Lewis Hamilton has taken a dominant lights-to-flag victory at today’s Malaysian Grand Prix, beating teammate Nico Rosberg by over 17 seconds to record the team’s first 1-2 finish since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel fought hard to finish in third place in the Red Bull Racing Renault.
In a day full of emotion as the country mourns the still-missing Malaysian Airlines flight, the result proved popular for the home crowd, given it was title sponsor Petronas’ home event.
There was some drama before the start, with Sergio Pérez’s Force India suffering a severe power loss as the Mexican made his reconnaissance lap from the pit lane. He was called into the pits in the hope that the team could troubleshoot the problem before the start, but the issue proved terminal.
Having narrowly edged out Vettel in yesterday’s rain-affected qualifying session, Hamilton showed no sign of the sluggish getaway he’d suffered from pole position a fortnight ago in Australia. This time the Englishman made a perfect launch, while it was Vettel who struggled off the line, failing in a very defensive attempt to keep Nico Rosberg behind him.
The pair ran close to the pit wall as Vettel tried to squeeze Rosberg, and it was a move that earned the three-time World Champion a strong rebuke from his compatriot in a rather heated post-race media conference.
With Rosberg having passed Vettel, Mercedes held a 1-2 formation from then on – pit stop shuffling of the order aside – while Vettel found himself pushed down to fourth behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Behind the leading quartet, there was further drama when the pack hit Turn 4, as Jules Bianchi collected Pastor Maldonado on the apex of the right-hander, which sent both spinning into the outfield and able to rejoin. Bianchi managed to limp back to the pits with a deflated left-rear tyre. He was subsequently hit with a five-second time penalty to be served at a later pit stop, as well as two penalty points to his Super License. The Marussia team elected to retire the Frenchman’s car after a few more exploratory laps and his day was done. Maldonado was also out, with the Lotus team opting to preserve his Renault engine mileage.
The second lap of the race saw Kimi Räikkönen limping into the pits with a rear puncture of his own, with the cut tyre coming after contact at the rear by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at Turn 2. The Dane also suffered damage to his front wing, and he too earned a five-second stop-go penalty. Magnussen also earned two penalty points as further punishment.
Räikkönen’s visit to the pit lane consigned him to a long afternoon trying to recover lost ground and track position; he ultimately finished twelfth, chasing Romain Grosjean’s Lotus across the finish line.
All that drama aside, up at the front Hamilton quickly set about building himself an early lead from Rosberg and the chasing Red Bulls, who switched positions after a DRS-assisted pass by Vettel on his teammate.
The top four ran in that order until Lap 41, when Ricciardo struck trouble. The Australian’s left front wheel hadn’t been properly fitted at the pit stop, and he quickly brought his RB10 to a halt in the pit lane before being dragged back into the box by the Red Bull mechanics before he was sent on his way again, having lost all hopes of a possible podium finish.
Compounding his misery, Ricciardo then suffered a front wing failure two laps later, necessitating another visit to the pits that dropped him to last place.
The FIA stewards also summoned him in for a ten-second stop/go penalty (per the rules), but Red Bull elected to retire him from the race before serving the penalty. In accordance with the Article 23.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, Ricciardo was also slapped with a mandatory ten-place grid penalty for next weekend’s Grand Prix in Bahrain.
Added to this, it looks as though Red Bull Racing will face further FIA sanctions, after one of its pit crew team was snapped servicing Ricciardo’s car sans safety helmet, a clear breach of this year’s stricter safety regulations.
Barring disaster, Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel looked set to complete the podium. While Vettel was briefly able to close right up to Rosberg in second place, the Mercedes driver had enough in hand and pulled away before the final round of pit stops where the entire field switched to the slower hard-compound tyres.
Ricciardo’s retirement promoted Nico Hülkenberg to fourth place, but he was overtaken by a hard-charging Fernando Alonso in the closing laps.
While the clouds came rolling in, only a few spots of rain fell in the latter half of the race. Ultimately, it was not enough to throw race strategies into disarray or shake up the finishing order at the front.
Behind the top-five, Jenson Button toured home in his McLaren, having delivered a typically gritty drive in the MP4-29, which showed a significant dislike for Sepang’s higher-speed sweeps in the second sector of the lap.
He was chased over the line by the Williams’ of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who staged a race-long scrap that featured a number of heated radio exchanges. With Bottas on fresher tyres, the team uttered the infamous ‘Felipe, Valtteri is faster than you’ line in the hopes that the Brazilian would allow his teammate to have a crack at Button in the final stages. However, the Brazilian refused to move over, which will be a decision that will no doubt cause plenty of rancour between drivers and team leadership.
Magnussen managed to finish in ninth place, while fellow rookie Daniil Kvyat claimed back-to-back points finishes in his Renault-powered Toro Rosso. The Russian’s teammate Jean-Éric Vergne failed to see the chequered flag, with the team opting to retire his car early on after he suffered damage in an early-lap exchange after a poor start.
Neither Sauber saw the chequered flag – a first since the 2011 Italian Grand Prix – with Adrian Sutil parking his car on the start/finish straight with an electrical issue, while his teammate Esteban Gutiérrez found his car unable to engage first gear during its second pit stop.
Despite their limited Friday practice running, there were plenty of cheers in the Caterham camp, with both Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson making the finish. Kobayashi showed impressive pace – running as fast as the Williams’ at various stages – en route to finishing in thirteenth place, one spot ahead of Ericsson, who emerged on top of a race-long scrap with Max Chilton’s Marussia. The pair crossed the line just 0.1 seconds apart.
2014 Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (56 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||56||1:40:25.974|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||56||+ 17.313|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||56||+ 24.534|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||56||+ 35.992|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||56||+ 47.199|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||56||+ 1:23.691|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||56||+ 1:25.076|
|8.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||56||+ 1:25.537|
|9.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||55||1 lap behind|
|10.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||55||1 lap behind|
|11.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||55||1 lap behind|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||55||1 lap behind|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||55||1 lap behind|
|14.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||54||2 laps behind|
|15.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||54||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||49||Power Unit|
|DNF.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||35||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||32||Electrical|
|DNF.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||17||Damage|
|DNF.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||9||Damage|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||6||Damage|
|DNS.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||Engine|
Images via FOM, Sutton Images and XPB