Malaysian Grand Prix

2015 Malaysia Grand Prix: Race Analysis

A Challenger Emerges

When a spectacle was needed, the sport found a way to deliver the goods once again. Just as armchair pundits began to prepare a year of Mercedes domination, Ferrari have emerged as credible challengers to Mercedes superiority, beating the world champions in a straight fight. Unlike Daniel Ricciardo’s three victories last season, Sebastian Vettel needed no invitation to take the win, as Mercedes found themselves out-paced by a rival for the first time in this current turbo era. A big day for F1 and an equally seismic occasion for everyone wearing red.

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2015 Malaysian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

As so often is the case at Sepang, the climatic extreme took centre stage, as the skies proved just as entertaining as the cars on track. However, take nothing away from the Qualifying session, which was a blockbuster, enhanced by the proverbial double six rolled into the equation by stormy conditions. Q3 was well worth the rain delay as Mercedes’ straggle hold on the front row of the grid was breeched by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel – the first time a Ferrari has claimed one of the first two spots on the grid since the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2013. Nico Rosberg was the man to lose out, dropping to P3 while Lewis Hamilton reached the milestone of 40 career pole positions, by a margin small enough to make even the reigning champion sweat.

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2015 Malaysian Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Friday in Malaysia threw up more story-lines than Sunday in Australia – but then, that isn’t really much of a feat. It was an exciting day on and off the track. Lewis Hamilton may have claimed top spot on the timesheet, but issues in FP1 exacerbated by a lack of telemetry meant that his programme was heavily truncated. Balance problems affected the performance on both W06’s, while Ferrari appear to pose a genuine threat to the Silver Arrows this weekend. Kimi Raikkonen was particularly impressive today, heading Nico Rosberg on the FP2 standings and throwing down a long run which eclipsed even the front-runners’ pace.

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2015 Malaysian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

Unfortunately, events of the 2015 season thus far have been largely negative. Following an admittedly underwhelming curtain raiser in Australia, the sport is in need of an exciting weekend to bring the campaign to life. Fortunately, Malaysia has the capacity to deliver, with the Sepang International Circuit playing host to this weekend’s race which should be littered with storylines. Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas look set to make a return, the circus heads to a more representative track and Nico Rosberg looks to bounce back from his disappointment down-under. Certainly plenty to sink our teeth into.

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Alonso On Track For Malaysia

Fernando Alonso’s 2015 looks set to get back on course next weekend, as the Spaniard completed a day in the simulator at Woking yesterday. On account of how poor McLaren’s overall weekend in Australia was, they most certainly need their star signing to be fully fit and ready to haul their under-performing car around the Sepang International Circuit.

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2014 Malaysian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Hamilton Leads First Mercedes 1-2 Since 1955

After Nico Rosberg took a comfortable victory in Melbourne, it was Lewis Hamilton’s turn to taste victory in 2014, as he waltzed to his second win for Mercedes. With teammate Rosberg in P2, it was a perfect day for Mercedes, reinforcing their strong championship credentials. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel impressed with a solid P3, demonstrating the potential of the RB10 and the excellent development conducted by Red Bull following their dire winter. However, Daniel Ricciardo’s day was filled with issues, as the Aussie suffered misfortune of the same ilk as his predecessor and fellow countryman, Mark Webber.

