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.
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.
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.
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.
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.