This optimism was reinforced when the practice sessions at Malaysia went to plan. There can be no arguing, the car is fast - possibly even podium contender levels of speed, and consistent speed too.
Qualifying is when things started to unravel somewhat. The session started well with Adrian Sutil topping the timesheets in Q1 and Paul di Resta also managed to safely negotiate his way into Q2.
Q2 started dry and Paul di Resta was on a good lap, setting the fastest first sector of anyone so far. The team called him in to abort the lap and put on fresh tyres. Unfortunately at that point the rain came in and it was impossible for Paul to make Q3. It was an error on the pit wall to call Paul back into the pits - the weather radar said rain would not come for another 10 minutes, but you can never quite tell in Malaysia. Adrian Sutil did manage to make his way into Q3 safely though.
The fact that the team were disappointed with P9 and P15 is a clear sign of progression - a couple of seasons ago that would have been a solid result!
Anyhow, there was still a decent chance of a good result with our dry weather pace. The race was going quite well until the first pit stop ... and then our race was practically over! Adrian came into the pits and unfortunately there was a wheel nut failure which meant a slow pit-stop. This was compounded with Paul queuing behind Adrian in the other car; both drivers lost time. The same problem affected both drivers during the second pit-stops too and so the team decided to reitre both cars.
Despite the disappointment, there are many reasons to be happy. Firstly, our car is not just quick, but super-quick! The laptimes we were doing in Malaysia (pre-retirement) were spectacular. On pace with, if not quicker than eventual winners Red Bull. As stated at the start of the season on this website, podiums WILL come this season. Secondly, the team are still P5 in the championship. With Sauber scoring four points and McLaren grabbing just two - we retain our 5th position. Additionally, the wheel-nut problem is minor. Sure, it took both our cars out of the race, but it will be fixed for the next event. The issue was that the wheel nut system being used was new for the weekend, in a bid to reduce pit stop times. It worked well back at base but in the hot temperatures of Malaysia the metal expanded and the wheel nuts simply wouldn't come off. The team know the issue however and there is a three week break until the next race so it is safe to discount the same thing happening again in China.
The message SFI takes away from Malaysia: "down, but by no means beaten".