Silver Arrow Success

It was never in doubt. After his sublime Pole Position yesterday, Lewis Hamilton drove the perfect race today. After pulling away in Vettel-esque fashion in the opening lap, he never looked back, only relinquishing his lead on one occasion, when the two stopping Nico Hulkenberg briefly took over for half a lap. Hamilton’s stranglehold on P1 looked ominously comfortable, with the Brit and his team carefully monitoring the powertrain and ensuring that stresses on the W05 were minimized. The FIA’s fuel flow readings highlighted that Hamilton’s fuel consumption was remarkably low considering his lead, as he used around 2% less fuel than Rosberg, (perhaps due to his tyre preservation tactics and extending his final stint to cover the threat of rain.)
Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg’s calm and considered drive to P2 was similarly impressive. While he lacked the raw pace to keep up with Hamilton, the German made another excellent start to jump Vettel off of the line. In trying to prevent this, Vettel pinned Nico up against the pit wall, in a decidedly borderline move by the champion. It was firm yet just about fair. While I expected the two Mercedes’ to streak away from their rivals, Vettel managed to hang onto Rosberg throughout the race. Ultimately, whenever Sebastian reached DRS range and became a real threat, Nico dipped into his speed reserve and always had the composure to pull away.
However, today was very much Hamilton’s day to soak up the team’s praise. His performance was even more spectacular considering the fact that this was his first race distance completed in the W05. Misfortune in testing meant that his longest stint prior to today was 43 laps, so the race was a learning experience as much as an opportunity to make up for Australia. His advantage over Nico Rosberg was therefore even more awe-inspiring. “I’m really happy with the way today went,” he said when speaking to actor Benedict Cumberbatch on the podium. “Nothing is ever easy and you’re always learning, and today is the first race distance I’ve really covered. I’ve learned about the fuel and the tyres, lots of things I can improve upon. But I’m really happy with the performance today, and let’s hope it continues.”

Superb Sebastian; Disappointed Daniel

The very thought of the Malaysian Grand Prix would surly send a shiver down the spine of Christian Horner after the Multi-21 incident just 12 months ago. Red Bull’s day was very much a mixed bad, as Sebastian Vettel claimed a well deserved podium, while Daniel Ricciardo suffered problems by the bucket load and eventually retired.
Starting with the positives, it is evident that Red Bull have gained ground on Mercedes even in this early phase of the season. Hamilton may have built a 24 second advantage over Sebastian by the chequered flag, but the German was largely able to hang onto his fellow countryman ahead. While Red Bull have looked good in the wet when their engine deficiencies are somewhat nullified, today shows that they can challenge Mercedes in dry conditions. The RB10’s mechanical grip seems far superior to any other car, as demonstrated in sector two, where Vettel could close in on Rosberg.
As for Ricciardo, the Aussie appears to have inherited Mark Webber’s bad luck, after another impressive performance was curtailed by a handful of issues. Firstly, he made an excellent start, challenging and passing Vettel. However, it was revealed that his FIA fuel flow sensor had failed, meaning that the team were relying on predetermined figures given to them by the FIA. After being re-passed by Vettel, Ricciardo was running excellently in P4 and resisting a fast charging Fernando Alonso. However, when pitting for his final stop, the mechanics failed to secure the front left tyre before Ricciardo was given the signal to leave his box. He stopped immediately, but the lost time meant that he dropped to P14. To add insult to injury, one lap after his calamitous stop, his front wing right hand bond failed, forcing an unscheduled stop. Then came a drive through penalty for the unsafe release, which has been compounded retrospectively by a ten place grid-drop for Bahrain. It seems harsh to punish the driver for an issue outside of his control, but it is the nature of a team sport. In F1, you win as a team and suffer as a team. Unfortunately for Daniel, two excellent drives in the first two events have reaped no rewards, as he remains rock-bottom of the championship table.

Multi 77-19

Ok, perhaps not, but Williams have been the source of yet more team orders in Malaysia, and similarly to Red Bull 12 months ago, they were ignored. In the closing stages, Felipe Massa had cruised up to the back of Jenson Button, yet after being unable to pass him with his first attempt, Massa had been forced to settle in behind Button. When Valtteri Bottas caught Massa, the team believed that Bottas was better placed to attack the McLaren and gave the team order, telling Felipe to move over and let Bottas through. After spending four years at Ferrari moving aside for Fernando Alonso, a disgruntled Felipe failed to carry out the order and finished ahead of his less experienced teammate.
An understandably defiant Massa stated; “I was there, I was fighting. It was not that we were on two completely different strategies. He was not in a different strategy to me, he stopped just after me and his tyre was slightly better, but not enough to pass me and not enough to pass Jenson as well. So what I did was the right thing.” While Valtteri was perhaps in a better position to attack Button at the time, the situation was badly dealt with. Issuing team orders in that situation was unnecessary – If Bottas had the speed advantage which would warrant such orders, he would have cruised past Felipe under his own initiative. Perhaps this is a crude observation, however, with Pat Symonds absent, I wonder whether he would have acknowledged that team orders were not right in the situation. Massa will quite rightly feel aggrieved, especially after he was promised the open opportunity to race his teammate upon joining Williams – something he has been deprived of for four years.

