The Pit Stop: How the Formula 1 season is shaping up after the Malaysian Grand Prix

Contrasting form at Ferrari

The Ferrari F2012 is not a race-winning car in normal conditions at the moment.

It was the fifth-fastest car in qualifying, 1.3 seconds per lap slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time in the McLaren.

It had no business being at the front of the field, but Alonso put it there.

Nor did it really deserve to be quite as far behind as Felipe Massa was in the sister F2012. Having been five seconds behind Alonso at the restart, he was 97 seconds adrift when the race finished 42 laps later.

No wonder Massa has the longest odds on beating his team mate this year. At 15.0, it’s three times higher than rookie Romain Grosjean’s price for beating his world champion team mate Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus – 4.75.

And it’s also no wonder Massa has been tipped to be replaced at Ferrari.

Perez impresses

Sergio Perez stole the show in Malaysia with a dazzling drive to second for Sauber.

Coming in only his 19th F1 start, the young Mexican has made his mark on Formula One. Before the race he was already being linked with a Ferrari drive.

Now rumours are mounting that he will replace Massa at the team, possibly before the end of the year.

Perez had an excellent debut season last year, despite missing two races following a nasty crash in Monaco.

He produced an excellent drive at Suzuka – a real driver’s circuit – scoring points despite being ill. He even had the time to play a practical joke on his team, telling them on the radio he’d lost power as he raced to the finishing line.

Like the car he drove last year, the Sauber C31 is very kind to its tyres. This is a problem in qualifying, where it struggles to warm its tyres up for a single flying lap.

But it’s a blessing in the races, allowing its drivers to make fewer pit stops. Perez did his final stint in Malaysia on a set of used hard tyres and was taking up to a second per lap out of Alonso.

He gained ground early on the race by gambling on an early switch to wet weather tyres. He flew on the drenched surface as his rivals shuffled in and out of the pits, following his smart tactical decision.

If you fancy an early punt on him for Shanghai – where we’ve seen wet races in two of the last three years – he’s currently priced at 25.0 to win.

Oh, Fernando!

Before Sunday’s race I wrote: “If anyone’s going to grab the championship in an unfavourable car, it's Fernando Alonso”.

But I’d be lying if I said I expected him to be in the lead of the championship at this stage.

It’s strange to see the driver who’s leading the championship priced as high as 6.0 to win it. But that figure was two-and-a-half times higher before the race.

Red Bull down but not out

You wouldn’t have gone anywhere near the odds on Red Bull to win last year – they were so dominant the prices weren’t worth a second look.

That’s slowly changing as the team finds its RB8 a more difficult creation, shorn of the trick exhaust-blown diffuser that made it such a peerless machine last year.

The team are at 2.7 to beat McLaren in the constructors’ championship. Mark Webber – who’s out-qualified Sebastian Vettel in both races this year and seems to prefer the handling of the non-EBD car – is priced at 15.0 to win in China.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic