|Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez were |
the surprise pace setters at Sepang
Credit: Morio / CC
As Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez lined up in eight and ninth places on the starting grid at Sepang last weekend, not even their respective mothers would have predicted confidently they'd be in the front two at the race's conclusion. This held even as the rain fell in the minutes before the start: for all we talk about rain's ability to act as a leveller, and to shuffle the usual running order, its ability to do those with any regularity is over stated. Usually, the cars that have grip in the dry will also have grip in the wet. And shock results in rainy conditions that we remember, such as Olivier Panis's 1996 Monaco victory, often owe more to attrition or other freak occurrences than to an unlikely candidate having the legs of the field all being equal. This wasn't the case at Sepang: Alonso and Perez against all expectations were fairly and squarely the quickest two guys out there in the race.
Finding a performance on pace which ranks as a similar surprise is a tricky business. Giancarlo Fisichella's run to second place in the Force India at Spa in 2009 was a similar turn-up, as was, famously, Sebastian Vettel's pole and win in a Toro Rosso at Monza the previous year. Before that, for a comparable shock you may have to go back to Damon Hill's dominant drive in the Arrows in Hungary 1997, which would have been rewarded with a win but for a last lap hydraulic problem. In other words, the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix will be one that we will remember.
Checo checks in
There are always lots of young drivers with promise in F1. The key differentiator is exactly how good they are. For every Ayrton Senna there a dozen or two who transpire to be good without being top drawer (think Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and the like), and even a few who can altogether (such as Stefano Modena and Jan Magnussen).