Winners and Losers at the Malaysian Grand Prix

Winners and Losers at the Malaysian Grand Prix

31 March 2014 – The Malaysian Grand Prix saw Mercedes record its first one-two finish since 1955, with Lewis Hamilton getting his title challenge well and truly underway. GPUpdate.net presents its winners and losers from Sepang.

Winners

Mercedes was expected to lead the way in 2014 and after two races they've certainly lived up to pre-season predictions. Lewis Hamilton's performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix was as comfortable as Formula 1 victories get as he cruised to his first win of the year, while team-mate Nico Rosberg survived an early Red Bull onslaught to collect a measured second place. It was Mercedes's first 1-2 since 1955 and one achieved with ease. Hamilton was 17 seconds ahead of Rosberg, with Vettel a further seven seconds behind. The only other drivers to get within 80 seconds of Hamilton at the finish were Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg. It's also highly unlikely that the race winner was pushing to the maximum throughout the 56 lap encounter. Mercedes already has a 25 point lead over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, but perhaps more crucially its buffer to Red Bull is already 53 points after just two rounds. The most interesting part of Mercedes's win was that it came courtesy of Hamilton, whereas Rosberg triumphed in Australia after Hamilton's premature retirement. Rosberg leads the way by 18 points, but the Brit's dominance at Sepang will pose questions to his team-mate.

The intra-team battle at Force India is swinging firmly in Nico Hülkenberg's favour during the early phase of the season after the German collected a fine fifth place at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Hülkenberg built on a strong result in Australia by progressing through to Q3 in difficult conditions, where he set the seventh quickest time. He stayed out of trouble at the start, moving a place when Kimi Räikkönen slipped back with a puncture and consequently embarking on a race long tactical battle with Alonso. Hülkenberg opted for a two stop strategy and stretched his Medium tyres for longer – which briefly elevated him to the lead – but on used Hard tyres he was ultimately helpless to prevent Alonso from gaining a position. Nonetheless, he put up a fight and didn’t make it a free DRS pass for the Spaniard. Daniel Ricciardo's late demise elevated Hülkenberg to fifth and means that he already has 18 points on the board in 2014. Somewhat satisfyingly, not having sufficient financial backing has meant that a seemingly missed opportunity to drive for a 'top' team has worked out in his favour so far and his talent has shone through.

Yes, the team that finished with both cars a lap down and outside of the points really are winners this weekend. Because in Formula 1, perception is key. Not meeting high expectations will be deemed as a failure, while exceeding low expectations merits praise. Caterham endured a torrid time in Australia and free practice for Kamui Kobayashi in Malaysia was almost a non-event. Then in qualifying, Marcus Ericsson dipped a wheel on the white line and a one way ticket to the barriers (an excusable excursion considering it was his first wet experience in Formula 1, period). But in the race Kobayashi shone as he made his tyres last and battled with some of the midfield runners, before he slowed the pace for a long stint on the Hard compound during the final segment of the race. Ericsson meanwhile was no pushover as he defended aggressively against one of the Toro Rosso drivers and didn’t let Räikkönen straight through. 13th and 14th elevates Caterham above Marussia in the championship. With Renault expected to make gains across the season and with the CT05 yet to complete a proper race weekend in terms of reliable running, a point will surely come for the team in 2014.

Losers

Formula 1 knows when to kick a man when he's down and the object of misfortune this weekend was Daniel Ricciardo. After his exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix, Ricciardo put in a composed, if unspectacular, performance during qualifying to line up in fifth place, a second down on team-mate Sebastian Vettel. There was then the unusual sight on Sunday of an Australian in a Red Bull not tumbling down the order when the lights went out as Ricciardo muscled his way past Alonso and took advantage of Vettel into Turn 4 to move up to third place. He slipped behind the German but maintained a two second gap until his final pit-stop, where a sequence of horrendously unfortunate events began. His right front wheel was not affixed properly and consequently he had to be stopped and wheeled back to the pit box where the issue was resolved. But the force of lifting up the car by the jack man is thought to have contributed to his front wing becoming loose, which resulted in another stop. He pulled the car into retire soon after but the unsafe release had already triggered the FIA's automatic 10 place grid drop for the next race. Plus Red Bull was reprimanded for a team member not wearing protective head gear at the pit stop. All in all, an episode in how not to do pit-stops. But the 'honey badger' will return stronger.

