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Regulation changes make their mark 20 Mar 2005

Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 007 suffers engine failure.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 20 March 2005

As the BARs of Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson coasted to a halt after just two laps of the Malaysian Grand Prix many predicted that they would be the first of many casualties in what was widely tipped to become a race of attrition.

It wasn’t. In a tribute to the engineering prowess of the teams no other cars retired due to mechanical failure. The failure of the BARs’ Honda engines will be particularly embarrassing as both were withdrawn early from the Australian race to allow new powerplants to be fitted for Malaysia, a tactic the FIA has since moved to ban.

Tyres proved to be a far more important issue as teams battled to adapt to the restrictions of one set for qualifying and race - with varying degrees of success. As the afternoon progressed several drivers could be seen to be battling with a lack of grip, and both winner Fernando Alonso and second-placed Jarno Trulli told the post-race press conference that the need to preserve their tyres had tempered their pace during the final stages of the race.

Different wear rates also gave fans some spectacular racing, in particular a thrilling three-way dice between the two Williams of Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld and the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher. Webber ultimately crashed out as he battled Giancarlo Fischella, lack of grip playing a key role in their collision.

Rubens Barrichello was another victim of tyre-related problems– he was forced to retire his otherwise healthy car after excessive rear-tyre wear, brought on by some debris lodged in his rear wing upsetting its handling, made it almost undriveable. Overall, it was a disappointing weekend for Bridgestone, with Michael Schumacher their only points scorer in seventh.

Michelin had dramas too. Kimi Raikkonen suffered a right rear puncture due to a damaged tyre valve on his McLaren shortly after his first pitstop. As the new regs allowed he limped his car around until he could stop again to change the flat, carrying on to finish the race in ninth place.