FERNANDO ALONSO WON a thrilling Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, holding off the surprise challenge of Mexico’s Sergio Perez, who became the first man from his country to secure a podium finish in 41 years.
Alonso’s Ferrari team had shown poor form at the start of the season but the Spaniard managed to build a lead when the resumed after a stoppage for heavy rain.
Sauber driver Perez actually caught up with him in the closing stages but ran wide and was unable to grab the win.
Third was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, with Mark Webber fourth and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen – who had been demoted to tenth on the starting grid following an infringement of the gearbox rules – was fifth.
A torrential downpour stalled proceedings just six laps into the race, but Alonso managed to build a substantial lead thereafter that would benefit him much later on.
Perez managed to close his lead down to virtually nothing at all, causing Alonso to switch to the dry weather slicks that would widen the gap again. This, in turn, led to Perez installing hard tyres to Alonso’s ‘medium’ and the 22-year-old from Guadalajara was on Alonso’s tail with seven laps to go.
However, just when it seemed that Perez might take an improbably victory, he got on to the kerb at Turn 14 and ran wide, and Alonso’s five second lead at that point was enough to see him through.
Further down the field, there was disappointment for the German pair of Michael Schumacher and current world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Schumacher began the race third on the grid but faded back to finish tenth, with Red Bull’s Vettel a further place back in 11th.
Jenson Button – winner last in Australia – finished down in 14th after crashing into Narain Karthikeyan on lap 15, breaking his front wing.