In a season where team-mate Hülkenberg has already aptly displayed his ability, Sergio Pérez is firmly on the back foot after a couple of dismal races. In Australia it was an errant Esteban Gutiérrez who compromised his race but in Malaysia a technical issue left him stranded even before the race began. Pérez was initially unable to leave the pit lane on his way to the grid and once he got going, his Force India kept going into neutral as he attempted to shift down through the gears. He crawled back to the pits but the team was not able to find a solution. He was already several rows behind team-mate Hülkenberg after rear brake instability during qualifying left him with a lack of confidence, but the failure pre-race left him unable to mount a fight back. He's already 18-1 down to Hülkenberg in terms of points, so he needs a couple of strong races in the near future. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the first time Pérez has not been classified in a race since the end of 2012.

The stewards seemed to be in a harsh mood all weekend as both Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen were awarded penalty points for very minor misdemeanours. But Jules Bianchi was also slapped with two penalty points for causing a collision on the first lap of the race down into turn four. Penalising Bianchi for the minor collision with Pastor Maldonado appeared harsh initially, as the Venezuelan swept across from the outside without consideration for his rivals. But Bianchi had sustained a puncture seconds beforehand when he was clipped by Jean-Éric Vergne, meaning that Bianchi was trying to stop a hobbled car when the collision occurred. It was another example of draconian measures from the stewards, especially as both drivers retired soon after with mechanical problems not caused by the accident. Bianchi still has 10 points worth of breathing space before he is banned, but that's not the issue. Drivers need punishing if they are a consistent liability and present a danger to their peers and trackside workers but the desire to hand out sanctions to extremely minor events is getting out of control. No-one wants to see drivers being stupid out on track, but is there really a need for every little incident to warrant a penalty?

Phillip Horton
Twitter: @PHortonF1

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Tuesday 17 October 2017

  2. Kubica completes 'another productive' test 16:09

    Kubica completes 'another productive' test

    Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica completed "another productive day" of running with the team at the Hungaroring on…

    F1
  3. Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut 16:00

    Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut

    It has been an eventful period for GPUpdate.net columnist Pierre Gasly, having made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso…

    F1
  4. Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break 14:44

    Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break

    Lewis Hamilton has been "on another level" since Formula 1's summer break, according to his Mercedes boss Toto…

    F1
  5. Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview 13:26

    Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview

    Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat looks ahead to the United States Grand Prix with a 'Wild West' themed guide to the challenging Circuit…

    F1
  6. Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential' 12:02

    Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential'

    Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has stressed that an "error-free" weekend at the United States Grand Prix is "essential" in the…

    F1
  7. Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run 11:42

    Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run

    Watch as historic Formula 1 machinery hits the streets of Adelaide in this promotional film for the city's 2017 Motorsport…

    F1
  8. Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix 11:09

    Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix

    Eight-time Olympic Gold-medallist Usain Bolt will signal the start of the formation lap at this weekend's United States Grand…

    F1
  9. Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance 10:56

    Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance

    Tech 3 chief Hervé Poncharal says he hopes the outfit can give Kohta Nozane a chance to demonstrate his "full potential" after…

    MotoGP
  10. Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices 09:51

    Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices

    Leading Formula 1 teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have taken different stances regarding tyre compounds for next weekend's…

    F1
  11. Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title 09:42

    Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title

    Watch as Audi rookie René Rast clinches the 2017 DTM championship at Hockenheim, after finishing in second position in the…

    DTM
  12. Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin 08:54

    Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin

    Fernando Alonso is confident that he can return to the points-paying positions at the United States Grand Prix, off the back of…

    F1
  13. Video: British Superbike finale highlights 05:42

    Video: British Superbike finale highlights

    Watch race highlights from the British Superbikes championship showdown at Brands Hatch, which featured a terrifying crash for…

    Misc
  14. Monday 16 October 2017

  15. Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles 16:28

    Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles

    Aleix Espargaró conceded he had "big problems" during the Japanese Grand Prix and was left perplexed by his lack of pace…

    MotoGP
  16. Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress 15:17

    Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team has gained "a lot more understanding" about its performance swings at recent Grands…

