Category archive: Lewis Hamilton

Over the years, 15 different drivers have graced the top step of the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but now just three have done so at least three times after Lewis Hamilton charged to the win in this season's edition. Along with Hamilton, the others to claim this accomplishment are none other than Ayrton Senna (three) and Michael Schumacher (four).

It began with a blistering qualifying session that saw Hamilton on the pole, and he showed supreme poise throughout the day despite being closely pursued by both Lotus drivers. When Kimi Raikkonen pressed him late, Hamilton stayed true to the form he had demonstrated throughout the early laps and collected his first win from the pole since 2010.

Compared to the early stages of his career, Hamilton's wins are now typically coming in a slightly different fashion. His first five career victories all came from the pole, as did nine of his initial 13 wins in Formula One. Hungary, however, is the first victory from the pole for Hamilton in any of his past six wins.

While he's never won from a starting position worse than fourth, he's demonstrated recently that he can win without starting on the pole. In Hungary, however, he simply appeared dominant from beginning to end and was able to control the pace from the first lap.

Regardless of how his wins develop, Hamilton's career has continued to flourish, and the question of what lies ahead was a topic he discussed among reporters after his victory: "I am 100 percent focused this year, regardless of what people think. I've been on it all year, I've never been so committed, but of course I'm still in my 20s, I do want to enjoy my last bit of my 20s, because I've heard it's downhill from then on. I've got to strike a nice balance, and I think I am."

Meanwhile, Lotus has now finished runner-up this season for the fourth time in just 11 grands prix, the most since Benetton had five runner-ups without a win in 1996. That year, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger had to contend with the likes of a very strong Williams team, while this season, Lotus is competing against a bit more balance toward the top.

Raikkonen, however, has experienced this before. In 2006, his McLaren team failed to win a single event yet finished second four times.

Nevertheless, the drought for Lotus may end soon. Spa is a place where Raikkonen has truly excelled, and he will likely be among the favorites for victory. Teammate Romain Grosjean, who has shown immense potential this year, should not be overlooked either.

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier certainly believes his team is close to victory, telling reporters, "We qualified better this weekend and we chased the leader of the race for many laps. On a different track layout, which allows overtaking, I think we could have won this race."

Spa will certainly provide overtaking opportunities, and Lotus may well emerge with its first victory of the season.

For now, fans will have to wait out the August break, as will drivers and teams. It's a well-deserved rest for all involved, and it provides a definitive marker between the first and second portions of the season. The next segment of Formula One certainly has high expectations, as this year has delivered both surprises and thrills throughout. The championship battle remains far from decided, which was not the case just one year ago at this time.

Michael Schumacher Ker Robertson/Getty ImagesIt had been a very long time since Michael Schumacher had drawn applause for a podium finish.

The opening laps in Valencia suggested that this year's version would be similar to recent editions on the street circuit.

Sebastian Vettel looked to be in complete control as he opened up a commanding lead, but mechanical gremlins ultimately ended his run early, opening the door for the competition.

Fernando Alonso took full advantage, to the delight of the home-country crowd, and collected a remarkable victory after starting 11th on the grid.

Aside from his memorable and controversial victory in Singapore in 2008, it was his worst starting position in an event he went on to win.

In addition, his victory earlier this year in Malaysia saw him start eighth, meaning he has been forced to make up some serious ground en route to his two wins this season.

Alonso has done an incredible job this season of pushing his car to the limits, but Ferrari still has plenty of room for improvement, as he told reporters after Valencia.

"It's true that we believe and we will never give up, we will have confidence in ourselves and we will arrive with optimism at every grand prix we go to," he said. "But at the same time, apart from winning today or finishing sixth today, we know that we are not in the position that we want to be and there are a few cars quicker than us and we cannot be blind to that.

"We need to work."

Red Bull still appears to have the quickest car lately, but Vettel now finds himself 26 points behind championship leader Alonso. That gap can certainly be closed, as Vettel eliminated a 19-point deficit in 2010 after eight rounds to win the championship, but it is a surprising position for him this far into the season.

Vettel was certainly not the only driver to suffer misfortune in Valencia, as Romain Grosjean also became a casualty of his Renault power plant. When Lewis Hamilton crashed late, it allowed for Michael Schumacher to score his first podium with Mercedes.

In what has been a very tough year, it was a standout result, and it marked the first time in nearly 2,100 days that Schumacher had reached the podium.

It was a finish that surprised many, as Schumacher found himself outside of the points with fewer than 20 laps remaining. It surprised even the driver himself, as he detailed to reporters.