Introducing Penalty Points

After Valtteri Bottas became the first recipient of penalty points yesterday, Kevin Magnussen and Jules Bianchi have added their names to the list, after both incurring two penalty points each today. The points system works similarly to standard driving licences. Drivers will incur points on their superlicence’s in conjunction with standard penalties, in the event that they are found guilty of causing a collision, illegally blocking etc. Incur 12 points within a rolling 12 month period and the driver suffers a race ban.
Magnussen’s two penalty points have been issued as a result of his early collision with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn one. The Dane clumsily dabbed his nose into an ever decreasing space, which was being filled by the Ferrari. His front wing connected with Raikkonen’s left rear tyre, causing a devastating puncture for the Finn and significant front wing endplate damage for Kevin. In race, Magnussen received a five second stop-go penalty, which he served during his second pit-stop, while Raikkonen could only recover to a lonely P12.    

While Magnussen recovered to P9, he could have earned far more points, without the mistake. “I’m sorry for the team that I messed it up in the first corner,” the Dane said. “I think we could have got some good points today so I’m really disappointed with myself that I did that mistake.” No driver can say they have never made mistakes behind the wheel and it appears the exuberance of youth caught Kevin out today. However, with Button in P6, McLaren have another double points finish and considering their dire long run pace from Friday, that is an achievement in itself.
Meanwhile, Jules Bianchi’s accident came at Turn four, yet prompted another issue of two penalty points. While his collision with Pastor Maldonado looked as though it was a ‘slam-dunk’ penalty for Bianchi, Marussia have claimed that he was in fact pushed into the collision by Jean Eric Vergne. Similarly to Magnussen, Bianchi also received a five second stop-go penalty. On top of this, the team slipped out of P10 in the constructors after Caterham enjoyed their best day of 2014 so far. Both Kobayashi and Ericsson finished, with Kamui’s P13 eclipsing Chilton’s result from Australia by virtue of Ericsson’s P14 today. As the reliability of teams such as Sauber, (who suffered a double retirement) and Lotus improve, these positions will become harder and harder to obtain. Therefore, today’s result for Caterham could prove pivotal come November.

KGibbsF1’s Driver of the Day

Nico Hulkenberg
How is this guy not in a top team yet. After an impressive performance in Australia, the German drove another inch perfect race. While his rivals were pushed into a three stop due to the high tyre degradation, Hulkenberg managed to stretch his stints. Ultimately, his eventual pace was not quite good enough to hold off a fast charging Fernando Alonso, but P5 is the German once again punching well above his weight. 

With the next race in Bahrain just seven days away, conclusions from Malaysia will have to wait. However, Mercedes will head to Sakhir with beaming smiles and quite rightly so. They have the high ground in the championship, but Red Bull are catching them quicker than expected. Vettel and Ricciardo are becoming stronger with each passing day it seems.

Race Results

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:40.25
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +17.3
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +24.5
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +35.9
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +47.0
6 Jenson Button McLaren +83.4
7 Felipe Massa Williams +84.7
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +85.1
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1 lap
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 lap
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 lap
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1 lap
13 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +1 laps
14 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +2 laps
15 Max Chilton Marussia +2 lap
Not Classified
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 49 laps
Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 35 laps
Adrian Sutil Sauber 32 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 18 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia 8 laps
Pastor Maldonado Lotus7 laps
Sergio Perez Force India 0 laps              

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

The wait continues for the first dry Qualifying session of 2014, as the famous Malaysian rainstorms hit the Sepang International Circuit in disruptive fashion today. Rain fell by the bucket load in the hour leading up to Q1, with the session delayed for 50 minutes due to the vast amounts of standing water, which saw even Bert Mylander having to work hard behind the wheel. When the session did eventually commence, it was well worth the wait, as it would incident packed. Lewis Hamilton bagged his second Pole Position of the season, edging out Sebastian Vettel by just 0.05 seconds. Mercedes raw speed was undoubtedly masked by the conditions, as the Brackley based squad posted ominous times in FP3 which suggest that the race is their’s for the taking. However, with Vettel splitting Hamilton and Rosberg, he could cause them headaches tomorrow.

