WITH A SEVENTH PLACE on Sunday, and no race wins yet in the bag, Felipe Massa took the lead of the drivers' world championship at Sepang.
The Brazilian's Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, who was the previous title leader, had a downshift problem throughout the hot Malaysian race, and then retired with a very smoky engine failure.
Spaniard Alonso is now two points behind, and so too is Sepang winner Sebastian Vettel, who after two technical problems in Bahrain and Melbourne finally won a race.
The sister Red Bull driven by pole sitter Mark Webber was second, prompting the RB6's designer Adrian Newey to collect the constructors' trophy, after a tough couple of weeks facing criticism that his cars are fast but fragile.
"Adrian does not design wheel nuts (Melbourne) or spark plugs (Bahrain)," team boss Christian Horner told BBC television.
Behind Massa, Alonso and Vettel, the next contenders for the drivers' title are also closely bunched, with Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica all within 9 points of the lead.
Australia To Have Earlier Start Time In 2011
AN EARLIER RACE start time for next year's Australian grand prix is likely, Michael Schumacher has revealed.
After the drivers complained about evening sun in their eyes in 2009, and then the fading conditions at the end of last week's race, Schumacher said the FIA took some light measurements at Albert Park.
"It was certainly over the limit by the end of the race, it was certainly too dark," the seven time world champion said at Sepang on Saturday.
"I understand that the FIA has measured this and will take action for next year -- there seem to be some guidelines now on what light you have to have as a minimum," added the German.
Last year's Malaysian grand prix was ended early due to fading light and torrential rain, so the start time for 2010 was brought forward an hour from 5pm to 4pm.
The late start is still a problem, said Renault's Robert Kubica.
"It's risky -- like today if there were big clouds, heavy rain and a lot of spray, it would just be too dark," he said.
With Bernie Ecclestone wanting to avoid live broadcasts to F1's bulk European audience in the dead of the night, Pole Kubica said he thinks a better situation would be for early morning races in the southern hemisphere.
"I say let's do it early in the morning so it's Saturday evening in Europe," he said.