    F1
  17. GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider 14:43

    GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider

    GPUpdate.net readers expect the 2017 Formula 1 title to be settled at next weekend's Mexican Grand Prix, with two rounds to…

    F1
  18. Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care 14:02

    Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care

    This October, as part of its association with Breast Cancer Care, Force India is printing the names of two inspiring women, Emma…

    F1
  19. Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin 13:38

    Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin

    Pirelli's Ultra Soft tyre will be coloured with pink sidewalls for this weekend's United States Grand Prix, as part of Formula…

    F1
  20. MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3 13:10

    MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3

    MP Motorsport will join the GP3 Series in 2018, championship officials have announced, taking the entry currently held by…

    GP3
  21. Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017 12:48

    Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017

    Suzuki riders Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins hailed the progress made by the team after the pair secured top five finishes on the…

    MotoGP
  22. Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix 11:08

    Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen looks ahead to this weekend's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Mobil 1…

    F1
  23. Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut 10:32

    Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut

    Brendon Hartley will race with #39 on his Formula 1 debut at the United States Grand Prix, taking up one of Toro Rosso's…

    F1
  24. Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA 10:15

    Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA

    Haas will apply its final upgrade package of the season for its home race, the United States Grand Prix, team boss Guenther…

    F1
  25. Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP 09:02

    Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP

    Broc Parkes will fill in for the recovering Jonas Folger on home soil at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Tech 3 Yamaha has…

    MotoGP
  26. Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects 08:12

    Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects

    Jorge Lorenzo says it was "impossible" for him to set a quicker pace in the Japanese Grand Prix, after struggling for rear grip…

    MotoGP
  27. Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car 05:24

    Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car

    Watch as former Champ Car and NASCAR racer Patrick Carpentier samples the Formula E test car during a recent run at Valencia's…

    FE
  28. Sunday 15 October 2017

  29. In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers 16:34

    In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers

    Brendon Hartley will become the ninth New Zealander to compete in Formula 1 when he links up with Toro Rosso at the Circuit of…

    F1
  30. Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights 13:10

    Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights

    Watch race highlights from the rain-affected, truncated round of the World Endurance Championship at the Fuji Speedway.

    WEC
  31. Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running' 12:48

    Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running'

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he aims to "hit the ground running" with Renault as he prepares to make his first start for the…

    F1
  32. 11:21

    Final 2017 European Formula 3 standings

    F3
  33. 11:20

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Motegi

    MotoGP
  34. Viñales: Ninth was 'maximum' for Yamaha 11:18

    Viñales: Ninth was 'maximum' for Yamaha

    Maverick Viñales says ninth position was the "maximum" possible for Movistar Yamaha at the Japanese Grand Prix, as his title…

    MotoGP
  35. 10:36

    Latest F3 photos: Sunday at Hockenheim

    F3
  36. Günther caps Formula 3 season with victory 10:35

    Günther caps Formula 3 season with victory

    Prema's Maximilian Günther concluded the 2017 European Formula 3 campaign with victory at Hockenheim, as Joel Eriksson sealed…

    F3
  37. Miller to attempt Phillip Island comeback 09:34

    Miller to attempt Phillip Island comeback

    Marc VDS has confirmed that Jack Miller will return to action at his home event in Australia next weekend. Miller fractured…

    MotoGP
  38. Dovizioso, Márquez laud Motegi win battle 09:26

    Dovizioso, Márquez laud Motegi win battle

    Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez revelled in their race-long scrap at the Japanese Grand Prix, after the Ducati rider…

    MotoGP
  39. 07:58

    MotoGP standings after the Japanese GP

    MotoGP
  40. 06:54

    In full: Japanese Grand Prix race result

    MotoGP
  41. Dovizioso beats Márquez in Motegi thriller 06:52

    Dovizioso beats Márquez in Motegi thriller

    Andrea Dovizioso beat title rival Marc Márquez to victory in wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix after an enthralling…

    MotoGP
  42. 05:30

    Starting grid for the Japanese Grand Prix

    MotoGP
  43. Video: Virtual lap of COTA with Grosjean 04:08

    Video: Virtual lap of COTA with Grosjean

    Join Haas driver Romain Grosjean for a virtual lap of the Circuit of the Americas, home to the United States Grand Prix, Formula…

    F1
more news