"I didn't actually think about a podium at all at the end of the race," he said. "It was crossing the line that I asked my guys 'where did we finish?' I saw [Mark] Webber's pit board and close to the end it showed him eighth and seventh, and I knew I was one place ahead of that one. And then the boys told me 'that's third, that's podium.'

I can't believe that! It's something I didn't really expect."

Sure, he was on fresher tires than many other drivers, but he did a great job of dicing through the field. When several front-runners ran into trouble, he was able to secure an impressive day.

What's more, this season has now seen 11 different drivers on the podium, more than the previous two seasons combined. That's a pretty clear indication of just how varied this year has been, even when compared to a very thrilling 2010 season.

As the F1 calendar moves on, a storyline to watch next time out will be Vettel's pursuit of a 34th-career pole. It is a significant milestone, as it will give him sole possession of third place on the all-time pole ranks behind only Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.

Tires have seemingly dominated the Formula One landscape this season, and in Montreal, they once again helped to tell the story. The drama truly emerged late in the Canadian Grand Prix, when both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were attempting to nurse worn tires and fend off a fast-charging Lewis Hamilton.

In the end, McLaren's strategy paid off as Hamilton became the seventh different winner in as many grands prix this season, while his constructor continued to pace the field in Montreal (having won five of the past seven at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve).

Fresh rubber has proved to be an exceedingly valuable commodity this season, and the driver who can best conserve his tires certainly has an excellent chance at victory, providing his team has given them a proven race blueprint. Because of his sound drive, Hamilton is now just four wins shy of Vettel for the most since the start of the 2007 season.

A true challenge lies ahead for Hamilton, however, as recent winners have had trouble with consistency. The trend began with Vettel's win in India last season. Following that event, the most recent winner has failed to reach the podium in the next race every time, a rather alarming occurrence that signifies just how unpredictable F1 has been lately.

The driver who can consistently notch podium finishes, and not necessarily wins, should be in great shape this season, as it seems unlikely that one man will control the top step for the rest of the year.

Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez filled out the podium, and in turn, each earned their second podium finish of the season. Both could be F1 stars of the future, as they have displayed several impressive performances this season. Since China, Grosjean is behind only Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Hamilton and Mark Webber for points earned, and could realistically win a grand prix this year if he continues this pace.

Lotus has shown to be quick, and Grosjean was asked by a reporter in the postrace press conference how close to victory he believes he is: "The gap is not that big. We need to qualify better. That is not our strength this season, but we are working on it. I think Friday and Saturday were quite difficult for us, but we have been learning a lot about the car, so it's good that we now have that in our pocket for the next races. Then you never know."

Meanwhile, Perez has been forced to make up some serious ground in each of the past two races. In Monaco, he started 23rd on the grid and finished 11th, while in Canada he finished third after starting 15th. That's made his podium finish all the more impressive, considering it is the worst start by a man to finish on the podium since Webber started 18th over a year ago in China. Sauber has built a quick car this year in various conditions, and like Lotus, is an outside threat to win a grand prix. With a strong grid position this team is dangerous when it employs an aggressive strategy, and Perez has shown he is capable of challenging the strong runners.

The improvement of several newcomers to F1 combined with the latest version of tires has made for a wild season thus far, and it now appears that the true surprise would be if the rest of the season diverted from what fans have witnessed so far.

A year ago, the famed Williams squad was enduring a downright embarrassing season, one which yielded no points through the first five events on the F1 calendar.

It was a nearly unimaginable start for a team that had accomplished so much in the sport, and the remainder of the season was not much kinder.

In the end, the team under Cosworth power collected just five more points than Lotus, HRT and Virgin.

What a difference a few months can make. This season has seen Williams return to competitive form, running mid-pack for much of the early season.

But Pastor Maldonado accomplished much more than that in Spain as he defended the lead from the likes of former world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Because of his incredible drive, Williams was on the top step for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2004.

The 131 events between wins was by far the longest in the team's history, more than double the next-closest streak set between 1997 and 2001.

When this latest drought began at the start of 2005, Alonso had yet to win a world championship and Red Bull was in its maiden season.

For a team with such a pedigree, it was a drought that shocked the sport, yet the end of that run in Spain was arguably even more surprising.

In his young career, Maldonado had never finished better than eighth and had just two finishes in the points entering Spain. His victory must certainly give hope to many others on the grid that perhaps their first F1 win isn't as distant as they once thought, and with so much of the season still to come, it is difficult to imagine what surprises could possibly remain.

