Sport

Perez overshadows Alonso victory

Getty Images Sport - Mark Thompson

FERNANDO Alonso won a dramatic Malaysian GP yesterday, but while he and fellow podium finisher Lewis Hamilton were matter-of-fact about their performances, the star was the 22-year-old Mexican Sergio Perez, who drove the race of his life to bring his unfancied Sauber home a valiant second.

>> Latest sport news

A downpour before the start created the drama that allowed Perez to challenge. Hamilton led his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button off the line and Lotus's Romain Grosjean spun himself into Michael Schumacher after bursting momentarily into third place. One team kept cool in the rain, Sauber astutely calling in Perez at the end of that eventful opening lap for full wet tyres instead of the intermediates on which everyone started. By the time the rest had followed suit - and the race had been suspended on lap nine for almost an hour as conditions worsened - Perez was up to third.

When it resumed behind the safety car, Hamilton led Button, Perez, Webber, Alonso and Vettel. Button's race fell apart after he collided with Narain Karthikeyan's HRT and damaged his front wing, Webber was swallowed up by the Ferrari of Alonso, and Hamilton fell back with a tyre change.

Perez's chances, however, were just opening up. From the 17th lap until the finish, it was Perez against Alonso, youngster against old stager.

Alonso was 7.7 seconds ahead on the 28th lap, which was half the distance. But Perez slashed that to just 1.3secs by lap 39. The atmosphere, so sodden earlier, was now electric as everyone willed him on.

Alonso dived for the pits on the 40th lap and took on medium slick tyres, Perez came a lap later and took the harder tyres, as Sauber crucially added more frontal downforce. By lap 42 the gap was 7.1secs again, and the fairytale seemed to be over, but nobody told Perez that. Lap by lap he ate into the Ferrari's advantage; by lap 49 he was only half a second behind and it seemed only a matter of time. But then he slid wide in Turn 14 leading on to the back straight, and this time the dream really was over. He managed to recover, and by the chequered flag on lap 56 the gap was down from 5.3secs to 2.2secs, but Alonso had made it.

The Spaniard was in impressive form but though he thoroughly deserved credit for grabbing the chance when he saw it, Perez was the man of the match after a truly wonderful race. And he happily savoured the greatest day of his life and the best performance by a Mexican since the great Pedro Rodriguez in Holland back in 1971, even if he was ruing a chance missed.

"I think it could have been my win," Perez said, "because I was catching Fernando and knew that I had to get him soon because in all the high-speed sectors my front tyres were losing performance. Then I ran wide, and touched a kerb which was completely wet.

"The team did an incredible job, and always called me in at the right time. Our pace was fantastic, really quick. I'm very happy for them."

Hamilton had an untroubled run to third, as Webber came through to fourth after Vettel had also hit the innocent Karthikeyan on the 48th lap and torn up his left rear tyre. The world champion eventually finished 11th and had choice words for the Indian backmarker. "To lose the race how I did is very frustrating," Vettel said. "Some people need to look more where they are going."

Alonso, world champion in 2005 and 2006, spoke with admirable understatement. "It was a big surprise today, the win. We were not competitive in Australia or here, but we scored 25 points. It's an unbelievable result, all about keeping calm in some extreme conditions when there was a lot of water initially. This is a Sunday we will remember."

But, he added, the result changed little even though it put him into the lead of the world championship from Hamilton and Button. "We are in a situation we don't want, fighting just to get into the final session in qualifying. They will be happy for the next few days in the factory, but that doesn't change the fact that we have to keep improving."

Hamilton was less downbeat post-race than in Melbourne a week ago, when he also failed to win despite starting on pole. "I think I have to be satisfied," he said. "Congratulations to Fernando and Sergio, they did a better job and were just very quick, equally as quick as me, if not quicker.

"In one of the stops I lost time with a problem with the front right, and I also had to look after the tyres. Of course I would have liked more points but I can't really complain. I feel very fortunate the way the track was today that I managed to finish, let alone be on the podium with good points."

If Hamilton, one of the six world champions on the grid this season, feels fortunate to be on such a rain-soaked podium, what is the true value of Perez's achievement? This will be remembered as a day when a young driver upstaged the stars and earned his spurs.

Topics:  fernando alonso formula one


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Hottest day in February

A tree fell on Borilla St on Sunday night following a storm in Emerald.

CQ sweltered through its hottest Feb day this week.

A huge treasure trove of prizes to be won

CQ News general manager Karin-ane King is encouraging readers to enter the Treasure Hunt competition.

We are rewarding our readers with our Treasure Hunt competition

Members needed for club to survive

Auctioneer Len "Fonz” Bargenquest and Rotary member Errol Rix at the Blackwater Rotary Auction.

Blackwater Rotary Club is looking for more members

Local Partners

STAY INSIDE: 32 snake bites in 52 days

Doctors tell you what you need to do if you're bitten.

Sir Elton John coming to Mackay: What you need to know

Sir Elton will come to Mackay and Cairns in September.

Tickets to the concert go on sale on March 14

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Global superstar to rock Mackay in 2017

A major concert is set to rock Mackay this year.

Mackay, Cairns to host world's biggest superstars Sir Elton John

How Stay at Home Mum blogger Jody Allen struck it big

Jody Allen and Walt Collins will co-host the Seven Network's Stay at Home Mum television series from April.

Jody Allen's star continues to rise at incredible speed

Furious Price wants to quit I'm a Celeb after clash with Keira

AN IRATE Steve Price has threatened to quit I'm A Celebrity after a series of drama-filled clashes with Keira Maguire.

Novel with lots of heart

The romance in A Quiet Kind of Thunder was only one of the joys of the book.

Book proves to be a gem with layers

Bliss N Eso announce tribute show for stuntman

Bliss N Eso will play a tribute show at Coolangatta in honour of Johann Ofner. The stuntman died during the filming of the group's Friend Like You film clip earlier this year.

BLISS N Eso to play tribute show to raise funds for killed stuntman

MOVIE REVIEW: Trainspotting sequel as good as original

Ewen Bremner in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

Director Danny Boyle proves sequels can be done well.

How Karl Stefanovic's wife, kids found out about girlfriend

Karl Stefanovic and Jasmine Yarbrough after their day on Sydney Harbour. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Pictures splashed across tabloid were shock to family

WATCH: Toowoomba opera hopeful's incredible voice

Kaitlyn Orange attends Opera Queensland auditions at Empire Theatres for Opera at Jimbour, Saturday, February 18, 2017.

Opera hopefuls vie for parts in performance at Jimbour House

MKR turns spiteful in suddendeath elimination

Alyse and Matt battled Josh and Amy in a spiteful elimination cook-off.

Bottom of the ladder faces off in spiteful sudden-death cook-off.

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Expert: Why renters, home buyers may struggle

Matusik Property Insights director Michael Matusik.

What's next for the city's housing market

Massive seaside development of 3200 lots

DESIRABLE LIFESTYLE: The masterplan for the proposed Elliott Heads Estate.

"There's nothing else left along the coastline of Queensland now"

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!