Lewis Hamilton won the Malaysian Grand Prix today heading up a Silver Arrow 1-2 as Nico Rosberg followed him home – a feat not seen since 1955. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took the final step of the podium overcoming an early battle with his team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who later retired.
The searing heat of Malaysia was the atmospheric backdrop for the second round of Formula 1’s new turbo era. The Sepang circuit, first used in 1999, features extremes by the bucket-load. Whether it be the ultra-wide straights, tricky mid section or indeed the erratic weather patterns, there is certainly something special about the track in Kuala Lumpur.
The sweltering heat, however, disappeared on Saturday afternoon, replaced by torrents and cloudburst. It was Lewis Hamilton who clinched the second pole of the season – his second in succession and 33rd ever, putting him on equal terms with Formula One legend Jim Clark.
Sunday saw the return of heat and sunshine, and race day had the promise of a high-pressure contest. Before the cars lined up for the grid, Sergio Perez experienced a sensor malfunction which put his car in a very slow engine mode, and though Force India managed to get him back out for a reconnaissance lap, it happened again; Sergio was out before the race even began.
The pressure built with the temperature and the five lights went out. At the start both Mercedes made decent getaways with Rosberg squeezing right up to the wall and passing Vettel. The 4-time Champion was then surpassed by Ricciardo in the other Red Bull, a tussle that went all the way to turn 4. The Red Bull duo tried to out-drag one another up to the hard braking zone, but with Rosberg’s Mercedes in front, Vettel had to fall back and let his younger counterpart go ahead. Meanwhile, further back, Pastor Maldonado and Jules Bianchi tripped over each other, spinning off the road and damaging their cars.
It wasn’t just the back-markers making contact. In pursuit of Kimi Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen broke off most of the left of his front wing on the Finn’s right-rear wheel. Kimi got a puncture and a lap put on him by pretty much the whole field, and Magnussen got a 5 second stop/go penalty. Kimi crawled back to the pits but he was not alone, Bianchi followed him in after his clash with Maldonado. The Marussia driver, unlike Kimi, stayed in the pits due to overwhelming damage from the collision. The Venezuelan also retired, but without it was an engine problem that ended his afternoon.
(Taken from Lotus’ Twitter Page)
The Williams drivers had trouble getting past Magnussen’s McLaren. With his wings clipped, the Dane was holding up a large pack of drivers, but it was Massa and particularly Bottas that were becoming the most frustrated. Massa complained that Bottas was too close, but Bottas felt that the Brazilian was hurting his performance.
Jonathan Eddolls (Bottas’ Race Engineer) : “Okay Valtteri, let Massa get past Magnussen first before attacking, and then we’ll follow him through”
Valtteri Bottas: “Well then tell him to go through, I’ve got better pace!”
Though frustrating at the time the duo needn’t have worried for long, Magnussen pitted for repairs and new tryes soon after. But then, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
One of the most surreal moments of the race was rookie Marcus Ericsson fighting World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. You would be forgiven for thinking the red car was a lap ahead, but the Caterham and Ferrari were genuinely racing one another on the same lap. Ericsson even had a go at defending – he held up Raikkonen and indeed Vergne for a couple of laps. However on lap 19 Vergne retired with power issues after three trips to the pits to try and salvage his car, making it a two-horse race for 14th.
It took Kimi a long time to pass the Caterham. It was not what he was used to, but at least it gave the perennial back marker team something to smile about at their home race. Kimi finally gave Marcus the slip on lap 28 but not without the aid of Hamilton, who lapped the two of them, opening the door.
A good race was on the agenda for the other green car too, with Kobayashi and Grosjean embroiled in a scrap for 11th. Kobayashi was out of sync due to his pit stop strategy, but that did not hold him back, as he kept the Lotus car behind him for the best part of 4 laps, when DRS enabled Grosjean to take the place.
The race fell apart for Sauber on lap 34, as Sutil parked up on the track with an electrical issue. Barely a minute later, Gutierrez showed up in the pits to retire as well, but his demise was gearbox-related. Another unfortunate was Daniel Ricciardo. His race had gone rather well until lap 42 when he came in for a pit stop. Everything looked satisfactory at first glance, but replays revealed the front-left was nowhere near secure, and he stopped in the middle of the pit lane. He was wheeled back and the errant wheel was fixed onto the hub, but the iceberg had barely surfaced at this point.
What really sank his ship was a front wing failure the next lap. The wing seemed to come loose from its mounting pylons, becoming lop-sided. When bits of the wing shattered off, the now-jagged appendage sliced through the centre of his tyre, causing a lot of smoke and a puncture. He limped back and once again had some new tyres fitted, but when a stop/go penalty for unsafe release was added on top of the already terrible luck he suffered, it really did add an additional corpse to his coffin, never mind a nail. He later retired.
The closing laps brought with them the imponderable variable – water. most teams had drizzle predicted and confirmed, but if rain was around, it didn’t affect the race in any way. Nico Hulkenberg had pioneered a risky 2-stop strategy, one of only two drivers (Kobayashi was the other) to do so. It paid of handsomely and he sat in 4th place, until he had to succumb to the overwhelming freshness of Alonso’s tyres, which made light work of the Force India, clad in much older rubber. Nico demonstrated his formidable defensive skills by holding Alonso back for much longer than what seemed possible, placing his car in just the right way to block fairly. His valiant effort finally expired on Lap 53 when the Spaniard powered past, but the German proved yet again that he deserves a top-end car, outperforming his VJM07.
Massa and Bottas were once again fighting one another at the end of the race, with ‘Felipé Baby’ ahead. He was urged to let Bottas past due to tyre choices, but the wording of his race engineer could not have been worse, choosing to distribute the information:
“Valtteri is faster than you.”
Surely Hockenheim 2010 was brought into his mind at that point, where he had to surrender a win to his team mate Alonso. Unlike then, though, the Brazilian didn’t let him through.
Lotus had something to smile about finally, even if it wasn’t quite a point. Romain Grosjean’s car, to the disbelief of many, was still running, and at an acceptable pace. He held back his former team mate Raikkonen for the closing laps to score Lotus’ first classification of the year; definite progress for the Enstone outfit.
Hamilton cruised home ten seconds ahead of his team mate to win the race, scoring his 23rd career victory, the first 1-2 finish for the Mercedes F1 team since the Italian Grand Prix in 1955. Benedict Cumbertbatch provided additional super-stardom to the podium, as he conducted the post-race interview.
1) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
4) F Alonso, Ferrari
5) N Hulkenberg, Force India
6) J Button, McLaren
7) F Massa, Williams
8) V Bottas, Williams
9) K Magnussen, McLaren
10) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso
11) R Grosjean, Lotus
12) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
13) K Kobayashi, Caterham
14) M Ericsson, Caterham
15) M Chilton, Marussia
D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
E Gutierrez, Sauber (Gearbox)
A Sutil, Force India (Electrics)
JE Vergne, Toro Rosso (Power Unit)
J Bianchi, Marussia (Brakes)
P Maldonado, Lotus (Engine)
S Perez, Force India (DNS)