The nation of Venezuela certainly had reason to celebrate as well, considering it was the first victory and podium for a driver from the country in Formula One.

In addition, this season now has multiple first-time winners before June, a feat that had not occurred since 2003 (Giancarlo Fisichella and Raikkonen).

Team principal Sir Frank Williams was certainly candid about Maldonado's hiring, but he was also quick to support his driver.

[+] Enlarge
Frank Williams
Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty ImagesWilliams team principal Frank Williams celebrates with teammates after Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado's win at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"Yeah, he was to some extent [initially with the team because of money]; I'm not denying that," Williams told Autosport. "But if we thought he'd been a wanker, he wouldn't have got in the team no matter how much money he had. He did a very sensible job in GP2 and he fully deserves to be in the team with or without the dosh.

"The truth is that if you haven't got the dosh, you can't go Formula One racing. But we've got a real racing driver as well. I am just astonished by the way he just controlled himself, and didn't make a mistake at all."

For Maldonado, that's undoubtedly high praise from one of the most respected individuals in the sport, and the concept of drivers paying for a seat may have just taken on a completely new form thanks to his victory.

Maldonado is now the seventh straight different driver to win an F1 event, a remarkable occurrence considering that between 2010 and 2011, only five different drivers won.

There is plenty of talent on the grid that could extend that streak even further, and with Monaco next on the schedule, there is hardly a larger stage for an upset.

But Spain could easily have played out differently had Lewis Hamilton not suffered misfortune yet again.

After a fuel error cost him his pole position, he was forced to fight through the field throughout the day to finish eighth, and one can only guess what the outcome would have been had he started from the front.

Close, competitive racing has been the recipe throughout this Formula One season, but if this trend continues up front in Catalunya, it will prove to be a considerable exception for the circuit.

While the track is a familiar one for teams, it has not been known for providing close finishes. Last year was very much a rarity, with Sebastian Vettel holding off Lewis Hamilton by a mere 0.6 seconds. Aside from that result, no event at Catalunya has been decided by fewer than three seconds.

[+] Enlarge
Michael Schumacher
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images Michael Schumacher owned the Grand Prix of Spain in his heyday, winning it six times.

In fact, of the 21 previous grands prix held, 19 have been won by more than a margin of five seconds and 14 have been decided by over 10 seconds.

While that certainly does not bode well for a memorable finish in Spain, if any season can deliver an exciting battle, this would certainly be among the top contenders.

The combination of tires that degrade quickly and an increase in the number of competitive teams has made this season very much a guessing game, and with any luck Spain will see a continuation of the 2012 excitement.

It certainly has been an unpredictable grand prix recently, as the last six events here have produced as many different winners. In addition, of the six former F1 champions on the grid, only Hamilton has yet to capture a win at this venue.

If Hamilton wants a legitimate chance at a victory here, he'll want to start on pole, or at least the front row. A staggering 10 of the last 11 winners have come from the pole, with the lone exception coming last year (Vettel won after starting second).

Since Catalunya began hosting F1 in 1991, only once has a driver won after starting outside the front row, and that was merely a third-place start from Michael Schumacher in 1996.

By comparison, a track such as Monaco, which stresses qualifying more than most venues, has 20 winners from the top three starting positions in that span but has just 10 from pole, compared to 16 in Barcelona.

Clearly, a top qualifying effort in Spain is absolutely critical for those who wish to win, making qualifying all that more riveting.

Perhaps Schumacher can boost his season at Catalunya, as Spain is one of his strongest grands prix. His six victories at the Spanish Grand Prix trail only France (eight), San Marino (seven) and Canada (seven) for his most at any grand prix, and he is now facing heightened expectations after his teammate Nico Rosberg drove to victory earlier this year.

Schumacher will have to continue to adjust to the Pirelli rubber, an aspect of the sport he is not pleased with, as he recently detailed to CNN.

"I just think they are playing much too big an effect, because they are so peaky and so special that we don't put the cars or ourselves to the limit," he said. "We drive like we're on raw eggs and don't want to stress the tires at all, otherwise you just overdo it and you go nowhere."

He has suffered from some bad fortune this season and, as a result, has earned fewer points than the likes of Bruno Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado.

His campaign with Mercedes has thus far been a disappointment, but there is still plenty of time to turn it around this season, especially with a car that appears to be more competitive than in past seasons.

