Sebastien Vettel took his first win for Ferrari and first in F1 since his string of victories in Brazil 2013, after making a two-stop strategy work in what was very hot conditions at the Malaysia circuit. Part of his victory was down to gaining track position during the early Safety Car period, which allowed him to stretch the gap from Hamilton and co. due to Hulkenberg holding up everyone in a very Trulli-esq manner by nearly two seconds per-lap.
That enabled Vettel to pit and comfortably come out ahead of the two Williams, who had only just been released from the dirty air of Hulkenberg a couple of laps previously. Since Rosberg was originally on a two-stop, it meant that Vettel could set about overtaking him, so he could set his sights on Hamilton just a couple of seconds up the road. Of course by this point Hamilton’s tyres were off, with him lapping around two seconds per-lap slower than Vettel on 18-lap old Hard tyres.
This meant he could stretch the gap, something Ferrari knew was possible after seeing Raikkonen put in similar lap times as he worked his way through the field – even with his broken floor from the puncture he sustained. From then on it was a case of making sure Vettel got out ahead of Rosberg, which he did for the final stint.
This is perhaps where Mercedes had to conceive defeat, because whilst the W05 has the pace to beat Vettel they could only do it on the Medium tyre, and they used them up in the first part of Qualifying yesterday because they felt the Hard was the favoured race tyre. This meant Lewis couldn’t really aim for the lap time that he wanted, which was a high 1:42 in order to catch up to Vettel. The result was him being nearly 10 seconds behind at the chequered flag, perhaps one of the biggest winning margins to a Mercedes we’ve seen in a while.
Max Verstappen was perhaps the only driver to make a three-stop work to his advantage. Whilst he finished a position down on what he qualified in, the 17 year-old became the youngest ever driver to score points in a Formula 1 race, finishing ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr and the Red Bull senior team.
Sainz Jr actually managed to do the most laps on the Hard tyre all race, completing 23 laps in his second stint, whilst Valterri Bottas did the most laps on the Medium tyre completing 21 laps in his second stint after the Safety Car.
This is presumably after he along with other was held up by a slower Nico Hulkenberg, who attempted to two-stop along with his teammate Sergio Perez. The result of course was no points, since the Force India just didn’t have the pace on the Hards to keep up with those around them on the Mediums at different points of the race.
Elsewhere we saw the Marussia of Roberto Merhi make it home in 15th place, which is a brilliant achievement for the team after what they went through over the latter parts of 2014 and of course after sitting out the season opener in Australia. Its also particularly impressive considering we thought that they weren’t going to turn a wheel let alone race until China, before taking part in a full Grand Prix weekend in Bahrain. Expectations exceeded one might say, both about Manor and todays race.