We’ve named our driver of the race, but what about the rest of the runners and riders from the Malaysian Grand Prix? In part one of Hot Rod or Hot Dog we look at the front-runners, better known in these parts as the Top Dogs.

Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (3rd)
  • Race: Vettel (1st) Webber (4th)

Well, there we go then. Another race, another dominant Vettel performance.

Yes, it wasn’t quite as dominant as in Australia – pole wasn’t achieved at quite so much of a canter and the race looked very slightly dodgy in places, but overall it was still a performance of enormous ease, langour and somnolence (don’t ever say Badger doesn’t read like a Keats poem).

To be honest, the only other thing to add on Vettel is that the general opinion (espoused on many occasions by this column last season) is that he hasn’t really had to scrap a lot at the top for his victories. Now, that might be because he makes it look so easy, but could he also be Ralf Schumacher plus? Anyway, we don’t want to talk about him any more. Winning all the time is boring.



Mark Webber, by contrast, endured another frustrating weekend. After qualifying third, but with no KERS off the line, he was swallowed up by four of the drivers behind him. Not the best way to start.

After that mini debacle he ran into the frustration of passing people, only then to get repassed on the straights when they engaged KERS. Frustration. However, things got a lot better the further he went in the race; he was able to climb back up to fourth place and get some solid points. A case of “not great, but could have been a lot worse”.

He really needs to get on and challenge Vettel, as much for his own pride as to start a title challenge. We can’t imagine a man like Webber would take kindly to being comprehensively out performed.

Badger’s best: Vettel



  • Qualifying: Hamilton (2nd) Button (4th)
  • Race: Button (2nd) Hamilton (8th)

Another strong performance from the Woking-based team.

Let’s take Button first. A good performance in qualifying, although he would have hoped to have been closer not only to Hamilton, but ahead of Webber. One lap pace has never been Jenson’s forte though.

The race went very well for old Jense, getting past Heidfeld and Hamilton to take a well deserved second place. What was interesting afterwards was his comment that:

“On the way to the grid, I purposely took a lot of front wing out of the car, which was a mistake because I had massive understeer for the first stint, which also hurt the rear tyres. I just got the balance wrong. So at each pit stop, I dialled in more front wing and my pace kept getting better and better.”

Perhaps if he’d got it right from the start he could have made more of a fist of challenging Vettel. Still, a good race and, even more satisfying, he beat Hamilton.

buttonAll through qualifying and halfway through the race Hamilton looked good, was pushing Vettel and had hardly a care in the world. Then it all fell of the edge of a cliff, never to be recovered.

As the man himself listed after the race, his problems included: dramatic tyre drop off (not a la Buemi last year, thankfully), pitting too early, pitting with three laps to go, being hit by Fernando Alonso, a stewards’ penalty and generally being surly. (One of those was added in by us. Clue: it’s the last one).

We can appreciate the disappointment of falling away towards the end of the race and, in fact, quite enjoy seeing it as it shows the drivers care. However, does anyone else think all might not be quite right between Hamilton and McLaren? There just seems to be…some needle. However it turns out – there could be fireworks ahead.

Badger’s best: Button



  • Qualifying: Heidfeld (6th) Petrov (8th)
  • Race: Heidfeld (3rd) Petrov (DNF)

We were mugged. We wrote nice things about Petrov last week and then he goes and does…that.

Fresh from qualifying 8th (which is perfectly respectable), he then went a bit crazy during the race, running wide and then on a separate occasion, imitating the ballet dancers his homeland is so famous for by taking a flying leap over a storm drain. He’s never dull, we’ll give him that.

We may be angry, we may be frustrated, but we could never dislike him. He’s just got a lovely face.

heidfeldHeidfeld, fresh having a horrible weekend in Australia, made good on Renault’s choice in Malaysia. Much of why we like him has already been covered in the Top Dog article but, suffice it to say, we like him.

With someone as mercurial as Petrov in the team, you need someone like Heidfeld. Consistent, quick and low maintenance. Tick, tick and tick.

He had a brilliant start followed up by a solid drive to third place. He wouldn’t have been there had Alonso and Hamilton not had problems but he was there, in the right place, to take advantage. A sign of things to come, we think.

Badger’s best: Heidfeld



  • Qualifying: Alonso (5th) Massa (7th)
  • Race: Massa (5th) Alonso (6th)

The same as Australia holds true, although there’s a glimmer of hope in their race pace.

Qualifying for both drivers was difficult, with neither having the pace to challenge for the top two rows. The one lap pace simply isn’t there. That said, true to form, Alonso out qualified Massa.

Then, in the race, something strange happened. Massa beat Alonso. That’s right, we’ll say it again, Massa beat Alonso. Let’s just let that simmer for a second.

<simmering time>

Admittedly, this was because of various problems for Alonso: breaking his front wing, his DRS system not working, you know the drill, but Massa struggled during one of his pit stops as well, having a problem with the left front. That said, a win’s a win and we’re sure Massa doesn’t really care how beating Alonso comes, as long as it does.


We’re not saying this is the start of a new world order, or even the start of anything at all, but it’s good to see the Brazilian get one once in a while. Good work Felipe.

Badger’s best: Massa

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