The sport will also be celebrating an anniversary in Spain, as it will mark, to the day, the 62nd anniversary of the first Formula One race. That inaugural event was run in Silverstone and was won by Nino Farina and Alfa Romeo.

Spain may be the next official stop on the Formula One schedule, but the Italian circuit of Mugello will garner its fair share of attention prior to the arrival of teams at Catalunya. The venue plays host to the return of in-season testing, and the sessions will provide a very valuable opportunity for teams.

With a fifth of the season already over, teams simply cannot rest on their accomplishments to date, as the driver standings are much too tight. Sebastian Vettel may be the leader, but there are six others who trail by fewer than the equivalent of a race victory. In addition, eight drivers already have reached the podium this season, one more than the total from 2011. With the field on significantly more level ground this season, any innovation by one team could provide a huge boost.

Jenson Button certainly understands how close the competition has been this season, as he explained to The Sun, "Every race you want to have a good result and you know that a no-score is massive and it really hurts. You've got to be consistently near the front. I don't think it means you hold back going out for a win. You're not going to hold back if there is a maneuver or a move to go for, but consistency is going to be very important this year."

With Vettel dominating last year, a poor showing may have cost a driver a chance at second or third in the drivers' championship. This year, it could mean spoiling a chance at the title.

It may be difficult to assess who the true championship contenders are, considering how condensed the standings appear, but one measurement seems to shed some light: Three drivers this season -- Lewis Hamilton, Vettel and Button -- have spent far more time running among the top three than anyone else and have therefore put themselves in position for good finishes. Hamilton has run among the top three for over 58 percent of laps this season, best in the sport. Just behind are Vettel (51.1 percent) and Button (46.7 percent), while no other driver is above 30 percent.

Additionally, drivers such as Mark Webber have struggled. While his consistent finishes have put him in the middle of the title chase, he has only run 11 total laps among the top three this season (4.8 percent). He's the ideal example of a driver who could certainly be a championship threat, but thus far his numbers do not reflect exactly that.

Webber should not be ruled out by any means, however, and although his initial results have not been overwhelming, he's done an excellent job of staying right in the mix. As a result, he's a mere five points shy of Vettel.

While running among the top three does not always equate to podium finishes, it certainly will be key over the course of an entire season. Considering the early-season chaos, it's an excellent indicator of which drivers are the strong runners, and right now Hamilton looks poised for a victory sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, a team that deserves a tip of the hat this year is Williams. After enduring an arduous season last year, the historic squad has bounced back considerably, having already secured 18 points. There is still much room for improvement, however, as the team has cracked Q3 just once in four events. So far, it has been a theme of what could have been with Pastor Maldonado; he crashed very late in Australia and has suffered several misfortunes since. He'll be an interesting one to watch over the next few grands prix.

A familiar winner emerged in Bahrain, but the man on the top step had some unusual company in his mirrors throughout the race, and victory for Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was far from certain until the very end, thanks to a remarkable effort from both Lotus pilots.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean had reasonable chances to give Lotus a win, and for the third straight event, a relative dark horse constructor has reached the podium.

This season appears to be absolutely wide open. A year rife with surprises has yet to let up, and it has so far created some very intriguing storylines.

One of the prime stories has been the relative struggles of Vettel, but he looked to be on top form en route to his 22nd career F1 win. His drive was even more impressive considering he won from the pole while also recording the quickest lap (hat trick), something he did just twice a season ago. He managed his tires very well and was admirable in keeping the competition in check, and because of his sensational drive, he is now just one win shy of tying Nelson Piquet for 10th on the sport's all-time wins list.

It was an unusually long wait for a defending champion to earn their first win of the next season, however.

Since Fernando Alonso's championship in 2005, only one defending title holder took longer than Vettel to win the season after. That would be Lewis Hamilton, who did not win until the 10th event of 2009. In that span, every other champion up until this year won within the first two races in the season immediately following their title.

Vettel's win also means four different drivers have claimed the first four races of 2012, a phenomenon that hadn't occurred since 2003.

It very well could have been Raikkonen celebrating victory in Bahrain, as he looked every bit a former champion while battling for the lead. His ability to adapt has been sensational, and it appears that he, as well as Lotus, could be very close to victory.

It was a superior performance for Renault as an engine supplier, as well. The power plant occupied the top four places for only the third time, and for the first time since 1997.

One of the men behind that finish was Grosjean, who tallied his first career podium. His stellar effort brought France its first podium in more than a decade, a drought that is difficult to imagine for a nation that has had so much success in Formula One. With the likely return of the French Grand Prix in the near future, Grosjean's finish was certainly timed well.

