The 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix (formally the XI Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 5 April 2009 at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Malaysia. It was the second race of the 2009 Formula One season. The race was due to be contested over 56 laps, but due to torrential rain, the race was stopped after 31 laps. The race was won by Jenson Button for the Brawn GP team after starting from pole position. Nick Heidfeld was classified second for BMW Sauber with Timo Glock third for Toyota.
As the race did not reach the required 75% distance (42 laps) needed for full points to be awarded, half-points were given instead for only the fifth time in Formula One history, and the first since the 1991 Australian Grand Prix. The race distance of 171.833 km, was the fifth-shortest ever covered in a World Championship Grand Prix. Brawn GP became only the second constructor to win their first two World Championship Grands Prix since Alfa Romeo won the first two ever, in 1950.
The Grand Prix was contested by 20 drivers, in 10 teams of two. The teams, also known as "constructors", were Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Brawn, Force India, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Williams and Toro Rosso.
After the Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button led the Drivers' Championship by two points from Rubens Barrichello and by four points from Jarno Trulli. Brawn GP led the Constructors' Championship by 7 points from Toyota and by 14 points from Renault.
The race start time was moved from 15:00 local time (07:00 UTC) to 17:00 local time (09:00 UTC). The organisers however turned down the possibility of holding a night race, in line with the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, for budgetary reasons.
Three practice sessions were held before the race; the first was held on Friday morning and the second on Friday afternoon. Both sessions lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes with weather conditions dry throughout. The third session was held on Saturday morning and lasted an hour, and was also dry throughout. Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima secured a Williams one-two in the first session with times of 1:36.260 and 1:36.305 minutes respectively. In the second session, Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa went quickest with times of 1:35.707 and 1:35.832 minutes. After 18 laps, Räikkönen's cockpit began to billow out smoke, and though Ferrari did not give an official statement, there are reports that the car's KERS system had overheated.
Jenson Button got Brawn's second consecutive pole ahead of Jarno Trulli's Toyota. Rubens Barrichello in the other Brawn qualified 4th (third when taking into consideration Vettel's penalty) but was demoted five places to 8th after a gearbox change. An error in strategy meant that Massa failed to make it through Q1. In an interview to Rede Globo, the driver said that he and the team thought the initial time posted was enough to qualify for the second session, and refrained from recording additional times to spare the car's engine. However, this was not the case, and Massa was left in 16th place.
Off the line, there was a clean getaway by all drivers, apart from Robert Kubica, who was forced to retire from engine problems after the first lap. Williams' Nico Rosberg moved from fourth on the grid to lead into the first corner, followed by Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso, who had used his KERS system to good effect to move up from tenth; Jenson Button made a poor start in his Brawn and was down to fourth. Heading into turn five, McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen ran wide onto the track's 'marbles' (fragments of degraded tyre rubber), and spun into early retirement.
After a slow start, Button caught and passed the heavier Renault of Alonso at turn thirteen for third place and set off after Trulli. Rosberg and Trulli stopped for fuel earlier than Button, who was able to pass them during the first round of pit stops and take the lead. Evidence of rain was barely noticed, but Kimi Räikkönen pitted to switch from dry to full wet tyres. However, his gamble did not pay off, as rain did not come as early as predicted, and he was forced to slow down significantly to delay the rapid wear of the wet tyres. (Without standing water on the track, wet tyres will not maintain structural integrity at high speeds, and will rapidly degrade over the course of a few laps.)
By lap 19, rain had started to fall and most of the drivers pitted for wet tyres. However, at this stage there was no standing water on the track, and so the wet tyres started to wear out very quickly. Timo Glock had been using intermediate tyres which were better suited to the conditions and moved rapidly up to third place. The other drivers followed this example and switched to intermediate tyres as well, which the majority of the field stayed on until lap 31 when the downpour finally reached the whole track, and drivers pitted for wet tyres once again.
Due to the torrential rain, the race was stopped on the 33rd lap and the results were taken from the classification at the end of lap 31 (the penultimate fully completed in accordance with sporting regulation 42.8). Half-points were subsequently awarded to the top eight. Button took his second victory of the season and five points, and it was the first time he had won back to back victories and his third career victory. The victory also meant that Brawn GP became the first team since Alfa Romeo in 1950 to win their first two Grands Prix. Nick Heidfeld was classified second ahead of Toyota's Timo Glock. Heidfeld was the first driver to take a podium position with a KERS-equipped car.
The drivers generally backed the decision to abandon the race, citing diminishing visibility (due to the later starting time) as well as the heavy rain.
Officials in Malaysia also confirmed that they would review the start time of the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix. Mokhzani Mahathir, chairman of the Sepang International Circuit, said he consulted Bernie Ecclestone after the race and they had agreed to look at the timings. However, Ecclestone revealed he had no qualms about the schedule, stating:
Mokhzani suggested the possibility of implementing a lighting system (similar to that used in the Singapore Grand Prix) to illuminate the circuit in future races.
Cars that used the KERS system are marked with "‡"^1 Sebastian Vettel was issued a 10 place grid-penalty for causing an avoidable accident involving Robert Kubica at the Australian Grand Prix.
^2 Rubens Barrichello received a 5 place grid-penalty for a gearbox change.
Scheduled for 56 laps but stopped early due to heavy rain. Half points awarded.
The race was only the fifth in Formula 1 to be abandoned before 75% distance: the others were the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, 1984 Monaco Grand Prix and the 1991 Australian Grand Prix (the shortest Grand Prix ever).
Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.