A strong showing from the Brits 23 Mar 2003
Cruel fate struck on the very last lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Jenson Button's valiantly defended fifth became seventh as he was overtaken by Jarno Trulli and Michael Schumacher. Further back Jordan's Ralph Firman was also overtaken at the very end of the race, losing ninth place to Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Button found that if he pushed too hard with the BAR Honda's Bridgestones he would compromise their life towards the end of each stint. After a long scrap with Jarno Trulli's Renault, he looked to have been saved when the Italian span on the final turn of lap 50.
"I'd kept him behind okay," Button said, "but then I pushed to open a cushion and that killed the tyres. I had no grip front or rear, and after Jarno got me in Turn Three, Michael squeaked ahead in the last corner. I should say sorry, really, because I nearly slid into him."
Firman, meanwhile, ran as high as sixth on hard tyres and a one-stop policy, but after holding off Trulli and Frentzen at various stages, Frentzen got past as the Englishman's engine started to run short of fuel.
"I knew a one-stop would be difficult," he said, "but it was the way for us to go even though I had problems with my HANS system. I was a bit marginal on fuel at the end of each stint, and on that last lap the engine coughed just enough to let Frentzen by."