Lewis Hamilton took the win starting from pole position at Malaysia today. The Mercedes drivers managed to bring home a one-two at what is effectively the teams second home race being sponsored by Malaysia-based oil company Petronas, ahead of the Red Bull of Sebastien Vettel. It was a fairly straight forward race in terms of strategy. The rain that we expected would interrupt the session did not come at the intensity that we thought it would, with only light drops towards the end of the race coming in from the south really not affecting the drivers at all. That meant that they could run the dry tyres all race long.
The drivers had the pick from a number of new sets of tyres after Qualifying was a washout yesterday. Although despite this, all of the drivers started on the Medium tyre as it was the faster of the two compounds in terms of raw pace. Pirelli said they were looking at three stops being the normal strategy adopted by the teams, which was the case for most drivers who stayed with the Medium tyre in the second stint. Fuel consumption looked more like an issue for the teams as predicted, which added another variable alongside the high degradation of the tyres, particularly at the rear.
Fuel consumption looked more like an issue for the teams, which added another variable alongside the high degradation of the tyres, particularly at the rear
Mercedes were worried about rear degradation, particularly when Red Bull driver Sebastien Vettel was looking racy in 3rd place. Vettel managed to get close to the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg on more than one occasion, which again showed that the Red Bull had some pretty good dry condition pace despite them looking average in Practice. The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso was also in the mix, after Qualifying in 4th yesterday. Mercedes were worried that both Alonso and Vettel might undercut Rosberg and eventually challenge for the lead, however they managed to react accordingly by bringing in Rosberg when they needed to.
McLaren were not showing perhaps as much pace as we thought they would. Admittedly it looked like there was more pace to come from them in Practice, however it seems that was about it for their pace both on the Medium and the Hard tyre. Jenson Button managed to finish in 6th place, whilst Kevin Magnussen finished in 9th place. The two Williams were also not showing the same amount of pace as they did in Australia, however they did say that this could be one of their “joker tracks” earlier on in the weekend. It was still a good race by them though, and it looked like they probably could have challenged Button for 6th towards the end had Bottas got past Massa. Ultimately though, Felipe Massa finished in 7th and Valterri Bottas in 8th.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was perhaps having the worst race of the afternoon. After showing promising pace in Practice, it just didn’t translate in the race. Whether it was because of the contact at the start between him and Magnussen possibly damaged more than just a tyre and bits of McLaren front wing is questionable, as he was running around fighting with Caterham’s and Ferrari customer car Marussia all race. Even the Lotus of Romain Grosjean was able to stay ahead, despite having diffuser damage alongside having to manage the cars temperatures, as the Enstone outfit look to turn around their fortunes. Raikkonen managed to bring it home in 12th, with Grosjean an impressive 11th given the circumstances.
Retirees include Daniel Riccardo who we will be talking about in a separate post, both Saubers who seemingly had similar issues relating to the engines. Vergne and Bianchi likely retired due to their contact at the start of the race, which also caught up Maldonado who had to retire as well for Lotus. Then Perez did not start the race due to gearbox and MGU issues.