Deeper in the field, Felipe Massa finally claimed points after enduring a trying start to the year.

It may have been a mere two points, but it likely was a step in the right direction for the veteran.

Bahrain has generally been a welcoming site for Massa. He's endured four seasons in his career in which he did not earn points until at least the third race, and on three of those occasions, Bahrain provided the first points haul.

Through four events, this season has played out remarkably different compared to last year, and the championship battle will likely be alive until the final grand prix. For the most part, the past several F1 seasons have provided memorable competition, and one can only hope that this year stacks up with the likes of 2007, 2008 and 2010. So far, it certainly looks as if it will.

China very possibly left fans with more questions than answers, as a maiden Formula One victory for Nico Rosberg left many surprised. Doubts had been cast toward Mercedes ever since the famous name returned to the sport for 2010, but it has finally paid dividends with an impressive victory. Much like his team, Rosberg often was enshrouded among questions of when success would come at the highest level, and while those have been answered, it now leaves many wondering how this season will play itself out.

Nearly 57 years had passed since Mercedes' last F1 win at Monza in 1955. It came at the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio, and at that time Formula One had not yet hosted even 50 points-paying events.

Rosberg delivered a dominant performance right from the start and ended up winning by just over 20 seconds, the fourth-largest margin of victory by a first-time winner since 1995. Two of the three drivers ahead of him on that list, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, have since gone on to win championships. A title this season may seem unlikely, but Rosberg's father, Keke, won his lone championship in 1982, the very same season he earned his first F1 victory.

Rosberg even surprised himself a bit with his performance, as he explained to reporters after the race, "I'm very happy, very excited. It's been a long time coming for me and for the team as well over the past two years and a bit. Now, it's finally here. It's just amazing, and it's just nice to see how quickly we are now progressing. I didn't expect to be that fast today."

After a blistering pole lap, the underlying concern was that Mercedes would struggle to maintain pace during the grand prix, but that simply was not the case. The tires held remarkably well, and Rosberg was able to utilize a two-stop strategy.

Winning from pole has become a rarity of sorts recently, as Rosberg became the first man on pole to win since Sebastian Vettel in India last season. In between, there had been four straight events in which a driver claimed victory having started outside first.

Behind Rosberg, a sea of cars competed for the points-paying positions and the action rarely let up. The varying strategies provided for a very entertaining battle, and it now appears as if no single team has a significant, consistent advantage over the competition. The strongest team now appears to be McLaren, and Button and Lewis Hamilton did a remarkable job to earn podium spots in Shanghai. By virtue of three third-place finishes to start the season, Hamilton is now the championship leader.

But many other teams seem to be threatening in 2012, and the year is much more balanced throughout compared to last season. After all, just one race ago nine constructors managed to score points.

Overall, the on-track product in China continued to thrill, and for the second straight year in Shanghai, only one car suffered from a retirement.

The heat of Bahrain may mean the attrition rate is considerably higher, but that is certainly not the primary concern of teams as they prepare for the fourth event of the season. Despite continued protests and upheaval, Formula One will compete in Bahrain after canceling last year's event, and safety will no doubt be a primary concern for all attending.

In the last visit there, the layout was revised, with an additional group of slow turns added following Turn 4. It lengthened the lap by nearly a full kilometer, but the alteration was not generally well received, and the track will revert to its former layout this year.

The track has witnessed two hat tricks (win, pole and fastest lap) in its limited time (Michael Schumacher in 2004 and Felipe Massa in 2007) and is one of six grands prix to host multiple hat tricks since the 2004 season.

China showcased one of the most exciting events on the 2011 Formula One calendar, with Red Bull and McLaren constantly battling for the top step. Lewis Hamilton emerged on top after overtaking Sebastian Vettel in the late stages, a remarkable due to mechanical issues. It also featured Mark Webber finishing on the podium after starting 18th as well as some great battles throughout the field. It was an entertaining race throughout, and this year could certainly be so again.

Overall, the host nation is an interesting example of F1's expanse. A country with over 1 billion people, China has yet to produce a single Formula One competitor. That may change in the near future, however, as HRT recently signed Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua to its driver development program. It is an important step for China, as the nation could certainly use a rooting interest. China is still relatively new to hosting F1, as this will be just the ninth event, and it continues to be a largely untapped market for the sport.

