Brawn GP’s Jenson Button won a chaotic rain-shortened Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix yesterday, with just 32 laps completed and only half the points awarded.
BMW’s Nick Heidfeld was second and Toyota’s Timo Glock was third.
It was the first race stopped short because of the weather conditions since the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix and the first to result in distribution of only half the points since the 1991 Australian Grand Prix.
Under Formula One rules, only half points are awarded if less than three-quarters of the scheduled race distance is completed. The race was red flagged after 32 of the scheduled 56 laps, with results reverting back to the penultimate lap, in this case lap 31.
After the red flag came out, cars and drivers sat on the grid for 50 minutes, with a restart possible if conditions improved. However, the race director eventually ruled the race would not restart.
Jarno Trulli of Toyota was fourth, ahead of Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was sixth, Lewis Hamilton was seventh for McLaren, giving him some reward after a dire week, with Williams’ Nico Rosberg eighth.
Conditions deteriorated very rapidly after the first of the rain arrived during the 22nd lap, but 10 laps later the conditions were undrivable.
The track was awash with rain and the twilight start meant the skies were very dark and visibility poor.
Abandonment of the race raised questions about the wisdom of scheduling twilight races — the race began at 5pm local time — to make them available at a more convenient time for European television audiences.
Button’s win was the third of his career and built on his victory at last weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
“What a crazy race, it really was,” Button said. “You could not actually see the circuit, it was that bad. We were going around at running pace, it was that slow.”
Brawn became the first new team to win its first two races since Alfa Romeo won the first ever two Grand Prix in 1950.
Heidfeld, whose canny strategy meant he pitted only once, while other drivers had three or four pits to change tires, got his best result since the equally chaotic Belgian Grand Prix last season.
Glock’s third place was only the second podium finish of his career, having been runner-up in Hungary last year. The German was running in eighth up to the first set of pit stops, but benefited greatly from the decision to switch to intermediate tires rather than full wets when the rain first arrived, storming through the field.
“It was one of the best races I ever could do,” Glock said. “I said: ‘Go to inters,’ took the risk and it paid off.”
Rosberg, fourth on the grid, got the best start and led the race up until the first pit stops.
Heidfeld backed the decision to red flag the race and not to restart it.
“It was very clearly impossible to run if the rain continued like it was when the race was quite rightly stopped,” Heidfeld said.