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Malaysia analysis - Mercedes in a league of their own

31 Mar 2014

The second race of F1 racing's new era produced a second resounding victory for Mercedes - although this time it was Lewis Hamilton who stormed to victory to reassert his championship aspirations.

Behind the Briton it was far more tense, with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel able to harry Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso snatching fourth from the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg just three laps from the finish. We take a team-by-team look back on Sunday's action at Sepang...


Lewis Hamilton, P1

Nico Rosberg, P2

Hamilton never put a wheel wrong and dominated the race brilliantly to score a deserved first-ever success in Sepang. He nursed tyres and fuel perfectly, and trounced team mate Rosberg to jump into second place in the drivers’ championship behind the German. Rosberg struggled initially with oversteer but held a comfortable second place until mid race, when Vettel homed in and nearly challenged him. Rosberg managed to pull away, however, and eventually finished 7.2s ahead of Vettel, increasing his points lead in the process. In the constructors’ stakes, Mercedes took the lead from McLaren.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, P3

Daniel Ricciardo, retired lap 49, damage

The progress that Red Bull have made was reflected in Vettel’s first podium of the season and a strong drive that saw him challenging Rosberg briefly mid race before the German pulled away again. But the fact remains that the RB10 was 24.5s behind Hamilton’s Mercedes by the finish, so there is plenty of work still to be done. Ricciardo should have been fourth, but was overtaken by a chapter of accidents. After leading Vettel briefly at the start, his race went wrong during his pit stop on the 40th lap, when the front left wheel was improperly secured. That was rectified but he had lost a huge amount of time. Then one trip too many over the Turn 14 kerb damaged his front wing, necessitating another stop. Then he was informed he needed to make yet another to serve a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for an unsafe release. And to cap all that, the latter penalty also carries a mandatory 10 place grid drop for Bahrain. After Melbourne, all that must have been very hard for the Australian to take.


Fernando Alonso, P4

Kimi Raikkonen, P12

Alonso was his usual canny self in squeezing out everything that his F14 T had to offer, but the car lacks straight-line speed and cannot match the pace of the Red Bull, let alone the Mercedes. Raikkonen’s race was ruined when Magnussen tagged his right rear tyre on the opening lap, forcing the Finn to hobble to the pits. He lost so much time that the best he could hope for was 11th. As it was, former Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean denied him that by a tenth of a second.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, P5

Sergio Perez, did not start

The race was good and bad for Force India. Perez found his car going into neutral on downshifts on the grid formation lap, and never left the pit road, but Hulkenberg made excellent use of a two-stop strategy. He was the only man to head Hamilton, during the Englishman’s first pit stop on the 15th lap, and though his tyres were too worn to fend off three-stopping Alonso in the closing stages, fifth place brought yet more points as the team’s strong form in recent seasons was maintained.


Jenson Button, P6

Kevin Magnussen, P9

Button said that sixth was a surprise after McLaren’s horrible time in FP3, and indeed it was. The MP4-29’s shortcomings in high-speed corners were cruelly exposed, but the team called all of Button’s stops and fuel use perfectly and did a hugely professional job, while Button fended off Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas throughout the race. Magnussen was a little less impressive after damaging his front wing against Raikkonen early on and later getting a five-second stop-and-go penalty for puncturing the Ferrari’s right rear tyre. That left him on his back foot, but he was able to fight back to score another two points.


Felipe Massa, P7

Valtteri Bottas, P8

Williams showed stronger race pace than perhaps had been expected after their disappointing qualifying form. Both drivers made excellent starts - Massa jumping from 13th to ninth, Bottas from 18th to 12th. In the early stages Massa got trapped behind Button and Bottas asked to have him move over; the team said no, stay put. Later, when Massa was again trapped behind the McLaren in the closing stages, he was told to let his team mate through as Bottas had slightly fresher rubber and was flying. Massa declined, forfeiting the team’s chance of taking perhaps sixth and seventh and 14 points, instead of seventh and eighth and only 10. How that plays out in Bahrain, and whether there will be any recriminations, will be fascinating to monitor.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, P10

Jean-Eric Vergne, retired lap 18, power loss

Vergne hit Marussia’s Jules Bianchi at the start and damaged his own front wing, and later suffered the power loss that forced him to retire. But once again Kvyat drove a smooth and unobtrusive race to score a point for 10th, underlining the great potential he showed in Australia.


Romain Grosjean, P11

Pastor Maldonado, retired lap 7, power loss

Lotus’s season really started in Malaysia, and after all their troubles a competitive 11th place for Grosjean was a massive fillip - especially as he repassed Raikkonen’s Ferrari to achieve it. Maldonado was unlucky to be attacked by Bianchi on the opening lap, but in any case his E22 was already losing power and soon retired. But overall this was a very encouraging weekend for the troubled team.


Kamui Kobayashi, P13

Marcus Ericsson, P14

Caterham had one of their best-ever F1 runs: not only did both cars finish, but they showed decent pace. Around the 22nd lap Kobayashi was running as fast as the McLarens, and his two-stop strategy brought him 13th place and boosted morale no end. Ericsson battled with Raikkonen and actually repassed him on one occasion, and his 14th place secured 10th overall for the Leafield team.


Max Chilton, P15

Jules Bianchi, retired lap 8, damage

Chilton had a fierce battle for a long time with Ericsson, and after losing it very nearly caught the Swede at the line as the Caterham driver struggled with an ERS problem. Bianchi hit Maldonado on the opening lap after a clash with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne punctured one of his rear tyres. The Marussia driver was the first man to be given one of the new five-second stop-and-go penalties, but because he retired before he could serve that, with handling and brake troubles, five seconds was added to his race time.


Esteban Gutierrez, retired lap 35, gearbox

Adrian Sutil, retired lap 32, power loss

After a tight intra-team battle, Sauber lost both cars within three laps of each other. Sutil’s switched itself off exiting Turn 15 on the 32nd lap when a powertrain sensor detected something it didn’t like, and three laps later Gutierrez was unable to engage first gear following a pit stop. That ended another tough race for the Swiss team in which several of the C33’s shortcomings remained unresolved.