- Malaysian Grand Prix
Dominant Hamilton leads Mercedes one-twoLaurence Edmondson at Sepang March 30, 2014
Lewis Hamilton drove an inch-perfect race at the Malaysian Grand Prix to take his first victory of the 2014 season and lead home a Mercedes one-two at Sepang.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock: The fact Romain Grosjean made the end of the race was something of a shock after the struggles Lotus has faced, but that he was just 2.2s off the points was genuinely impressive.
- Shocker: Jules Bianchi's first lap sideswipe of Pastor Maldonado was clumsy and also led to a deserved penalty.
- Best overtake: Fernando Alonso may have had fresher tyres when he passed Nico Hukenberg for fourth place, but he was lacking straight-line speed and could not simply blast past. In the end he set the move up into Turn 1 and completed it on the exit of Turn 2.
- Best lap: Daniel Ricciardo's opening lap was special, jumping from fifth to third and passing his team-mate in the process. But the race went downhill at mid-distance for the Australian...
- Worst lap: Laps don't get much worse that lap 43 for Ricciardo. At his final pit stop the front left was not fitted properly and then the front wing failed just before the end of the lap. The whole fiasco dropped him from fourth to 16th. To add to it, he was given a 10-second stop-go penalty for an unsafe release.
- Drive of the day: It has to be Lewis Hamilton. Once he got through the first corner unscathed it was a walk in the park, but Hamilton was faultless all race and deserves all the plaudits for such a dominant display.
- Laurence Edmondson
After a clean start, Hamilton's lead never looked in doubt and Mercedes executed an immaculate three-stop strategy to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg to victory by 17.3s. After 25 laps he had a lead over 10 seconds, and while Sebastian Vettel in third put the pressure on Rosberg at some points of the race, the Mercedes victory looked locked on throughout.
Fernando Alonso held out for fourth place but was made to work for it in the final stint by Nico Hulkenberg, who was able to go longer on his tyres and was the only driver to complete the race with just two pit stops. Jenson Button finished sixth ahead of the two battling Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Bottas looked quicker but could not find a way past Massa on track, despite the team asking the drivers to swap positions.
Kevin Magnussen finished ninth for McLaren after making contact with Kimi Raikkonen on lap one, earning him a five-second stop-go penalty at his second pit stop. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the points position in tenth, just ahead of an impressive drive from Romain Grosjean in the troublesome Lotus and Raikkonen in 12th, who never fully recovered from a puncture following the Magnussen contact.
Rosberg made the fastest start of the top three and was pushed up next to the pit wall by Vettel as the Red Bull driver left just enough room for the Mercedes to squeeze by. Hamilton kept his cool into Turn 1 and never looked back as he extended his lead to create a comfortable buffer to Rosberg by the end of the first stint. Vettel briefly dropped behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, but passed him into Turn 1 on lap four to take the chase to Rosberg.
The top three all stuck to the same three-stop strategy, with mediums for the first three stints and hards to finish the race. Vettel got closest to Rosberg at the second pit stop but could not live with the pace of the Mercedes and slowly dropped back to consolidate his first podium of the season.
Ricciardo was fourth for much of the race, but his afternoon started to fall apart on lap 40 when he made his third pit stop and the front left tyre was not fitted properly as he pulled away. His mechanics wheeled him back to complete the job but just a couple of laps later his front wing failed after riding the kerb at Turn 14 and he was forced to pit again. By the end of the calamities he had dropped to 16th place and retired soon after.
Ricciardo's troubles appeared to hand Alonso fourth place, but Hulkenberg defied convention by staying out for a long stint on the hard tyres after his second pit stop. Alonso struggled to match the more powerful Force India on the straights, but finally made the pass stick in the opening sequence of corners.
The battle between Massa and Bottas provided entertainment at the end of the race, even though positions were not exchanged. After the final pit stop, Williams ordered Massa to let Bottas past, saying "Valtteri is faster than you", but clearly the echo of the Ferrari team orders from the 2010 German Grand Prix - when Massa was forced to cede his last shot at victory to Alonso - did not go down well with the Brazilian and he refused to move aside. As a result Bottas was not able to attack Button a little further down the road, leaving Williams with another missed opportunity this weekend.
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1