England vs Germany

Back in Australia, the front row of the grid shared parallel’s with The Ashes, as Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull partnered the Pole sitter, Lewis Hamilton. While a Red Bull partners a Mercedes on the front row, it is Sebastian Vettel’s turn to attack Hamilton into turn one. Both drivers performed exceptionally well today, with Lewis an ever-present feature at the top of the timesheet. While he has seemed to be equal to Nico Rosberg throughout practice, Hamilton demonstrated his ability by excelling in the wet. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ and this was the case for Lewis today.
“It’s always difficult when it rains but this year it is even more difficult with all the extra torque we have, but it was great fun,” Hamilton acknowledged. “At the end, I couldn’t see a thing – it was like driving through the clouds. I’m just grateful the lap I did before was good enough. It was definitely a little bit too close to Red Bull but I’m happy to be here.” Lewis will hope that his second Pole Position in consecutive races will not end in similar disappointment to in Australia. Ultimately, in dry conditions, both Mercedes cars are needed to keep each other honest at the front. 
Meanwhile, the RB10 once again proved just how good the chassis is. In wet conditions, when engine performance is less important than mechanical grip, Red Bull excelled and Vettel’s P2 demonstrated this. Considering their winter woes, the team should surly be ecstatic that they have made such vast improvements. Aside from a minor electrical glitch at the start of Q1, Vettel’s day went smoothly. However, Daniel Ricciardo was once again in the stewards office, however, on this occasion, he was the innocent party. In a Q2 session where Williams struggled, Valtteri Bottas was found to have held up a frustrated Aussie, who said to Sky Sports F1; “We raced each other a lot in junior categories and I thought we had quite a lot of respect for each other, but it’s a bit ridiculous how many times he’s done it now. I’ll go and have a word to him.” Bottas has received a three place grid penalty as a result of the incident, which is merely collateral damage for the Finn who could do no better than P15 in the rain sodden Q2. The FW36 seems very uncomfortable in wet conditions. Ricciardo managed a respectable P5 in Q3, yet his punchy analysis of the Bottas incident is the first signs of the honey badger’s mean streak.

In The Wars

It was a similarly poor day for Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, who suffered a nasty accident, which started at Turn three and did not finish until Turn four. The Swede hit the treacherous kerb on the outside of the high speed right hander, before sliding uphill into the barriers, almost collecting an alert Esteban Gutierrez, as he veered back across the circuit. In addition, Fernando Alonso’s day almost ended in disaster, when he suffered a clumsy collision with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat while the pair were on their outlaps in Q2. Kvyat made a move to the inside of Turn nine and Alonso turned into a late apex, which he found to be occupied by the 19-year-old. With Fernando’s left front top wishbone snapped it seemed to be game over, however, the Ferrari mechanics remarkably managed to fix the suspension, with Alonso returning to the action just minutes after the incident. With Fernando overcoming the balance and toe changes to qualify P4, both him and his mechanics deserve applause. The Ferrari team once again demonstrating their resolve, experience and expertise. 
While the incident was described as nothing more than a racing incident, Alonso’s joy at claiming P4 was somewhat overshadowed by his opinions of the incident. “The mechanics did a fantastic job,” Alonso told Sky Sports F1. “I didn’t see him coming. Obviously it was a bit of an aggressive drive on the outlap with this kind of visibility, but we were lucky enough to put the car together.” From P4, he is in a strong position to claim a podium tomorrow and with teammate Raikkonen in P6, it could be a very rewarding weekend for Ferrari.  

Qualifying Results

Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:59.431
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:59.486 +0.055
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:00.050 +0.619
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:00.175 +0.744
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 2:00.541 +1.110
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2:01.218 +1.787
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 2:01.712 +2.281
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 2:02.213 +2.782
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 2:03.078 +3.647
10 Jenson Button McLaren 2:04.053 +4.622
Q2
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2:02.351
12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 2:02.369
13 Felipe Massa Williams 2:02.460
14 Sergio Perez Force India 2:02.511
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2:02.756
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2:02.885
Q1
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 2:02.074
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber 2:02.131
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 2:02.702
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 2:03.595
21 Max Chilton Marussia 2:04.388
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 2:04.407