F1 notes: Rosberg fails to end Williams’ drought

  • By Chris Lines Associated Press
  • Sunday, April 5, 2009 12:09pm
  • SportsSports

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Nico Rosberg failed to end Williams’ long drought without a Formula One victory despite being the early leader Sunday at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The nine-time constructors’ championship winners have not won a race since 2004 — a span of 74 races — while Rosberg is still searching for his first race win in his fourth season.

The German got a good jump off the line from his fourth grid spot, taking the lead into the first corner and holding it until he pitted at the end of the 15th lap. He finished eighth.

“It is a while since Williams have been out front on pure performance and I have to thank the engineers for that,” Rosberg said. “The car was going really well and I showed my ability to consistently push on each lap and open the gap to those behind me.

“Then the rain came and, unfortunately, the situation just didn’t go our way. But we got something out of the day and our car is right up there, so we will be looking to get the points we deserve next time out.”

NIGHT RACES: Malaysia will review its twilight start for next year’s Grand Prix amid concerns that bad weather could again hamper the race, which was cut short Sunday because of heavy rain and poor visibility.

“In the future, we may allocate a different time, perhaps earlier,” new Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. “There are also suggestions to do a night race, but we need to look at the cost.”

Mokhzani Mahathir, chairman of organizer Sepang International Circuit, said he consulted F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone after the race was abandoned and they agreed to look again at the starting time.

The race was suspended after 33 laps as a tropical storm lashed the Sepang track, making conditions impossible for drivers.

The race attracted only 80,000 spectators compared to about 120,000 last year, Mokhzani said.

KERS’ PODIUM: Nick Heidfeld’s second-place finish was a small piece of Formula One history, becoming the first podium finish for a car fitted with the KERS energy storage and power-boost system.

The technology has proved problematic for those teams which have used it this season, with Ferrari and McLaren recording dismal results with the new technology.

The German’s second place, however, had less to do with KERS than his team’s good calls on tire usage and being fueled heavily at the start of the race, meaning he only had to pit once instead of three or four times for his rivals.

KERS stores energy otherwise wasted in braking, and that energy can then be used by the driver with the push of a button to deliver a boost for a few seconds each lap.

The usefulness of the power boost was negligible on the street circuit of Australia in the season-opener, but was more apparent on the long straights of Sepang.

On one lap, Red Bull’s Mark Webber was able to overtake Renault’s Fernando Alonso, but the Spaniard hit the power boost button, re-passed the Australian on the straight, but then lost his position at the next corner.

HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY? Sunday’s race was the fifth occasion in F1 history when only half points were awarded to drivers and teams due to the race not reaching the minimum distance for a full result under the sport’s regulations.

The last time it happened was in the 1991 Australian GP in Adelaide, when only 14 laps were completed before proceedings were halted with massive amounts of standing water on the street circuit.

The other occasions were: the Spanish GP in 1975 when the Lola of Rolf Stommelen went off the track and killed five spectators; the 1975 Austrian GP, which was rained out at mid-distance with American driver Mark Donohue dying from injuries sustained in the warm-up; and the 1984 Monaco GP, which was stopped due to rain after 31 laps.

MCLAREN MESS: McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh says he is considering his future after an embarrassing scandal over lies told to Formula One stewards that disqualified Lewis Hamilton from the Australian Grand Prix.

Whitmarsh said he regretted going on holiday right after the season-opening race at Melbourne last weekend and arriving in Malaysia too late to control the crisis. He didn’t rule out stepping down from the post he took over from Ron Dennis on March 1.

But the McLaren boss dismissed British newspaper reports that reigning world champion Hamilton may quit.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that Hamilton was dissuaded from leaving F1 after a telephone conversation with Max Mosley, head the sport’s world governing body FIA.

“The commitment to this team has not altered,” Whitmarsh said.

Race stewards ruled Thursday that McLaren deliberately misled stewards at the Australian about an exchange of third place with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli while they were behind the safety car.

The hearing overturned the Melbourne verdict, giving third place back to Toyota’s Trulli and excluding McLaren and Hamilton from the results.

McLaren blamed Ryan for masterminding the deception. Hamilton has made an emotional apology and said he was “instructed and misled” by Ryan to withhold evidence.

However, the matter could be referred to the World Motor Sports Council, with the available penalties including suspending McLaren or Hamilton from future races or this year’s entire championship.

Associated Press writer Eileen NG contributed to this report.

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