However, there was little to announce the heavy weather conditions in the afternoon, as the start happened with the sun up in the sky. Button failed to make the best of his pole position and lost the lead after the very first corner, while Nico Rosberg jumped from 4th on the grid to race leader after the first hundreds of meters.
Jarno Trulli went into second, while Renault’s Fernando Alonso climbed all the way into 3rd. However, the Spaniard – who started the race with a considerable amount of fuel – was soon overtaken by Button, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber.
Rosberg went on to build a comfortable lead up front, but that was reduced to no actual advantage once the teams’ radios started predicting for rain. Raikkonen was the first to take his chance and was soon equipped with intermediate tires. Both Brawn GP drivers gambled on another set of slick tires – although the sky was getting darker by the minute – while all the other drivers went for intermediates.
The inevitable finally happened a few laps later, but there was no gain for Raikkonen – as his tires had already worn out during the couple of laps before the rain actually started. Alonso and Lewis Hamilton both made short visits to the off-track just before pitting, while Button and Barrichello again hit the pit lane for new tires.
Despite the 2 pit stops, Button re-entered the track in 1st place, while followed by Rosberg and Trulli. The rain then started pouring more heavily, causing for an extra pit stop from all the drivers. Toyota’s Timo Glock was the main beneficiary of the weather change as he pitted at the exact time when the rain got worst, rejoining the pack less than 2 seconds behind Button.
BMW Sauber’s only driver on Sunday, Nick Heidfeld – as Robert Kubica’s car had a mechanical problem in the early laps – climbed all the way into 3rd place, as a result of a single pit stop throughout the entire race (when most drivers drove through the pit lane for at least 3 or 4 times).
However, with the race conditions getting worst by the second – Sebastian Vettel spun off and eventually retired, Lewis Hamilton also spun, followed by Heidfeld – the safety car was quickly deployed. It was only a lap later that all cars stopped on the grid due to the poor visibility.
Mark Webber complained about the poor maneuverability of the cars, while also pointing out the difficult conditions in terms of visibility. All drivers agreed, as did the Malaysian organizers, and the race eventually ended with Jenson Button being declared winner. He was joined by Glock and Heidfeld on the podium, while Trulli, Barrichello, Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber completed the overall Top 8.