a few years back) then it would be unsafe to use it, which is where the prime comes in. In the event that the soft was unsafe, the order would come down that the teams only race on the harder compound, which is why they bring two compounds to every race.

Since the supplier is bringing two compounds to every race they might as well get used, but the only way to enforce that is through the regulations, otherwise the teams would just use whatever compound suited them which would likely mean going back to one stop processions.

The fact that the drivers have to use both compounds mixes it up and introduces a bit of strategy.

It’s interesting that you mention wheelspin: According to James the 2014 engines will have more torque meaning the cars will get a lot more sideways out of the corners. It’ll be interesting to see how the tyres last (or don’t last ;)) next year with that kind of racing.


Love the blog, and many of the contributors perspectives.

Everyone’s worst fears, except Lotus, are in the process of being confirmed, so it would seem.

But this is practice!


Notoriously, it is flippant to make race predictions based on practice sessions.

I am intrigued by the MErcedes progress, and find it very salient that we don’t have a contributions from them trashing the tires.

Ferrari look strong and Alonso is OF COURSE a threat to win; they will be trying to match the number of stops of Lotus, which is looking like three, but I don;t think that they are quite there, yet. However, Ferrari lookto be heading in the right direction.

Red Bull: I’ve got to say that I am skeptical about their ‘disadvantage’. I am just not ready to buy into the supposition that Adrian Newey could have bungled up the development, specifically the priority of the tire management capability of the car. It is VERY early going in the season, and so far, Vettel is ten points off the lead; that’s nothing over the whole season in front of us! Much morelikely is Red Bull playing the long game with strategically timed introductions of upgrades, SO THAT THE OTHER TEAMS WILL NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES, NOR TIME, TO EMULATE, going to the wire in Autumn. They have the pace; I am incredulous that they don’t have a best-in-class solution to the tire management issue, or one in the pipe.

Enough said on McLaren, it’s sad.

I am looking forward to seeing if Hulkenburg can beat one or both Force Indias; I got to say that I don’t like his propsects, right now.

Di Resta has got to make a big splash in the points or get swept away with the Sutil fanfare, which I am decidedly not a suporter of; I would have much rather seen Bianchi in the Force India, though admittedly, Sutil has already proven that he’s not a bad choice (maybe just not the best choice).

Leandro Guimaraes

About the tyre issues, here’s a great quote from funkymonkey at the PF1 forum:

It does not matter if it is same challenge for everyone like it is now. This is still much better than what F1 used to be.

This is better than tyre wars we have had in not too distant memory. It is also better than ever lasting tyres we had just few years back.

F1 has never been about driving flat out. Those who drove like that also broke down the most. F1 is still about getting right balance between pace and reliability. Before it was managing fuel, or engine or avoid blowing up engine, conserve fuel etc. Tyres have always played a big role in F1.

Pirelli tyres are designed to be fragile. But they are same for everyone. Nobody has physical resource advantage here with tyres. They can gain advantage by designing their machine and setting it up properly and by drivers driving it properly by deciding when to push more and when to contain.

Control and fortune of race has actually been taken out from the hands of tyre manufacturer and put in hands of teams again. There is more emphasis on car setup and driver’s ability to drive with these tyres.

Good drivers are still at the front because their cars are better and they are adapting quickly by realising what is happening with the car when they are driving it around the track.

This is just a skill and experience coming into play. It is just like any other skill for driver and teams. Like managing engines of old days, or fuel and turbo boost in turbo days etc. They need to decide when to do what.

This is not bad and we have seen some of the best racing over last 2 years.

Adding pitstops is not just about creating artificial element. We had similar thing happen with refuelling where really fast cars used to actually stop more and run quicker by running lighter. But number of stops gives some drivers opportunity to time it right and get chance to push in cleaner air if they take early pit stop or car in front pulls in pits etc. We have seen races won or lost because of this.

With the current technical regulations, nobody is going 100% all out. There is no real sense in doing that keeping the entire season in picture. They have limited engines, limited gearboxes and limited time in pits to prepare cars. And these changes happened to keep the sport viable in tough economic conditions, so these things are not going away. When that is the case, this tyre situation is a very welcomed change we received over last 2 years.

Teams just needs to get on with it and they are. Did you see RedBull whining a lot in 2011? they ran away with season even with all the tyre drama. Tyres are not going to stop a good car. This year it is Lotus who are not complaining. They have the best setup. So we have someone who still manages to manage these tyres. That is reward for good engineering and good driving. Why it should be deemed gimmicky or bad than any other advantage? It is no different than having engine or aero advantage. The team and driver is getting advantage because they are doing something better with their cars.

And tyres are same for everyone.

What we have now is much much better for racing, for fans of the sport and for the sport in general. Lot of people wont realise it, and the fans of teams which is suffering will as expected bicker about it. But hey, that is always the case about anything. Ferrari have been bickering about aero for years now, RedBull not happy with tyres this season when they are suffering. All this is to be expected.

Tornillo Amarillo

Interesting to see how Mercedes prepares for qualify with a long-run set-up,

or prepares for the race without worry too much in qualify (since Kimi won from P7).

If Mercedes got P12 in qualify, I don’t know how well they can progress in the race. Time will tell shortly.

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