Home drivers matter, as India demonstrated last season in its F1 debut. For the event, Narain Karthikeyan, who had not competed for months, returned to drive for HRT in order for the grand prix to have representation. Perhaps China will have that luxury soon, as well.

From a technical perspective, Shanghai International Circuit is a venue that provides several good passing opportunities, most notably entering the very long right-hander just off the starting line and along the extremely lengthy straight prior to the 14th turn. It's nearly the same length as the Malaysia track and features numerous slow corners, meaning it is not an easy track to come to grips with.

The pole has not been crucial at the circuit recently, as only two of the past six fastest in qualifying have converted that into a win.

Lately, the victor in China has not been riding a strong finish in the previous event, as the past four winners have not placed better than eighth in the race immediately preceding China. Last season, Hamilton was coming off an eighth-place result in Malaysia, much like 2010 winner Jenson Button.

That bodes well for Vettel and Button, who both failed to score points last time out. Weather permitting, it should be Red Bull and McLaren battling for the win, with Ferrari struggling to keep pace.

For the championship contenders who have yet to win this season, China is pivotal. Since 1990 only one driver, Michael Schumacher in 2003, has gone on to claim the title after failing to win any of the first three races of the season. That season, Schumacher failed to post even a podium finish until the fourth race of the year.

Clearly, any driver who has yet to win will need a victory this week or be forced to overturn some serious history. With the amount of competition this season, it appears that any significant deficit in points early on will be very difficult to make up.

Hamilton is one of those drivers seeking his first victory of 2012, and he is the only multiple winner of this event. The speed of the McLarens should provide for a superb starting grid spot, and Hamilton's success here means he may just be the favorite to win in Shanghai.

After the fireworks in Sepang, this event certainly has high expectations to meet, but if it's anything like last year's edition, few will be left disappointed.

It's exceedingly difficult to classify a Ferrari victory as a bit of an underdog story, but in Malaysia, that seemed to be precisely the case. The most prestigious team in F1 history was certainly off the pace in both testing and the opening round in Australia, and many had raised concerns about the competitiveness of the F2012. Yet two races into the season, Ferrari already has extended its Formula One record of 19 straight years with a victory.

In one of the most thrilling grands prix in recent memory, Fernando Alonso emerged victorious, but the results were very much in doubt until the very end. Sergio Perez, in just his second F1 season, pushed his Sauber to the limits and very nearly won the event in the closing laps, narrowing in on Alonso before running a corner wide. The pair made for a classic event, as did the constantly changing weather. Both drivers were incredible, considering their teammates finished well out of the points -- Kamui Kobayashi struggled throughout while Felipe Massa was nearly lapped by his teammate.

Perez on the podium meant Mexico had a driver finish within the top three for the first time since 1971 (Pedro Rodriguez). In addition, Perez is just the second Mexican driver, alongside Rodriguez, to post a podium finish. In between, Hector Rebaque had come the closest, finishing fourth on several occasions in 1981.

But it was ultimately Alonso's day, which came as a shock to many, including the man himself.

"I would never have bet on this win, and I would think anyone who did so must have picked up a tidy sum!" Alonso told reporters. "As I returned to the pit lane on the cool-down lap I didn't even know where to park the car: To win with all the problems we have got is something quite extraordinary."

His 28th career victory puts him alone in fifth all time and just three shy of Nigel Mansell for fourth. He flashed his entire array of skills in Malaysia and arguably had one of his best career races. Ferrari is clearly still an underperforming car relative to the top competition, and it took sound strategy as well as good fortune to ensure that Alonso was on the podium's top step.

He spent the least amount of time on pit road in comparison to the usual contenders, and when asked by reporters what the win did for his team, he responded, "I think it changes nothing, to be honest. We are in a position that we don't want, to be fighting to go into Q3 and then fighting to score some points."

Filling out the podium was Lewis Hamilton, again finishing third after starting from the pole. Hamilton paced the first two practice sessions, which has recently been a bad omen at the track, as no driver has led either first or second practice at Malaysia and then won the event since Michael Schumacher in 2004. Drastic weather changes certainly play a factor, but the track itself also provides ample overtaking opportunities, with long straights and a wide racing surface. The two have combined to make this event rather unpredictable throughout the years.

An additional element surprised in the late going, when Sebastian Vettel slashed his tire while overtaking Narain Karthikeyan. Vettel was primed for a finish just outside the podium, but instead he finds himself trailing leader Alonso by 17 points. He has been worse off before, however. In 2010, Vettel trailed the leader (again Alonso) by 25 through two events and still managed to finish the year on top.