If the 2013 Grand Prix at Sepang, Malaysia, were to be represented as a house made of bricks, it would have been disassembled during the 56 laps around the fast course.
The first brick to be removed was Fernando Alonso, who was overly optimistic on the first lap. He broke off the left-side support on his Ferrari's front wing, and shortly thereafter it dropped off, slid under the front of his car and lifted the front wheels off the tarmac. There went the steering, so Alonso was a helpless passenger as the red car of the scuderia clattered across the gravel run-off area to end his race before it really got going.
Jenson Button, the nicest person in Formula One, suffered a tire-change glitch that left his McLaren's right front wheel wobbling loosely as he pulled out of his box to head down the pit lane. Half a dozen of his pit people ran frantically down to the car where Jenson had stopped it and pushed him back to his box to have the error corrected.
The mishap left Button a lap behind, where he languished for the balance of the race. That would represent the removal of another brick in the imaginary walls of this race.
There was a rare pit-lane collision when an illegal release of one car from its pit box caused it to make a very destructive impact with a car that was attempting to pull into the next box ahead. Another brick knocked out of the walls of enjoyment that a Formula One race should present.
As the event at Sepang bore down on the final flag, Red Bull's Mark Webber was on the threshold of a well-earned victory. His teammate, three-time running world champion Sebastien Vettel, was doggedly on the Australian's tail. The Red Bull pit addressed Vettel, instructing him to “hold position,” F1 language for do not attempt a pass.
In spite of his boss' direction, Vettel executed a risky pass to earn himself the first-place position. The walls of the imaginary house lost more bricks, as the animosity between Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel was palpable backstage and on the podium.
During post-race interviews on the podium, interviewer Martin Brundle did a careful verbal tip-toe around the raging anger that was clearly visible in Webber's body language, and the shame-faced awkwardness of Vettel.
The final brick of what should have been a wonderful event was extracted when Nico Rosberg, who was in a perfect position to pass his new teammate, Lewis Hamilton, for the third and final step of the podium, was instructed by his Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn to hold position.
Unlike Sebastien Vettel's decision to disobey instructions, Nico Rosberg showed he's a team player and did as he was told. On the podium, a somewhat embarrassed Lewis Hamilton showed unusual humility as he stated that it should be his teammate, Nico Rosberg standing on that third step.
In the end, as Rosberg climbed out of his Mercedes silver arrow, he radioed to Ross Brawn, “We'll remember this one.”
In the end, some longtime fans of Formula One were left feeling empty and dissatisfied—something they'd never expected to experience in 50 years of following the “Top Flight.” Formula One might no longer be the top in motor sport, in view of such shenanigans.
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